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.

Common Crier proclamation 1939

ONE OF THE more obscure public announcements to follow Neville Chamberlain’s Blattnerphone-recorded declaration of war was made the Common Crier on 4 September 1939.

The Common Crier’s proclamation (BBC catalogue number 871580) lists all those items to be considered as contraband of war, and they include ammunition, explosives, and anything that can be used to make chemical weapons. He concludes with the words: “Given at our Court at Buckingham Palace on the third day of September, 1939, in the third year of our reign. God save the King.”

The location of the recording isn’t given but it’s clearly outdoors and there’s traffic noise in the background. Other annoucements made by the Common Crier, such as on the dissolution of Parliament, are typically made outside the Royal Exchange, as in the picture below taken from a 1901 edition of the Illustrated London News:

The Common Crier, 1901

It seems reasonable to suppose that this proclamation too was made on the steps of the Royal Exchange. Of interest is the unusually long and informal preamble in which the Common Crier (not named in the catalogue notes) chats with a friend and with the recording engineer. The atmosphere is relaxed and, apart from the words of the proclamation itself, you might not guess war had just been declared.

Recording © copyright BBC. Audio digitisation and restoration by the London Sound Survey. Many thanks to BBC Worldwide for granting permission to reproduce this recording here.

Common crier proclamation 3:28