BBC releases 1940s issues of the Radio Times online for the first time

The 40s saw many challenges and celebrations for the magazine, from slimming down its issues due to the rationing during World War Two to the launch of long-standing programmes including Woman’s Hour and Desert Island Discs

The old magazine issues have been made public thanks to the BBC’s Genome Project, a database of programme listings dating from 1923 to 2009. The programme has also been responsible for digitising over 4,000 issues of the Radio Times dating back as far as the 20s.

The covers from the 40s feature work by a number of notable artists and designers from the period, including surreal artist and illustrator Victor Reinganum’s Radiolympia cover from September 1949, which depicts a large futuristic BBC Studio furnished with dynamist shapes, radio masts, bustling crowds, and sonic waves.

Ronald Searle, perhaps best known for creating the original St Trinian’s comic, also illustrated for the Radio Times during the 40s, and was most notably commissioned to bring its Christmas cover to life in 1947.

There are also many photographic front covers from this period, depicting all aspects of popular culture from FA Cup football games and the Grand National, to singer Vera Lynn and the Grow Your Own Food movements.

BBC historian Professor Jean Seaton says: “This release gives a gripping insight into Britain during the Second World War. It shows everyday life, the tension of the blitz and the D-Day landings on Europe. But the excitement of the post-war Royal Wedding and the thrill of the London Olympics are also there.”

The BBC was founded in October 1922, broadcasting for the first time on November 14, from the seventh floor of Marconi House on London’s Strand.

The Radio Times was originally a joint venture between the corporation and George Newnes Ltd which produced, printed and distributed the magazine. The BBC took full control in 1925, bringing the magazine in-house where it remained until it was merged into Immediate Media in 2011.