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The History Podcast

BBC Radio 4

Eighty years on: the story of D-Day as it unfolds, using rediscovered testimonies of those who were there, on all sides.

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Episodes

D-Day: The Last Voices - 1. The Big Secret
Jun 5 2024
D-Day: The Last Voices - 1. The Big Secret
D-Day: The Last Voices brings together a rich collection of historical audio testimonies recorded with those who fought in the invasion of Normandy, alongside extraordinary new interviews with the last surviving veterans, to tell their story of D-Day as it unfolded. Presented by Paddy O’Connell, each programme charts a distinct chapter of the complex, visceral and moving story of the invasion, from subterfuge and secret planning, to the approach of H-Hour, the landings by air and sea, and on into the battles beyond the beaches. Commissioned as a collaboration with D-Day: The Unheard Tapes for BBC Two, and drawing on the same longitudinal access and research, the series tells the story of D-Day through the last voices of those who lived it, leading us through their personal experiences of the invasion. Supported by the historical recordings of those who were there with them – this is their story, told in their own words. The series begins in June 1944, as more than two million troops from over a dozen countries assemble across Southern England for a mission so secret, they don’t yet know it will be D-Day, the start of Operation Overlord, to take France and attempt to push back the Nazi occupation of Europe. Allied soldiers train for top secret missions, by air and sea, and receive their mission objectives in sealed camps.This episode charts the story of the reveal of D-Day to Allied troops, as they learn they will be part of what will become the largest seaborne invasion in history. An operation of such complexity and risk, nothing of this scale had ever been attempted before, the stakes are unimaginably high.Paddy O’Connell, whose father took part in Operation Overlord as a Royal Marine Commando, interweaves the powerful and striking archive recordings of those who were there, with unique and extraordinary interviews with some of the last surviving veterans on the eve of the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Meeting two former WRENS - Christina Lamb who helped draw the D-Day maps in Whitehall, and Pat Owtram who spoke German and was based on the Dover Cliffs scanning for morse code from Occupied France, we are led through the enormous scale of the landings as 156,000 troops prepared for the impending invasion.In archive recordings of the past, we hear from those who were there too, on landing craft and on ships, driving tanks or learning they would be part of the first waves onto the beaches.As the hour of leaving for Normandy approached, commanders trusted in their training, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers set sail or took flight for the French coast under the cover of darkness. Featuring: Geoffrey Weaving Christian Lamb Pat Owtram Gordon Prime Warwick Nield-Siddall Ivan Lambert Ray Nance James Kelly Stanley Scott John Capon James Sink Roy Crane John Clegg William Dunn James Stagg Written and presented by Paddy O’Connell Produced by Paul Kobrak Technical production by Richard Courtice Sound design by Roy Noy, Tom Chilcot, Alex Short, Adam Palmer, Paul Donovan Music composed by Sam Hooper Production Executive – Anne-Marie Byrne Archive Assistant Producer – Hannah Mirsky Archive: BBC News, Fremantle, Paddy O’Connell, made in partnership with Imperial War Museums.Executive Producers - Morgana Pugh and Rami TzabarA Wall to Wall Media production for BBC Radio 4
D-Day: The Last Voices - 2. Out of the Skies
Jun 5 2024
D-Day: The Last Voices - 2. Out of the Skies
D-Day: The Last Voices brings together a rich collection of historical audio testimonies recorded with those who fought in the invasion of Normandy, alongside extraordinary new interviews with the last surviving veterans, to tell their story of D-Day as it unfolded.Presented by Paddy O’Connell, each programme charts a distinct chapter of the complex, visceral and moving story of the invasion, from subterfuge and secret planning, to the approach of H-Hour, the landings by air and sea, and on into the battles beyond the beaches.Commissioned as a collaboration with D-Day: The Unheard Tapes for BBC Two, and drawing on the same longitudinal access and research, the series tells the story of D-Day through the last voices of those who lived it, leading us through their personal experiences of the invasion. Supported by the historical recordings of those who were there with them – this is their story, told in their own words.As night falls on 5th June 1944, 18,000 men ready themselves to leave Britain and embark on their missions. They will be the first in behind enemy lines on D-Day. In parachutes, planes and gliders, they set off, and approach the Normandy coast as night gives way to the early hours of 6th June, marking the beginning of D-Day itself. Dropping in their thousands, many find they land far from their targets, alone, wounded or dying as their parachutes become waterlogged in flooded fields. 12,000 aircraft drop them in, and pilots and soldiers within with those aircraft lead us through the story, some of whom make the jump, describing in visceral and revealing detail how dangerous and tense their mission was.At the Bénouville Bridge on the Orne Canal, later known as “Pegasus”, a glider breaks apart as it lands and Major John Howard, Eddie Edwards and Wally Parr from the British Airborne recount their crash landing. Taking targets like this bridge is an essential part of the operation, for protecting the wider invasion zone and the beaches. In just a few short hours, the biggest amphibious landing in history will commence.Featuring: Geoffrey Weaving Bernard Morgan Marie Scott Joe Cattini Ray Nance Terence Otway Des O’Neill Eddie Edwards John Howard Wally Parr Victor Newcomb Nat Hoskot Warwick Nield-Siddall William DunnWritten and presented by Paddy O’Connell Produced by Paul Kobrak Technical production by Richard Courtice Sound design by Roy Noy, Tom Chilcot, Alex Short, Adam Palmer, Paul Donovan Music composed by Sam Hooper Production Executive – Anne-Marie Byrne Archive Assistant Producer – Hannah Mirsky Archive: The D-Day Story Portsmouth, BBC News, Paddy O’Connell, made in partnership with Imperial War Museums.Executive Producers - Morgana Pugh and Rami TzabarA Wall to Wall Media production for BBC Radio 4
D-Day: The Last Voices - 3. Over the Sea
Jun 5 2024
D-Day: The Last Voices - 3. Over the Sea
D-Day: The Last Voices brings together a rich collection of historical audio testimonies recorded with those who fought in the invasion of Normandy, alongside extraordinary new interviews with the last surviving veterans, to tell their story of D-Day as it unfolded.Presented by Paddy O’Connell, each programme charts a distinct chapter of the complex, visceral and moving story of the invasion, from subterfuge and secret planning, to the approach of H-Hour, the landings by air and sea, and on into the battles beyond the beaches.Commissioned as a collaboration with D-Day: The Unheard Tapes for BBC Two, and drawing on the same longitudinal access and research, the series tells the story of D-Day through the last voices of those who lived it, leading us through their personal experiences of the invasion. Supported by the historical recordings of those who were there with them – this is their story, told in their own words.As the landings begin on all five beaches, the first waves of men approach the shores of Normandy in landing craft. For many of the young soldiers on both sides, this is the first time they have seen action, and the closer the shore comes, the more excitement is replaced with terror. At Omaha, the American landing craft are carried off course by strong currents. Worse still they discover that the pre-invasion naval bombardment has largely missed the German bunkers. Men see their friends gunned down before they even step foot on the shore. British Commandos peddle bicycles from Sword beach to act as reinforcements, and tank commanders describe scenes of untold terror on the beaches as they try to cross the sand. Finally, movement off the beaches seems possible, but as the Allied Forces move off the beaches and into the Normandy countryside, danger lurks at every turn.Featuring: Don Duffield-Abdy Bernard Morgan Joe Cattini Jim Glennie Geoffrey Weaving Ted Batley Ray Nance William Dunn James Kelly Stanley Scott Ray Nance James Sink Warwick Nield-Siddall John Clegg Bill MillinWritten and presented by Paddy O’ConnellProduced by Paul Kobrak Technical production by Richard Courtice Sound design by Roy Noy, Tom Chilcot, Alex Short, Adam Palmer, Paul Donovan Music composed by Sam Hooper Production Executive – Anne-Marie Byrne Archive Assistant Producer – Hannah Mirsky Archive: Fremantle, BBC News, Paddy O’Connell, made in partnership with Imperial War Museums.Executive Producers - Morgana Pugh and Rami TzabarA Wall to Wall Media production for BBC Radio 4
D-Day: The Last Voices - 4. Beyond the Beaches
Jun 5 2024
D-Day: The Last Voices - 4. Beyond the Beaches
D-Day: The Last Voices brings together a rich collection of historical audio testimonies recorded with those who fought in the invasion of Normandy, alongside extraordinary new interviews with the last surviving veterans, to tell their story of D-Day as it unfolded.Presented by Paddy O’Connell, each programme charts a distinct chapter of the complex, visceral and moving story of the invasion, from subterfuge and secret planning, to the approach of H-Hour, the landings by air and sea, and on into the battles beyond the beaches.Commissioned as a collaboration with D-Day: The Unheard Tapes for BBC Two, and drawing on the same longitudinal access and research, the series tells the story of D-Day through the last voices of those who lived it, leading us through their personal experiences of the invasion. Supported by the historical recordings of those who were there with them – this is their story, told in their own words.As Allied soldiers begin their missions inland from the beaches, their missions become focused on taking strategic targets in the villages and towns, on the way to Caen and Cherbourg. The battle becomes one of hedgerow fighting, in what will become known as ‘the bocage’. Back-up comes from the air for the Allies as the most widespread frontline carpet bomb drop in history takes place. French villages are reduced to rubble. With mounting civilian casualties, dreams of liberation are turning sour for the French. The men of British Airborne who took Pegasus Bridge under the command of Major John Howard are met by the Commandos of the First Special Service Brigade. Work begins on the beaches to build temporary ports. Paddy O’Connell discovers, through the interviews of the last surviving veterans of D-Day and those who fought with them, in historical recordings, that the men who had successfully landed on D-Day could still fail. All still faced the possibility of perishing, despite the historic scale of the invasion.Featuring: Gordon Prime Mark Packer Geoffrey Weaving Bill Gladden Michel Deserable John Clegg Nat Hoskot Ivan Lambert Bill Millin Wally Parr John Howard Stanley Scott Warwick Nield-Siddall James Kelly Eddie Edwards Roy CraneWritten and presented by Paddy O’ConnellProduced by Paul Kobrak Technical production by Richard Courtice Sound design by Roy Noy, Tom Chilcot, Alex Short, Adam Palmer, Paul Donovan Music composed by Sam Hooper Production Executive – Anne-Marie Byrne Archive Assistant Producer – Hannah Mirsky Archive: BBC News, The D-Day Story Portsmouth, Paddy O’Connell, made in partnership with Imperial War Museums. Executive Producers - Morgana Pugh and Rami TzabarA Wall to Wall Media production for BBC Radio 4
D-Day: The Last Voices - 5. The Road to Liberation
Jun 5 2024
D-Day: The Last Voices - 5. The Road to Liberation
D-Day: The Last Voices brings together a rich collection of historical audio testimonies recorded with those who fought in the invasion of Normandy, alongside extraordinary new interviews with the last surviving veterans, to tell their story of D-Day as it unfolded.Presented by Paddy O’Connell, each programme charts a distinct chapter of the complex, visceral and moving story of the invasion, from subterfuge and secret planning, to the approach of H-Hour, the landings by air and sea, and on into the battles beyond the beaches.Commissioned as a collaboration with D-Day: The Unheard Tapes for BBC Two, and drawing on the same longitudinal access and research, the series tells the story of D-Day through the last voices of those who lived it, leading us through their personal experiences of the invasion. Supported by the historical recordings of those who were there with them – this is their story, told in their own words.As the series draws to a close, Paddy spends time with and hears from the last surviving veterans of D-Day, both those who were part of the Allied invasion force, and others who grew up in the shadow of the operation in a decimated Normandy. In the aftermath of 6th June 1944, veterans recall their sense of loss, of legacy and contribution, and above all, their responsibility to remember friends and comrades who lost their lives in the conflict. This final part of the story explores what came next, in the aftermath of the invasion. The ferocious and bloody battle that followed, in which over 100,000 people lost their lives, and the weeks of brutality that paved the road to liberation, and made it possible. Hearing about the impact, in both nightmares and memories, that it had on those who were there is deeply moving, and commemorates this 80th anniversary with power, humility, pathos and emotion, remembering those who were left behind on the battlefields, in the marshes, fields forests and on the beaches of Normandy.Featuring: Joe Cattini Geoffrey Weaving Alec Penstone John Dennett Mark Packer Michel Deserable John Forfar Christian Lamb Pat Owtram Eddie Edwards James Kelly Nat Hoskot Roy CraneWritten and presented by Paddy O’ConnellProduced by Paul Kobrak Technical production by Richard Courtice Sound design by Roy Noy, Tom Chilcot, Alex Short, Adam Palmer, Paul Donovan Music composed by Sam Hooper Production Executive – Anne-Marie Byrne Archive Assistant Producer – Hannah Mirsky Archive: BBC News, The D-Day Story Portsmouth, Paddy O’Connell, made in partnership with Imperial War Museums. Executive Producers - Morgana Pugh and Rami TzabarA Wall to Wall Media production for BBC Radio 4