Nightingales and bombers

On 19 May 1942, the BBC gave a live broadcast of nightingales singing in a Surrey wood. That’s the sort of thing the English did in the midst of the most terrible war in history. Families gathered around radios across the land – in cottages, barracks, and terraced houses of industrial cities – the men with pipes in their mouths and wives darning socks as they listened.

A few minutes into the program, however, the broadcast abruptly stopped. BBC engineers realised that they were also accidentally recording hundreds of allied bombers passing overhead on the way to attack Germany, and didn’t want to warn the enemy, so quickly pulled the plug on the program. The equipment continued to record, however. It’s a strangely poignant evocation of that peaceful May evening in a wood with hundreds of Lancaster bombers in the sky above, loaded with incendiary bombs to drop on Germany.

See David Herkt’s excellent essay for more about this and other curious recordings.

One thought on “Nightingales and bombers

  1. We still do things like that. Every morning just before 6 and the Today programme, the BBC broadcasts ‘Tweet of the Day’ which is a brief snatch of birdsong followed by some salient information about the bird in question. Quite charming, if you can stand Bill Oddie (as it so often is) at that time in the morning…

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