Blood, thunder and showgirls: the merchant navy on the BBC, 1939 - 1945

Linsey Robb

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This article examines the representation of the Merchant Navy on BBC radio in Britain during the Second World War. It discusses how this essential, but dangerous, wartime role was presented to the British public by arguably the most prevalent wartime cultural medium. It uses extensive research in the BBC’s Written Archive Centre, using both radio broadcasts and listener research, to understand how the role of the Merchant Navy was portrayed and understood during the war. This article argues that, unlike other civilian occupations, men of the Merchant Navy were presented as brave and courageous under enemy fire and therefore given access to much of the prestige generally reserved for the armed forces. Therefore, this use of an underused source prompts a reconsideration of notions of manliness and masculinity in this period which, until now, has focused on the combatant male and placed the civilian worker as diametrically opposite to this ideal.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Early online date26 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • merchant navy
  • BBC
  • World War II

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