Battle of the Somme 100
Friday 1 July, 7.00am & 9.15am
On the morning of 1 July 1916, the first troops went over the top in the battle of the Somme. From Thiepval, France and Westminster Abbey, the BBC offers live coverage of ceremonies to mark the centenary. There’s also a highlights progamme on BBC Two at 11.05pm.
Drama – Roald Dahl: Boy
Saturday 2 July, 2.30pm
Radio 4 marks the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth with a season of shows this week, kicking off with this dramatisation of tales from the writer’s own childhood. Also listen out for Archive on 4 – Roald Dahl: In His Own Words (Radio 4, 8.00pm), presented by his granddaughter, Sophie Dahl.
Sunday Feature: Dawn on the Somme
Sunday 3 July, 6.45pm
Kate Kennedy looks back at the Somme by considering the lives of British composers and musicians who fought in Picardie in 1916. They include George Butterworth, who was shot dead by a sniper in August 1916, and Arthur Bliss, who survived the conflict.
China’s Forgotten Emperor
Sunday 3 July, 8.00pm
Wu Zetian (624–705) rose from being a lowly concubine to become the only woman in Chinese history to assume the title of emperor. She is remembered as a vicious tyrant yet, as this documentary explores, new research offers a far more nuanced picture.
The Somme: The First 24 Hours
Sunday 3 July, 8.00pm
More than 19,000 British troops died on the first day of the Somme. How to convey such a tragedy? Drawing on a secret diary kept by soldier Frank Meakin, Tony Robinson focuses in on five ‘pals’ from Sheffield as a way to show the human cost of the battle.
Matron, Medicine and Me: 70 Years of the NHS
Monday 4 July, 9.15am
In a five-part weekday series, famous faces trace the history of the National Health Service. First up, TV presenter Lucy Alexander looks at the story of healthcare in London, and is reunited with the medical staff who saved the life of her daughter when she developed transverse myelitis, a rare neurological disease.
Matron, Medicine and Me: 70 years of the NHS. (BBC/Richard Weller)
Pick of the week
Cold War: Stories from the Big Freeze
Monday 4 July, 1.45pm
As part of a Radio 4 season on the Cold War, Bridget Kendall considers key moments in its early history. She begins a 15-part weekday series in Greece in 1944, when communists and forces loyal to the monarchy contended for power. Also this week – the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, Italy’s 1948 election and the Berlin blockade.
I Work for the Government, and Let’s Leave It at That
Monday 4th July, 8.00pm
Julia Langdon explores how female spies have been recruited to work for the British security services through history. Also this week, listen out for Document (Radio 4, Tuesday 5th July, 4.00pm), which considers CIA attempts to undermine Albania’s communist government in the 1950s.
The Secret Life of Children’s Books
Monday 4 July, 8.30pm
Actor Samantha Bond traces the story behind a children’s classic, Edith Nesbit’s Five Children And It. The book, we learn, was rooted in personal tragedy. Published in 1902 and featuring a wish-granting sand fairy, it also helped pave the way for the Narnia books and even Harry Potter.
The Secret Life of Children’s Books. (BBC/Robert Mackenzie)
Tuesday 5 July, 7.00pm
Military historian David O’Keefe and filmmaker Wayne Abbott kick off a new archaeology series by heading for Juno beach in Normandy. Here, the duo search for artefacts to help tell the story of the Canadian landings on 6 June 1944, D-Day.