A classic piece of radio comedy long thought to be lost has been rediscovered as part of the Radio Times Treasure Hunt.


Launched in October 2022, the Radio Times Treasure Hunt put out the call to anyone in possession of recordings of television or radio programmes on old formats (cassettes, reel to reel tapes, film) in the hope of filling gaps in the archive.

The campaign sparked hundreds of responses and now we can announce the discovery of a 'lost' gem, via Steve Arnold of the Radio Circle who are handling the radio side of the Treasure Hunt.

Until now, there was just one episode of BBC Radio sitcom The Navy Lark missing, and this has now been found – the tape was among a batch of unlabelled quarter-inch tape reels that the Radio Circle listened to over Christmas.

The missing episode in question is series 4, episode 18, 'The Cornish Exercise' – originally broadcast on 12th January, 1962. The quality of the recording is good enough that plans are afoot for Radio 4 Extra to re-broadcast the episode in the spring.

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The Navy Lark in Radio Times

Running for 15 series between 1959 and 1977, The Navy Lark followed life aboard a British Royal Navy frigate named HMS Troutbridge and starred Leslie Phillips, Jon Pertwee and Stephen Murray.

Whilst every show is now represented in the archive, many are the versions sold by BBC Transcription Services to overseas radio stations, shortened to allow for advertising. As such, we would still like to hear from anyone who recorded The Navy Lark, or any other programme, when it was first broadcast as this could allow restoration to the full length.

Though one exciting discovery has been made, the Radio Times Treasure Hunt continues – if you have any old recordings, please don't send tapes at this stage, but let us know what you've unearthed by e-mail – treasurehunt@radiotimes.com – or write to Treasure Hunt, Radio Times, 44 Brook Green, London, W6 7BT.

Certain episodes of Doctor Who and Hancock’s Half Hour rank amongst the most wanted 'lost' recordings by TV and radio collectors but there is so much more, including entertainment, music, current affairs, and children’s.

There are a number of reasons why TV and radio broadcasts are now 'lost' from the archives – in some cases, no recording was ever made as broadcasting was mostly a live activity, but also, in an age before repeat showings and home media/streaming was commonplace, there was no impetus to keep recordings and recording over existing programmes was more effective. Some recordings were also lost or have been stolen or damaged.

However, many programmes survive because off-air recordings were made using domestic equipment whilst others exist because copies were made for producers or overseas transmission and never returned.

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