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BBC General Forces Programme

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

BBC General Forces Programme
A photograph of Broadcasting House showing the art deco styling of the main facade. made from Portland stone
The BBC General Forces Programme headquarters was at Broadcasting House in London
HeadquartersBroadcasting House, London, UK
Launch date22 February 1944 (1944-02-22)
ReplacedBBC Forces Programme
Closed31 December 1946 (1946-12-31)
Replaced by

The BBC General Forces Programme was a BBC radio station operating from 27 February 1944 until 31 December 1946.



Upon the outbreak of World War II, the BBC closed both the existing BBC National Programme and BBC Regional Programme, combining the two to form a single channel known as the BBC Home Service.

The former transmitters of the National Programme continued to broadcast the Home Service until 1940, when the lack of choice and lighter programming for people serving in the British Armed Forces was noted. At that point, some frequencies were given to a new entertainment network, the BBC Forces Programme.

The BBC Forces Programme was replaced when the influx of American soldiers, used to a different style of entertainment programming, had to be catered for in the run up to D-Day. The replacement service was named the BBC General Forces Programme and was also broadcast on shortwave on the frequencies of the BBC Overseas Service.


The BBC Forces Programme was launched to appeal directly to those members of the armed services during the Phoney War who were mainly sat in barracks with little to do.

Its mixture of drama, comedy, popular music, features, quiz shows and variety was richer and more varied than the former National Programme, although it continued to supply lengthy news bulletins, informational and talk.

However, when the American servicemen arrived en masse in 1943 and 1944 in preparation for Operation Overlord, they found even the richer Forces Programme shows to be staid and slow compared with the existing output of the American networks.

In response to appeals from General Dwight Eisenhower, the BBC abolished the Forces Programme and established the General Forces Programme, designed to provide a mixture of programming suitable for American and British audiences and also to appeal to the "Home Front", who research had shown wished to listen to the same output as the forces once fighting had broken out.

As well as a large number of American network and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation programmes, the General Forces Programme also offered British programming:

British productions

The General Forces Programme maintained the previous broadcasting hours of the BBC Forces Programme, on the air each day from 6.30am until 11.00pm.


After Victory in Europe Day, the British longwave frequencies of the General Forces Programme became the BBC Light Programme on 29 July 1945. The service continued broadcasting by shortwave to areas that were still seeing fighting, and after Victory over Japan Day to occupying forces in each former occupied and enemy country.

As Britain began to disengage from each fighting area and civilian rule was restored and the soldiers were demobbed, the reason for the existence of the General Forces Programme faded. In each area it was slowly replaced by the BBC Overseas Service until its complete closure on 31 December 1946.


The Light Programme – as a general entertainment network featuring programming and a style of presentation that had not existed in the United Kingdom before the war – was far more a child of the General Forces Programme than of the pre-war BBC National Programme whose frequencies and transmitters it inherited.


  • The BBC Year Book 1947. London: BBC. 1948. OCLC 770477752.
  • Graham, Russ J A new lease of life Radiomusications from Transdiffusion, undated; accessed 5 February 2006
  • Hancock, Dafydd Forces of Light Radiomusications from Transdiffusion, undated; accessed 5 February 2006
  • Took, Barry Laughter in the Air London: Robson Books 1976 ISBN 0-903895-78-1

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 18 October 2020, at 19:55
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