From the upcoming First World War drama, 'The Ark', courtesy of the BBC

BBC announces plans to mark the First World War Centenary

Posted on on 16 October 2013
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The BBC has announced its plans to mark the Centenary of the First World War with a variety of television and radio productions over the next four years.

The Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, said that the BBC's plans for the First World War Centenary reflect that "no other event in our history had such a dramatic impact on who we are".

The Great War Controller of the BBC, Adrian Van Klaveren, described the four year programme to mark the Centenary as "the biggest and most ambitious pan-BBC project ever commissioned".

More than 2,500 hours of programming has already been planned across television, radio and online for local, national and international services.

Mr. Van Klaveren stated that the BBC is "setting out to broaden people's understanding of the war, to commemorate and remember those who were caught up in it and to tell both well-known stories from fresh perspectives and original stories so far untold".

The BBC therefore plans to "look at the war from many different viewpoints" through "documentaries, dramas, programmes for children, music, live events' debates, discussion and a signifiant digital offering".

                                                            Adrian Van Klaveren


The Ark - Sarah Phelps’ drama tells the story of front line medics during the First World War.

The Passing-Bells - A drama set during the conflict and told through the eyes of "two very ordinary young men who enlist in a war they expect will be over within months".

War Poems - To mark the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, actors will read some of the best known war poems.

Great War Diary - The series tells the story of 1914-18 solely through the eyes of those who lived it, with 25 broadcasters from around the world working on the project.

37 Days - A three-part factual drama depicting the "behind-closed-doors" story of the final weeks before the outbreak of the First World War.

Our World War - A factual drama "offering viewers first-hand experience of the extraordinary bravery of young soldiers fighting 100 years ago".

Oh, What A Lovely War - A radio broadcast of The Theatre Royal, Stratford East’s restaging of a new version of the original production.

All Is Calm - The Christmas Truce - BBC Radio 2 tells the story of 'The Christmas Truce'.

War Horse - Radio 2 will present a special audio version of the children’s book and National Theatre production War Horse, with music and songs written by John Tams and Tim Van Eyken.

Home Front - BBC Radio 4 will "track the fortunes of a group of characters as they try to maintain normality while a fast-changing Britain is at war".

Tommies - Over four years, the Radio 4 programme will follow the lives of those "on and behind the battlefront of World War One, in six Afternoon Dramas a year on BBC Radio 4".


Britain's Great War - Presented by Jeremy Paxman, this series about the First World War will explore its impact on Britain and the British people.

                                                            Jeremy Paxman

Teenage Tommies - Fergal Keane will present a programme focusing on those boys under the age of 18 who enlisted during the conflict.

The Story of Women in World War One - Kate Adie will consider the role of women during the First World War "not just as wives and mothers, but as a visible force in public life".

Royal Cousins At War - This documentary will focus on how the royal houses of Europe, notably King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II, went to war.

Pipers of the Trenches - The lives of the more than 2,500 pipers who served during the conflict will be considered in this 60 minute documentary.

The Machine Gun & Skye's Band of Brothers - Neil Oliver explores the science of the machine gun and the radical changes it brought to warfare, interwoven with the story of a small company of British soldiers during the conflict.

My Great War - Based on interviews filmed 50 years ago by the BBC, this documentary is a "tribute to the human face of war".

Gallipoli - A two-part documentary which aims to provide "a fresh look at the British Empire’s most humiliating episode of World War One, the Gallipoli campaign".

Tom and Jerry's Camera - A documentary which explores photographs taken by ordinary British and German soldiers during the First WorldWar.

Radio documentaries

Forgotten Heroes - Indian Army In The Great War

First World War documentaries on BBC Radio 1

Keep The Home Fires Burning - A documentary which tells the story of Welsh composer Ivor Novello.

1914 - Day By Day - Historian Margaret MacMillan presents a daily programme from June to August 2014 on BBC Radio 4 chronicling the road to war in 1914.

How Britain Went to War -Historian Peter Hennessy explores the "secret story" of how Britain planned for war in the years leading up to 1914.

Month of Madness - Professor Christopher Clark presents a five-part series on the outbreak of the First World War.

Voices Of The First World War - This documentary series "tells the story of the war through the experiences of those who fought it and lived through it", and will be broadcast in short seasons throughout the commemorative period.

Real Time World War One on the Jeremy Vine Show -  The programme will present a "real-time journey through voices and music of World War One", with features including hearing "breaking news" of events from Britain and the Continent.

The War That Changed The World - A documentary series which will explore the impact of the war from the points of view of countries which fought.

India's Forgotten War - Anita Rani tells the story of India’s own response to the First World War.

I Don't Remember The War -Writers aged 35 or under, from around the world, explore their ancestors’ involvement in the conflict.

Historical debate & discussion

The Pity of War - Niall Ferguson will present a 90 minute debate which argues that Britain’s decision to enter the war was a "tragic error". The programme will invite questions from the studio audience.

                                                            Niall Ferguson

The Necessary War - Sir Max Hastings will tackle "why the British were right to enter World War One and oppose Germany’s war aims".

To War - Mark D’Arcy reports from Westminster on the Parliamentary speeches and political manoeuvrings which resulted in Britain's entry into the First World War.

Long Shadow - Historian David Reynolds explores the legacy of the First World War in a three-part series.

Rethinking The Culture Of World War One - BBC Radio 3’s cultural strands will be "probing and challenging received ideas about the history of World War One".

Woman's Hour - The programme will consider how women's lives in both the public and private spheres were affected by the First World War.

The Battle For The Meaning Of World War One - An exploration of the intellectualising of the conflict, as "generations of historians, politicians and cultural commentators as they fought for a century to interpret, appropriate and revise the meaning of the war".


BBC Events - The BBC Events team plans to provide live coverage of the major national events in the UK and in Europe that commemorate the Centenary.

BBC News - BBC News "will reflect the commemorations and ceremonies across the UK and the wider world".

Art & Music

Artists of War - This three part documentary, presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon, will explore the life and work of the British artists – Walter Sickert, David Bomberg and Paul Nash.

                                                            Andrew-Graham Dixon

Writers of the Somme - This documentary will tell the story of the Battle of the Somme through the words and experiences of poets and writers who took part in it.

The Great War - An Elegy: A Culture Show Special -Simon Armitage explores how poetry provided a medium to express responses to the First World War.

The Poet Who Loved The War: Ivor Gurney - Making use of newly discovered poems, this film tells the story of the writer Ivor Gurney.

1914-1918 - The Cultural Front - BBC Radio 4 charts, over the course of four years, how artists of all kinds responded to the conflict.

Music on the Brink - Radio 3 relives the sounds of five cities in 1913 as war approached, focusing on a different city each day: Paris, Berlin, Vienna, St Petersburg and London.

The Ballads of the Great War - A series of "lyrical accounts of life and death on the Western Front in words and music".

Live In Concert - The Vienna Philharmonic In Sarajevo - The BBC will broadcast the Vienna Philharmonic's performace in Sarajveo to mark the Centenary of Archduke Ferdinand's assassination.

A Soldier And A Maker - Ivor Gurney On Radio 3 - A week of programmes on Ivor Gurney.

Music In The Great War - Radio 3's daytime and evening schedule will "tell the story of World War One through its music".

Soldier Songs - The BBC Asian Network will mark the Centenary through "special musical commission".

Children & Schools

Horrible Histories - A one-off First World War special will be made by the comical-historical sketch show.

                                                            Horrible Histories

Emily's Army - A three-part CBBC drama set during the war following a group of children in a small English town as "they hold the Home Front and discover the true enemy within".

My Story - A mother and her daughter are shown what life was like during the First World War.

Operation Ouch! Goes Back In Time - A special episode which explores what medicine was like during the First World War.

BBC Learning - BBC Learning will "help children and their teachers explore the topic of World War One through a variety of resources for schools".


The Antiques Roadshow  -Two special editions of the Antiques Roadshow will mark the 2014 Centenary of First World War, with items related to the conflict.

                                                 Fiona Bruce, The Antiques Roadshow

Songs of Praise - Two special editions will mark key dates from the First World War, filmed in Belgium and France.

The Why Factor  - A special programme about sacrifice and memorialisation.

Online portal

The BBC World War One portal "will provide audiences with a truly interactive and more personal story of the war".


Source: BBC website

Images courtesy of the BBC

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News