Friday, 23 October 2015

Radio Review: 23rd October

Hugh Dennis walks in his great-uncle’s footsteps

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176Once upon a time, broadcast news was a simple matter of reporting things that had actually happened. Now, though, a lot of air time is devoted to things that people are expected to do or say later in the day. This results in absurd exchanges like the one on Today during the Conservative Party Conference where the PM was asked if he agreed with the Home Secretary’s speech hours before she delivered it.

Moving from political clairvoyance to history, I liked Radio 4’s In Search Of Great Uncle Frank, a documentary in which comedian Hugh Dennis retraced the steps of his greatuncle Frank [Hinnels], who was killed at Gallipoli 100 years ago, just after he had turned 18.

Dennis began by asking his mother about her uncle, and whether her father, Frank’s brother, had ever mentioned him. He hadn’t. The loss remained too painful, but then in his final months, suffering from Parkinson’s and dementia, Dennis’s grandfather became convinced that Frank was in the room with him.

Then Dennis went to the place where Uncle Frank had died, in the company of veteran soldier Major Mike Peters and a native guide. Dennis had worried that the whole genealogical exercise was typical midlife crisis stuff, ‘like cycling’, but at the end, he realised his interest was deeper.

Being thoroughly British, he made jokes all the time, but he was clearly deeply affected, particularly when an old Turkish woman told him that the British and Anzac soldiers who died at Gallipoli had become sons of Turkey, too. This had been Kemal Ataturk’s magnanimous decree.

A military disaster for both sides, Gallipoli contributed to the formation of modern Turkey. At the end, Dennis felt justifiably proud of his ancestor’s part in a major historical event.

Louis on Twitter: @LF Barfe or email:

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