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Radio actuality recordings

A unique collection of original BBC and other radio actuality recordings brings to life the London of the 1920s to the 1950s. These sounds were captured at street markets, fairgrounds, skittle alleys, auction houses, hopfields and elsewhere.

Edward VIII accession 1936

FOLLOWING THE death of George VI, the reign of Edward VIII gets off to shaky start in this recording (BBC library number 1171A) made on 21 January 1936. It features Sir Gerald Wollaston reading aloud the proclamation of Edward’s accession from a balcony at St James’s Palace You can see the balcony as it overlooks Friary Court in the picture below.

Friary Court, St James's Palace

A fanfare blown by the State Trumpeters precedes Wollaston’s delivery, and the proclamation is made against the background of a lengthy gun salute from nearby St James’s Park. Wollaston seems to be thrown slightly by some of the gunfire, and at one point he fluffs his lines. The omens sound poor for the brief reign of a man who wasn’t up to the job.

The reverse side of the disc has a continuation of the ceremony with words from the broadcaster Howard Marshall, best remembered for his work as a cricket commentator.

Many thanks to BBC Worldwide for granting the London Sound Survey permission to reproduce this recording. It is not covered by the site’s Creative Commons licence so please don’t try to download or redistribute it.

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