Historical issues of the Radio Times from the 1940s are released
8th December 2018

Historical issues of the Radio Times from the 1940s are released unearthing a unique chronicle of Britain during World War II, the Queen’s marriage and the 1948 Olympics

  • During World War II a trimmed down version of the magazine was produced with BBC TV being suspended
  • When it finally returned there were huge landmark TV events to cover such as the 1948 London Olympics
  • The marriage of future Queen Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten was also covered by the magazine  
  • The BBC Genome Project has released the archive of covers of the issues throughout the 1940s

A series of historical Radio Times magazines have been released which span the depths of war to joys of peacetime.

The BBC has released magazine issues from the 1940s and has made issues from the whole decade available for all to see. 

During World War II a trimmed down version of the magazine was produced with BBC television programming being suspended as part of the war effort.   

When it finally returned there were huge landmark TV events to cover including the marriage of the future Queen Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten, and the 1948 London Olympics. At the time, a copy of the Radio Times was twopence, whereas today, the magazine costs around £2.80.

The Radio Times covered the Olympics (left) ans well as the Royal Wedding of Queen Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatter (right)

The marriage of Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, now the Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace

Royals such as Princess Elizabeth (left) frequently featured on the cover, while it also covered topical issues including the war (right)

Herb McKenley (left) runs to the finish line to win the silver medal in the 400 meter dash at the Summer Olympics at Wembley Stadium, while a British runner lights the torch (right)

The Radio Times was behind the soldiers of the war (left) and was sure to report on the fact that special programmes intended for men of the Navy were extended to twelve hours a day. George Formby (right) also featured on the cover of the magazine after a broadcast from the Empire Theatre in Nottingham

One of the most famous Radio Times covers is from 1940 and shows three women holding household items, which was captioned ‘Up Housewives and at em’.

Helen Clare, who is the third woman in the picture was a household name  in the 1930s and 40s. She was one of three entertainers on Radio Times’s cover of 27 September 1940, for a revue about salvage called Up Housewives and at ‘Em.

Helen was friends with Vera Lynn and even had her own radio show: ‘On Calling Forces Gilbraltar’, where she sang soldiers’ requests. 

The magazine introduced readers to the three heroines of salvage (left) which included Gwen Lewis, Vivienne Chatterton and Helen Clare. It also extensively covered the BBC’s promenade concerts (right)

Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) and her husband the newly created Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip) drove amidst cheering crowds in a one carriage procession to Waterloo Station for their train journey to Winchester

  • Lady Wilnelia Merced joins Coronation Street favourites Kym…

    The Queen of British television: Olivia Colman tops Radio…

    British parents desperate to avoid the ‘9-5 grind’ now live…

Share this article

Members of the Swedish team marching through Wembley Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 1948 Olympic Games in London

In May 1945 one of its front covers (left) was showcasing the BBC Victory Programmes . It also helped to establish BBC Woman’s Hour (right)

The detailed illustrations on the magazine covers (left and right) was one of the reasons the magazine became so popular 

Professor Jean Seaton, a historian of the BBC, said: ‘This release gives a gripping insight into Britain during the Second World War. It shows everyday life, the tension of the blitz and the D-Day landings on Europe.

‘But the excitement of the post war Royal Wedding and the thrill of the London Olympics are also there. The Radio Times takes you directly to what it was like to live through a pivotal decade in the nation’s history.’

The BBC Genome Project has released the archive, which chronicles the origins of Woman’s Hour and Desert Island Discs.

While the content of the magazines was a driving force for its popularity its illustrations were also a contributing factor. The pictures inside the magazine were sometimes little bigger than postage stamps, and mostly in black-and-white. This is while the front of the magazines often contained detailed sketches and blurry photos.

The magazine varied in style, it sometimes went with black font for its front page (left) and in other issues it opted for red (right)

The magazine was continuously covering major television events up and down the country, such as St Andrews Day (left). As well as this it would release special editions at Christmas (right) 

The magazine also covered theatre and would feature a ‘Saturday night theatre’ section (left). It also picked up on emotional stories such as that of the British children evacuated to America calling home for the first times (right)

The Radio Times magazine was first founded in 1923 by John Reith. 1st Baron Reith was a Scottish broadcasting executive who established independent broadcasting in the UK. 

He was the founder of the BBC and was its first general manager when it set up in 1922. As well as this he was its first director general when it became a public corporation in 1927.

He helped to create the template for public service broadcasting in Britain and fought off politicians attempts to influence the BBC.

In later editions the magazine would publish television specials (left and right) which focused solely on television programming 

The Radio Times called itself the ‘Journal of the BBC’ and reported on New Year’s Eve celebrations (left) as well as the war (right)

The first issue of the Radio Times was released on 28 September 1923 and carried details of BBC radio programmes.

At first the magazine was a combined enterprise between the BBC and publisher George Newnes. But just after two years in 1925, the BBC assumed full editorial control and by 1937 the publication was in-house.

Soon the magazine developed a reputation for featuring leading writers and illustrators.

After the launch of the first 405-line television service by the BBC, the magazine reflected regular broadcast with TV listings, which began on 23 October 1936.

It also got behind the troops with the ‘Salute the soldier’ campaign as well as national events such as the ‘Light Programme’ at St Paul’s Cathedral in London

Editors of the Radio Times Magazine 

Since its launch in 1923 there have been 18 editors of the Radio Times including one uncredited and one returning since the magazine began publication.

  •  Leonard Crocombe (1923–1926)
  • Walter Fuller (1926–1927)
  • Eric Maschwitz (1927–1933)
  • Maurice Gorham (1933–1941)
  • Gordon Stowell (1941–1944)
  • Tom Henn (1944–1954)
  • Douglas G Williams (1954–1968)
  • C J Campbell Nairne (1968–1969)
  • Geoffrey Cannon (1969–1979)
  • Brian Gearing (1979–1988)
  • Nicholas Brett (1988–1996)
  • Sue Robinson (1996–2000)
  • Nicholas Brett (2000–2001)
  • Nigel Horne (2001–April 2002)
  • Liz Vercoe (uncredited – April 2002–July 2002)
  • Gill Hudson (August 2002–August 2009)
  • Ben Preston (September 2009–2017)
  • Mark Frith (2017–present)


Television listings continued to be a popular feature in the magazine and by 1939 there were three pages of television listings.

Today the Radio Times aims to provide the inside scoop on the nation’s most loved television shows from Strictly Come Dancing as well as popular Netflix shows. 

The magazine issues 51 copies a year and covers news and views from broadcasting’s biggest names as well as guides to the best TV film and radio being broadcast across channels each day.

With the popularity for streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix continuing to dominate the broadcast landscape, the magazine also offers its reviews and expertise on these cross-platform channels.

One of its main features is the exclusive behind-the-scenes pictures it sources from well known television shows. 

The magazine costs £2.80 an issue. It remains the top-selling consumer magazine in the UK according to auditor ABC.

From January-June 2018 its circulation was 577,087, its current editor is Mark Firth and in September the magazine celebrated its 95th anniversary edition. 

Despite being the best-selling consumer magazine in the UK its circulation figures are a far cry from its peak in 1955 when average sales of 8.8million gave the Radio Times the highest circulation in Europe. 

In 2009 its circulation dropped below 1million for the first time, as the world gave way to the internet. 

However, in order to keep up with the changing times the magazine has plunged into the online world and in June 2018, radiotimes.com accumulated 13.8 million visitors, a rise of 48% year on year. 

According the to The Drum it has the largest cross-platform reach of any weekly magazine at 8.3 million in the UK. 

As well as covering hard hitting topics such as the war, the Radio Times also covered major sporting events such as the Grand National (left), football, boxing and snooker (right)

The pages inside the Radio Times (left and right) were full of listings and contained few pictures 

In 1946 (left) it published an introduction to the Director General of the BBC. It also commissioned a twice weekly variety series (right) for men of Anti-Aircraft and Balloon Barrage units 





Source: Read Full Article