“BBC’s secret World War Two activities revealed”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Fred Waterer and Mike Hansgen who share the following article from the BBC:

A new archive has revealed the BBC’s role in secret activities during World War Two, including sending coded messages to European resistance groups.

Documents and interviews, released by BBC History, include plans to replace Big Ben’s chimes with a recorded version in the event of an air attack.

This would ensure the Germans did not know their planes were over Westminster.

BBC programmers would also play music to contact Polish freedom fighters.

Using the codename “Peter Peterkin”, a government representative would provide staff with a particular piece that would be broadcast following the Polish news service.

Historian David Hendy said: “The bulletins broadcast to Poland would be deliberately short by a minute or so and then a secret messenger from the exiled Polish government would deliver a record to be played.

“The choice of music would send the message to fighters.”[…]

Click here to read the full article at the BBC.

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4 thoughts on ““BBC’s secret World War Two activities revealed”

  1. 13dka

    Not sure what exactly is the news here, that the BBC found the actual sources for what has been common knowledge* for decades in their archive?

    *The coded messages to the French resistance played a big role in the 1962 flick “The Longest Day” and “The long sobs of autumn’s violins wound my heart with a monotonous languor” has been the most famous code message ever since. That the Alexandra Palace TV transmitter was used to jam, bend or otherwise counteract the German “beams” and radars is well-documented since many years. Anyone who read Sefton Delmer’s “Black Propaganda” (which is a highly recommendable book, there’s even a free online version!) should’ve been well-informed about most if not all of the BBC’s “secret” activities for a long time.

    1. 13dka

      Ah hang on, there’s actually great new material published in that archive, including “1943 Berlin Blitz in 360°, a virtual visualization of a BBC radio feature about a night bombing raid, awesome! Missed the link to the actual and publicly accessible archive, obviously!

      This old footage about the “Berlin Blitz” is of some significance for me because a) my mom, 10 years old back then was down there in the city (she was buried under debris twice) and b) I’ve just read an extremely rare recollection of the events from a member of the JG 301/302 “Wilde Sau” (“Wild Boar”) night fighter squadrons (only 8 examples of that book were handed out to personal friends of the author, it was never published). The BBC featured raid must have been on 3rd or 4th of September 1943, the book states for September 3rd: “That night we went to Berlin but we arrived too late, landing in Finsterwalde 2:00”. Luckily (for both the bombers and the German night fighters), much of the extremely dangerous “Wilde Sau” night fighting efforts turned out like that.

  2. Robert Gulley

    I love finding out these little tidbits of secret activity. I have also enjoyed hearing Public Service broadcasts from the WWII era on the 1940sukradio.co.uk Internet feed. What a different world from now!


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