'First time in history to hear the sounds of battle' was a statement in Jonathan Dimbleby's two part documentary 'The BBC at War'. It referred to an event in December 1939 when his father Richard was with the British Army in France. It is perhaps a grandiose comment portraying the BBC as a pioneer and flag bearer for the new medium of radio broadcasting a war but perhaps in his rush to 'soundbite' Jonathan ignored the first war fought through the medium of radio and led to it's study in black propaganda, The Spanish Civil War.
During that conflict especially on the Nationalists side, sympathetic radio stations were broadcasting reports from the front line and while perhaps the sound of actually cannon fire was absent due the the lack of recording equipment, in December 1939 a phony war was being fought on the western front and the so called sounds of battle may have been a soldier cleaning his weapon.
The two part series was in many other respects excellent and in relation to our own situation in Ireland with Radio Eireann and the Emergency demonstrated that many of the issues faced by the Irish broadcaster affected the much bigger BBC. It was also fascinating to know that the BBC HQ was located in Bangor, Wales just 160 KM away from Radio Eireann in the GPO, O'Connell Street.