BBC World War One Centenary 2014 – what to watch in the year ahead

From documentaries and concerts to commemorative events – some highlights of the BBC’s centenary coverage



The Ark BBC1

Hermione Norris, Suranne Jones and Oona Chaplin are frontline nurses at a field hospital dealing with casualties. Coming in spring.

The Passing Bells BBC1

Five episodes, chronologically constructed, charting the experiences of two young enlistees who believe the conflict will be over in a few months.

37 Days BBC2

A three-part account of the events that led up to the start of the war. Starring Ian McDiarmid and Tim Pigott-Smith.

Our World War BBC3

In the style of the award-winning documentary series Our War, this drama re-creates real battlefield stories using the helmet-mounted and night-vision cameras deployed in today’s conflicts.

Home Front Radio 4

The 100-hour epic, running over four years, begins in August. Fictional stories of life at home set against a factual backdrop.

Tommies Radio 4

Six dramas a year for four years, each covering the events of a specific day exactly 100 years earlier.


Tommy and Jerry’s Camera BBC4

If Vietnam was the first televised war, the 1914—18 conflict was the first to be chronicled by photographers, many of them ordinary soldiers in uniform. Two men who went into battle with both rifles and cameras were Harry Colver, a second lieutenant with the yorks and lancaster regiment, and german boy-soldier Walter Kleinfeldt. The programmes, on air in a few weeks, gives a glimpse of daily life on both sides of the barbed wire through its subjects’ camera lenses.

Colver died in December 1915 after a German gas attack, but Kleinfeldt survived the war and started his own photographic business. The photos he had taken on the Western Front were discovered only recently, stored in an old box, by his son. “They tell a remarkable story,” says film-maker Steve Humphries. “The early ones captured a real sense of innocent idealism, but by 1916 and the Battle of the Somme they started to reflect the horror that was unfolding.”

Royal Cousins of War BBC2

How European royal relatives ended up on opposing sides and how this led to the collapse of many royal houses.

Teenage Tommies BBC2

Fergal Keane reveals the stories of Britain’s boy soldiers, 250,000 of whom enlisted to fight on foreign fields.

The Pity of War/The Necessary War BBC2

Historians Niall Ferguson and Max Hastings adopt different positions on who was to blame for the outbreak of war and whether Britain was right to enter.

The World’s War BBC2

Both Britain and Germany drew on their empires for manpower — the germans even enrolling Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East in a Jihad against the Allies.

1914 — Day By Day Radio 4

Starting in June, historian Margaret MacMillan presents a daily programme that plots the road to the outbreak of war in Europe and describes the other key events, such as the threat of civil war in Ireland, that were happening at the time.


Artists of War BBC4

Andrew Graham-Dixon explores the work of three British artists and their role in chronicling the great War.

Oh! What a Lovely War Radio 2

A restaging of the famous anti-war musical first performed on the london stage 50 years ago. On air in spring.

The Ballads of the Great War Radio 2

Life and death on the battlefield told through songs both old and new in this series, which will be broadcast throughout the season.

Music in the Great War Radio 3

For two weeks in June, the channel’s daytime and evening schedules will reflect the music of the great War, from orchestral and chamber music through to trench songs and the rise of jazz.

Live in Concert Radio 3

On 28 June, the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Vienna Philharmonic performs live from Sarajevo, the city where he was murdered.


The 100th anniversary of the outbreak of war on 4 August will be marked by three commemorative events in the UK and in Belgium.

Glasgow Cathedral

 A service of remembrance will be held in the morning, attended by Commonwealth leaders.

St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons

Attention switches to Belgium, where the first and last British soldiers to die in battle are buried. Many world leaders and heads of state are expected to join descendants of the dead, including german soldiers, at the ceremony.

Westminster Abbey

In the evening, hundreds of candles will be lit in a special vigil at the Abbey. One by one they will then be extinguished until, at 11pm, when war was officially declared, the final one is put out — evoking the statement of Edward Grey, the British Home Secretary in 1914, who declared on the announcement of war, “The lamps are going out all over europe.”

Britain’s Great War is on tonight at 9:00pm on BBC1.