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BBC unveils World War I season spanning four years

Story by Jack Foley

THE BBC has uneviled a series of programmes designed to mark the centenary of the First World War that will span a four-year period.

The programme takes place across television, radio and online from 2014 to 2018, echoing the time frame of the war itself.

It will include 130 newly commissioned programmes, spanning almost 2,500 hours.

BBC chief Tony Hall explained: “I want 2014 to be remembered for our national commemoration of all those who served on the battlefield and on the Home Front. And a chance for us all to learn something new about a war we think we know well.”

BBC1’s coverage will include two major new dramas, The first, entitled The Ark, will take viewers into the lives of the medics and their patients at a fictional field hospital behind the trenches in France, while the second, The Passing Bells, chronicles the story of the war through the eyes of two very ordinary young men.

On BBC2, Star Wars actor Ian McDiarmid will head the cast of 37 Days, which will explore the politics behind the build-up to the war. The show also stars Tim Pigott-Smith as Prime Minister Asquith.

And Kate Adie will tell The Story of Women in World War I, which will examine the role of women as nurses, ambulance drivers and surgeons during the great war.

The events leading up to the outbreak of war will also be retold in BBC Radio 4’s 1914 Day-by-Day, a 42-part series featuring archive news excerpts, from the day of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand to the outbreak of war five weeks later.

Radio 4 will also air two dramas: Homefront, about “the 41 million Britons who didn’t fight in the great war but whose hearts were pinned on the five million who did”, and Tommies, a series of plays narrated across the four years of war, which focus on British Empire soldiers, including a sergeant in the Lahore division of the Indian army and a group of signallers.

The season will also include programming about poetry, paintings and music, as well as programmes by eminent historians including Sir Max Hastings, Christopher Clark and Niall Ferguson, tackling some of the biggest debates about World War I.

BBC Children’s and BBC Learning will also seek to explain the war to younger viewers, through programmes including a specially-commissioned Horrible Histories.

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