Witness-logo

Witness

BBC

The story of our times told by the people who were there. We take listeners back in time to key events in history - featuring a witness to the event, archive material and hear from historians.

The story of our times told by the people who were there. We take listeners back in time to key events in history - featuring a witness to the event, archive material and hear from historians.
More Information

Location:

United Kingdom

Networks:

BBC

Description:

The story of our times told by the people who were there. We take listeners back in time to key events in history - featuring a witness to the event, archive material and hear from historians.

Language:

English

Contact:

BBC World Service Bush House Strand London WC2B 4PH


Episodes

The Beagle 2 mission to Mars

7/19/2019
More
On Christmas Day 2003, a British spacecraft was due to land on Mars and begin searching for signs of life. The late Professor Colin Pillinger was the man behind the mission, his daughter Shusanah spoke to Rob Walker about Beagle 2 in 2015. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo:Lead scientist Colin Pillinger poses with a model of Beagle 2 in November 2003. (Credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Duration:00:10:16

Apollo 13

7/18/2019
More
The 1970 Moon mission that almost ended in tragedy after an explosion on board the spaceship. Fred Haise was one of the Apollo 13 astronauts. In 2010 he spoke to Richard Howells about how they managed to get back to Earth despite the odds. Photo: The Apollo 13 astronauts after they were picked up from the Pacific. Left to right: Fred Haise, Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert. Credit: SSPL/Getty Images.

Duration:00:10:15

The Moon Landing

7/17/2019
More
In July 1969, the world watched in awe as NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the lunar surface. Former NASA flight controller Gerry Griffin taks to Simon Watts. Photo: Buzz Aldrin on the Moon (Getty Images)

Duration:00:08:55

Valentina Tereshkova, cosmonaut

7/16/2019
More
In June 1963 Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was sent into orbit around the Earth, in a solo voyage which lasted for nearly three days. Lucy Ash went to Russia to find out more about her. Photo: Valentina Tereshkova before boarding Vostok 6, at Baikonur cosmodrome, on June 16, 1963. Credit:AFP/TASS

Duration:00:10:16

Laika, the first dog in space

7/15/2019
More
The Russian stray was the first dog to orbit the Earth. She was sent into space in November 1957 in a flight which had been timed to mark the anniversary of the Russian Revolution. She died after orbiting the Earth four times. Professor Victor Yazdovsky's father was in charge of the dogs in the Russian space programme. Professor Yazdovsky tells Olga Smirnova about playing with Laika, before her flight, when he was just nine years old. Photo: Laika. Credit: Keystone/Hulton/Getty Images.

Duration:00:10:55

Kenya's ivory inferno

7/12/2019
More
Twelve tonnes of ivory was set alight by President Daniel Arap Moi in Nairobi National Park in July 1989, to highlight the threat from poaching.The ivory burn was organised by conservationists who wanted to save the world's elephants. Alice Castle has been speaking to Richard Leakey, former head of the Kenya Wildlife Service. (Photo: Ivory tusks arranged in a pile and set alight. Credit: Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis/Getty Images)

Duration:00:10:33

Cuba executes top military officers

7/11/2019
More
Four army officers were sentenced to death for drug trafficking by the Castro government in July 1989. Critics accused the communist authorities of carrying out a show trial of opponents of President Fidel Castro. In 2016, Mike Lanchin spoke to Ileana de la Guardia, daughter of one of the four men executed. Photo: Col Antonio de la Guardia and his daughter Ileana, Cuba 1986 (AFP)

Duration:00:10:02

The Common Cold Unit

7/10/2019
More
The Common Cold Unit was created after World War Two to find the cause of the illness. Its work depended on thousands of volunteers who came to the unit to catch a cold. Given food, accommodation and some pocket money, many volunteers regarded it as a holiday and came back year after year. Witness spoke to eminent virologist, Professor Nigel Dimmock who worked at the Common Cold Unit in the 1960s. Photo: Two volunteers take part in the clinical trial at the Common Cold Unit in Salisbury,...

Duration:00:10:20

China puts tampons on sale

7/9/2019
More
Tampons first went on sale in China in 1985. But many Chinese women, especially in rural areas still didn't have access to basic sanitary products. Even now only a tiny percentage of Chinese women use tampons on a regular basis. Yashan Zhao has been talking to the man behind the first advertising campaign for tampons in China, and to a woman from the countryside where sanitary products were not widely available until the late 1980s. Photo: Chinese women looking at educational material about...

Duration:00:10:03

The secret diaries of 'Gentleman Jack'

7/8/2019
More
The discovery of the diaries of 19th-century Englishwoman Anne Lister, who wrote in secret code about her love affairs with women and has been called the first modern lesbian. A landowner and a businesswoman, she defied the conventions of the time and was nicknamed by local people in the Yorkshire town of Halifax where she lived 'Gentleman Jack' because of the way she dressed and acted. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to Helena Whitbread, who discovered Anne Lister's diaries in 1983 and...

Duration:00:10:30

The indigenous fight to stop nuclear waste disposal

7/5/2019
More
In 1995 a group of senior, indigenous Australian women started a campaign to halt the construction of a nuclear waste facility in a remote part of South Australia. Karina Lester, a granddaughter of one of the women and a translator for the campaign, spoke to Rachael Gillman about their unlikely victory against the Australian government. Photo: Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, the group of senior aboriginal women who led the campaign (Umoona Aged Care)

Duration:00:08:57

The launch of the Walkman

7/4/2019
More
The portable cassette player that brought us music on the move was launched in July 1979. By the time production of the Walkman came to an end thirty years later, Sony had sold more than 220 million machines worldwide. Farhana Haider has been hearing from Tim Jarman, who purchased one of the original blue-and-silver Walkmans. (Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Duration:00:09:27

Surviving Cambodia's 'Killing Fields'

7/3/2019
More
Extremist communists, the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975 and began a social engineering project displacing millions to forced labour camps, and committing class genocide. Conditions in the camps were so appalling they became known as 'the killing fields'. Sokphal Din survived four years in one and told Rebecca Kesby what it was like. (PHOTO: CHOEUNG EK, CAMBODIA - 1993/02/01: Skulls are piled up at a monument situated outside Phnom Penh to serve as a constant reminder of the genocide under...

Duration:00:09:36

Germans kidnapped by Nicaragua's rebels

7/2/2019
More
In the 1980s thousands of young activists from around the world flocked to Nicaragua to support the fledgling left-wing Sandinista revolution. They came to build houses, pick coffee, or work in local health centres. Some of the foreigners were caught in the middle of the ongoing civil war between the Sandinista government and right-wing rebels, or Contras, supported by the US government. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to two Germans who were kidnapped by the Contras in the summer of 1986 and...

Duration:00:08:56

The US judge accused of sexual harassment

7/1/2019
More
In 1991 the US Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas was publicly accused of sexual misconduct by a law professor, Anita Hill. She was called to testify in front of a Senate committee, where her explosive testimony sent shock waves across America. Katy Fallon has been speaking to a close friend of Anita Hill, Shirley Wiegand. Photo: Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearing. (Credit: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Duration:00:09:07

Defending a British serial murderer

6/28/2019
More
**Warning: Some listeners might find parts of this programme disturbing** In June 1994 Fred and Rosemary West were charged with a series of gruesome murders of young women and girls, committed over a twenty-year period in the south of England. Among the victims were the couple's 16 year-old daughter. Mike Lanchin speaks to Leo Goatley, Rosemary West's defence lawyer. (Photo: Composite image of victims of Fred and Rosemary West)

Duration:00:10:06

The Stonewall Riot

6/27/2019
More
In June 1969, the gay community in New York responded to police brutality and harassment by rioting outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The protest sparked the creation of the modern LGBT rights movement and the first Gay Pride events. Simon Watts talks to Stonewall veteran, John O'Brien. PHOTO: The Stonewall Inn today (Getty Images).

Duration:00:09:11

The Anfal genocide

6/27/2019
More
In June 2007, an Iraqi court ruled that a 1980s campaign by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds was genocide. More than 100,000 Kurds were killed in chemical attacks and mass executions, and their villages destroyed, during the five-month Anfal campaign. Saddam Hussein's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, who was the architect of the campaign, was executed for his part in it in 2010. Picture: Ali Hassan al-Majid in court during the Anfal trial in Baghdad, November 2006 (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Duration:00:09:47

Catch-22

6/25/2019
More
Joseph Heller's funny, tragic satirical anti-war novel was published in 1961 and sold millions. For many it epitomised the growing anti-establishment mood of the 1960s. Heller had served in a bomber squadron during World War Two. Though his experiences provide the setting for the book, its target was actually the America of the 1950s. Using interviews with the author from the BBC archive, Alex Last tells the story behind Catch-22. (Photo: A first edition of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller,...

Duration:00:11:30

The fat acceptance movement

6/24/2019
More
The National Association to Aid Fat Americans, NAAFA, held its first meeting in June 1969. Its first president was Bill Fabrey, a thin man married to an overweight woman who had realised how difficult life was for fat people in the USA. One of NAAFA's first members Sue Morgan, and Bill Fabrey, have been speaking to Lucy Burns about the early days of fat acceptance. Photo: Participants in the Million Pound March, 1998 in Santa Monica, California. Sponsored by NAAFA. (Credit: Gilles...

Duration:00:08:58