Witness History: Lee Miller in Hitler’s Bath

Vogue’s war correspondent Lee Miller found herself in Adolf Hitler’s Munich apartment when the news broke that he was dead.

Earlier that day, she and fellow photographer David Scherman had witnessed the harrowing scenes at the liberated Dachau concentration camp.

Lee Miller’s son and biographer, Antony Penrose, explains to Josephine McDermott the significance of the photograph taken in the final days of World War II in Europe.

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Witness History: Singapore executes Filipina maid Flor Contemplacion

Flor Contemplacion. Credit: Russel Contemplacion

In 1995, the execution of Flor Contemplacion caused protests, a government resignation and a diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Singapore.

Flor, who worked in Singapore, was convicted of killing another domestic helper, Delia Maga, and the four-year-old boy Delia looked after, Nicholas Huang. While Singapore stood by the conviction, millions of Filipinos believed Flor was innocent and had been let down by their government as an overseas worker.

Flor’s daughter Russel Contemplacion, who was 17 at the time, and Flor’s lawyer Edre Olalia give Josephine McDermott their account.

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Witness History: World War II victory in North Africa

Peter Royle, 103, endured a month of solid fighting in the hills outside of Tunis in 1943. Eventually the Allies prevailed and took more than 250,000 German and Italian prisoners of war. They declared victory in Tunisia on 13 May. Peter came close to dying many times. He recalls how he once hummed God Save the King to prevent himself being shot by friendly fire. He was under the command of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, fresh from victory in the North African desert, and recalls him being inspirational to the troops.

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Witness History: When the Queen ‘jumped out of a helicopter’

How did an estimated 900 million people come to witness Her Majesty the Queen apparently parachuting from a helicopter with James Bond? Frank Cottrell-Boyce who wrote the scene for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games explains how it came about. Josephine McDermott hears how corgis, a clothes line and the Queen’s dresser all played important parts.

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Witness History: Families interned in WWII China

Christopher John Huckstep pictured at Lunghwa Camp in 1945, courtesy of Historical Photographs of China (hpcbristol.net)

Despite facing malnutrition, starvation and disease, Christopher John Huckstep’s father set up a school in the Japanese internment camp where his family was sent in 1943. Herbert Huckstep ensured the 350 children of Lunghwa Civilian Assembly Centre were taught a wide range of subjects using brown paper bags to write on. The school was called Lunghwa Academy and it had its own badge, motto and certificates. A syllabus was followed, exams were taken and there were even evening classes for adults.

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Witness History: The BBC broadcasting through the Iron Curtain

It is the 90th anniversary of the BBC World Service. Broadcasting to countries behind the Iron Curtain without a free or independent media between 1947 and 1991 was arguably the service’s finest hour.

The corporation was on the front line of the information war as the BBC’s former Moscow correspondent Bridget Kendall recalls.

Programmes such as the German Service’s Letters Without Signatures created a sense of community among isolated East Germans who could not air their views publicly at home.

Meanwhile, Peter Udell, the former controller of European Services, had the challenge of trying to overcome the Soviet censors. Produced and presented by Josephine McDermott.

BBC World Service – Witness History, The BBC broadcasting through the Iron Curtain

Witness History: Una Marson and the BBC Caribbean Service

To mark the 90th anniversary of the BBC World Service, we trace the development of the Caribbean Service.

Its beginnings go back to the early 1940s when the BBC’s first black producer, Una Marson was employed. She created Caribbean Voices, which gave future Nobel laureates such as Derek Walcott their first international platform.

In 1969, one of the UK’s best known newsreaders, Sir Trevor McDonald, left Trinidad to join the BBC Caribbean Service as a producer. He reflects on its legacy.

Produced and presented by Josephine McDermott.

BBC World Service – Witness History, Una Marson and the BBC Caribbean Service

Witness History: Campaigning against sex-selection in India

Campaigners in India in the 1980s
Photo: Campaigners rally against fetal sex selection in Mumbai in the 1980s. Credit: Dr Vibhuti Patel

Over the last 50 years an estimated 46 million girls have been aborted in India.

The cultural preference for boys and the development of pre-natal sex determination tests like ultrasound in the 1980s, meant an increase in the number of girls being aborted.

Activist Manisha Gupte describes how she campaigned, as part of the feminist movement, against sex-selective abortion – including the use of sit-ins and rallies – eventually raising enough awareness to bring about a national law in 1994 – the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act.

BBC World Service – Witness History, Campaigning against sex-selection in India