Cunk on Britain (2018) s01e04 Episode Script

Twentieth Century Shocks

1 Today, Britain stands at a fork in its crossroads.
And its people are asking questions.
Now we've got our country back, what actually is it? Who are we? And why? The best way to find out where Britain's heading is to look behind us into something called history.
A sort of "rear view mirror" for time.
So that's where I'm going.
Back there.
It's a journey that'll take me the length and width of the country, from the White Cliffs of Dovver to the Scottish high lands of the Scottish Highlands.
From old stone circles to modern stone circles.
From the tranquil beauty of Roman Bath to the Golden Wonder of Oxford Services.
I'll discover how we went from Ancient Man to Ed Sheer-han, why Elizabeth the First happened, and solving the mystery of just who Winston Churchill was, and why he wound up helplessly trapped inside this banknote.
Along the way, I'll be shouting at helicopters and looking at some of the biggest events in British history, and asking people about them.
In War II, why did the British build bombers to attack their own territory? How do you mean? Well, the Lancaster Bombers.
And, also, walking somewhere impressive with my mouth shut while my voice speaks anyway like I'm talking aloud in my own head.
All of it taking place in this sceptered isle we call home.
So join me, Philomena Cunk, as I take you right up the history of the United Britain of Great Kingdom.
This is Cunk On Britain.
This programme contains some strong language In the last episode, we saw how Britain was invaded by the Victorians, who fought and won the Industrial Revolution, but not without losing their leader, Queen Victoria, who stopped happening just as the 20th century began.
Now, as well as a new century, Britain had a new monarch, King Edward, who, despite his name, wasn't a potato, but a man.
Edward's coronation was a grand affair, celebrated with a song that was to become Britain's unofficial theme tune - Land Of 'Ope And Glory.
# Land of hope and glory # Mother of the free.
# This melodic musical tune was written by one of the best British composers this side of Ed Sheeran - El-Gar.
Who was El-gar? He sounds sort of rough.
Was he a caveman or something? No, Elgar was a composer in the late 19th century.
When someone like Elgar's invented a new tune, how do they sort of convert it into orchestra mode so it's being played by instruments? He probably, when he composed it and notated it out and had the sound in his head, he would then what's called orchestrate it.
So he'd write out all the parts for the different instruments and then he'd hand that over to an orchestra and they would play it.
How do the instruments know what to play, though? Because it was all written out for them.
Their little part was written o and all the little parts join together.
So the instruments have people attached to them? They do.
So what's Land Of Hope And Glory all about? What's its core message? Well, it's a patriotic song.
People think it's about bashing the drum for Britain, really.
If you sang it in, like, Portuguese, would it still feel British or would that just fucking ruin it? Well, it wouldn't have any meaning, but you might get that it sounded like it was supposed to stir you up without knowing why Mm.
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or what it was about.
So, it's sort of like Three Lions, isn't it, by The Lightning Seeds with Frank Skinner and David Baddiel? It is.
But less catchy.
Sadly, no amount of patriotic music could save the new monarch from an early death, and in 1910 King Edward died, and was buried beneath the soil, to rule over his fellow potatoes for all eternity.
Little did he know it at the time, but he'd narrowly avoided tragedy by dying, because just a few years later in 1914, Britain suffered the first of many 20th century shocks.
Nowadays, "first world" is something you put in front of the word problem to show that it isn't really that bad, like running out of couscous or not being able to check Twitter in a tunnel.
But back then, "first world" was what they called the war.
The First World War had loads of nicknames - the war to end all wars, the Great War, and, of course, World War I.
Why did they call World War I "World War I"? It's quite pessimistic numbering, isn't it? Or did they just know it was the start of a franchise? At the time they weren't numbering the wars, although I think that in the First World War the idea of it being a Great War denoting the sheer scale of the conflict the, urm, the casualty rate was already becoming used quite a lot.
So it was called the Great War, but not because it was great.
The First World War was started by the killing of one man.
Franz Ferdinand.
You've probably never heard of him.
Or the band named after him.
But he was dead important.
By which I mean he was only important when he was dead.
His assassination triggered a series of other killings.
Soon it caught on, and everyone wanted to be killed.
It was a bigger craze than fidget spinners.
Eventually, Britain got sucked into the fighting and men queued up to have their flat caps converted into fighting men's helmets.
Soon, hundreds of thousands of Tommies were heading for battle.
Why were all the British soldiers in World War I called Tommy? Was that just a coincidence? No, it wasn't a coincidence, it's just a general name that became applied to British soldiers in the same way we talk of Fritz as being a generic name for German soldiers.
What happened in Norman's Land? Were only people that were called Norman allowed in there? Well, it's not Norman's Land, this is No Man's Land, and the idea being that this is particularly dangerous territory between the lines of the Germans on one side and the British on the othe This is essentially just a killing zone, a very dangerous zone in between trench systems.
Why did they fire shells at each other? Cos shells wouldn't really hurt, would they? Unless they were those razor clam shells.
Cos they're quite sharp, aren't they? Well, these weren't seashells, these were heavy pieces of ordinance.
We're actually talking about bits of metal in brass casing so that's where the name shells comes from.
Oh, right.
Looking at footage from the time, it's hard to get a grip on just how brutal it must've been for Tommy and Norman, because it's in black and white and everyone's moving too fast, probably to avoid the shells.
Even though it looks a bit like Charlie Chaplin, it's actually not funny at all, so you can't laugh.
Just like with Charlie Chaplin.
One man who vividly captured the sheer horror of War One was the poet Wilfred Owen.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in And watch the white eyes writhing in his face His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues You get the gist.
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My friend As if the killing wasn't bad enough, the accommodation was scarcely worth two stars on TripAdvisor.
Soldiers had to live in trenches - snaking, cramped corridors of filth and squalor, without so much as a patio.
The World War I trenches weren't the right place for conventional warfare, were they? But why did neither side think about mud wrestling? Because they're the perfect conditions, aren't they? Well, I mean, trench warfare wasn't new.
I think that whilst you will get the occasional game of Christmas football, I don't think that anyone actually ever thought that letting the guns fall silent and having mud wrestling competitions was ever going to sort anything out.
I think they missed a trick, don't you? Eventually, the war ended at 11 o'clock on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 11 19 11 18.
Hence the term, "stopping for elevenses".
The soldiers came home to a Britain they could hardly recognise, because it was wearing a skirt.
While the Tommies had been away at the front, women had stepped into their old jobs.
There were women milkmen.
Women postmen.
Women bus driver men.
Even women male prostitutes.
What's more, the economy was in a pickle.
After the war, many industries found it almost impossible to sell their goods abroad, because abroad was mainly rubble.
There were strikes and marches and a great depression.
Things were shithouse bad.
People needed escapism.
But luckily for them, the age of mass entertainment was just beginning.
It was the Roaring Twenties.
City streets were full of jazz clubs, packed with Jeeveses and Woosters, and women with Lego haircuts dancing like they were surprised while shitting their pants at a fancy dress party.
And people who couldn't afford to enjoy a roaring twenties for themselves could still watch films of other people doing it, at the newly-invented cinema.
The cinema was a cross between YouTube and theatre.
Despite this, it was popular, and people queued to get in.
They showed Charlie Chaplin films, but even that couldn't keep them away.
The whole country went films bonkers.
Going to the cinema in those days was more like going to a book.
Because there was no sound, the story was explained by words on the screen - a bit like spoilers, but happening at the same time as you were watching it, so not as annoying.
And if you couldn't make it to a cinema or cocktail bar, you could still enjoy the jazz age, because scientists had worked out a way to force jazz into your house, using a magic called radio.
Radio was an exciting new invention that made it possible to hear other people's voices in your living room, without the use of thin walls or a devastating mental condition.
To help keep the early airwaves in check, the Government created something called the British Broadcasting Corporation - the BBC.
How come the BBC started with radio, because radio's loads less popular than television, isn't it? There are people in radio who would get very angry about that.
It's I mean, radio still performs tremendously well There's still radio? There is still radio.
At the time the BBC was set up, there wasn't a choice because there was no TV.
Luckily, a man called John Logie Baird was about to give birth to television - not literally out of his vagina, but metaphorically, out of his shed.
After doing some weird experiments like something out of Wallace and Gromit, Baird's TV was finalised, although idiotically, he'd gone to the trouble of inventing it without checking whether there were any programmes on yet.
It took a while before there was anything worth putting your iPhone down for.
The earliest transmissions looked like Abraham Lincoln looming through a glass door, and weren't very exciting.
Luckily, it was a short step from there to the BBC's first Saturday night extravaganzia, TV's opening night ceremony.
Vision and sound are on.
The station goes on the air.
SHE SINGS The show got a record audience of 400 - the sort of viewing figures BBC Four still dreams of.
Despite its popularity, the BBC was causing controversy from the start, and the powers that be were suspicious of it.
Why did the Government start the BBC in the first place? It seems like these days they're always trying to close it down.
Was it one of those stupid mistakes they made, like Brexit? The Government didn't strictly start the BBC.
The BBC was originally a private company in 1922.
It employed a rather fierce Scottish guy called John Reith.
People still talk about Reithian values and Reithian broadcasting.
Reithian values were to inform, educate and entertain.
What, all at the same time? Yeah.
Since those early days of black and white tat, the BBC has grown throughout the years to become one of biggest programme-shitting machines in the world, making ground-breaking, iconic programmes which still try to inform, educate or entertain.
So the BBC's supposed to inform, educate or entertain.
AND entertain.
I'm going to list some BBC things and I want you to say whether they inform, educate or entertain.
OK.
News At Ten? Inform.
Open University? Educate.
Doctor Who? Entertain.
Strictly Come Dancing? Entertain.
Homes Under the Hammer? Entertain.
Inspector Phillips? What is Inspector Phillips? Ah, I made that one up.
That was just a trick question.
OK, well, I've It didn't work.
Sounds real, though, doesn't it - Inspector Phillips? No, I instantly knew that it wasn't a real one.
Oh! Eat Well For Less? It's where Gregg Wallace and another man see how much a family spend on a week's shopping and then criticise them and make them eat porridge from Lidl.
Inform.
Well done.
Sorry, I wasn't totting up the scores.
Thank you.
But this golden future of television would have to wait.
Because back in 1939 times, the TV signals were suddenly switched off, because someone decided to start another war to end all wars.
When he became leader of Germany, Adolf Hitler was a funny-looking character with silly hair, a bit like Boris Johnson.
But he turned out to be a hateful maniac who would let nothing get in the way of his ambition, a bit like Boris Johnson.
Hitler believed the Germans were an elite race, like the Grand Prix.
He also thought he owned Poland, and when he went round there to get it back, Britain cried war.
This country is at war with Germany.
Luckily, Britain had a hero on its side, a man whose name will never be forgotten.
Win-ton Churchill.
Churchill's speeches were stirring and powerfully erotic.
We know it will be hard.
We expect it will be long He was one of the greatest orators of all time, and some of the phrases he used still resonate today - such as "finest hour", "never surrender", and, of course, "we shall fight them bitches.
" And we needed Churchill's stirring mumbling, because, at first, the war didn't go well.
Within six months, France was occupied by the Nazis, who they didn't see coming, because they'd been expecting the Germans.
Hitler wanted to make Britain German, to match its royal family.
But the RAF held Hitler's forces back, in amazing dogfights in the sky - that were done by aeroplanes, not actual flying dogs, which, sadly, science still hasn't invented yet.
This was the Battle of Britain.
It seems amazing that these young men could fly and fight so well.
Although when you look, you'll see the planes had tiny targets and crosses drawn on the side, which made them easier to hit.
But planes weren't only used in dogfights.
The Germans changed tactics.
Instead of attacking planes, which could move out the way, they attacked the ground, which couldn't, in something called the Blitz.
Preceded by a shower of flares, German bombers rained fire and high explosive bombs in their most savage attack on London Hitler's pilots started dropping bombs - sort of aeroplane poos - and people had to hide from them.
They built big tin shelters in their gardens or ran down the nearest tube station without a ticket or a valid Oyster card.
Countless houses were reduced to big piles of bricks and wood, which is sort of what houses are, anyway, but in a different order.
Despite this, thanks to the plucky British spirit, people weren't totally down in the dumps, even if they lived in one.
People sang songs during World War II to keep their spirits up, didn't they? How loud did they have to sing to be heard over the bombs? Well, especially as they would have sometimes been in underground stations sheltering from the bombs, it would have been loud in the underground station - the singing - if everybody was singing together, but it's true you wouldn't have beenheard much.
I wonder if, when they sang, they used to time their singing with the explosions? That would be a fun thing to do.
Difficult.
Very difficult to time it.
Quite random, the falling of bombs.
In the war, there were loads of songs taking the piss out of Hitler, weren't there? How come they don't sing those sorts of songs any more? Well, he's not around any more, so it's not so amusing.
Where is he? Well, he's dead.
He's dead? Yes.
Oh, right, so it would be disrespectful to speak ill Well, not so much disrespectful as pointless, really.
Pointless.
Bit pointless.
Yeah.
A lot of singing was needed because even when the Blitz ended, the war was far from over.
There were many huge battles to come, most of which will never be forgotten, because they've since been converted into blockbuster movies.
How was it we beat the Germans at Dunkirk in War II but still didn't win the whole war? Well, first of all, I think we've got to stop calling it War II, I mean, it's the Second World War.
If you're American, and you have to have it this way, it's World War II.
But you know, that's the language we tend to use.
But in terms of Dunkirk, I think that's the wrong way round.
We actually lose at Dunkirk.
We lost at Dunkirk? We lost at Dunkirk, I mean I don't think so.
It turns out Dunkirk was a huge disaster.
Like most sequels, War II was proving less fun than War I.
What made the war harder was that we didn't know what the Germans were planning, because they said it in a sort of code language known as German.
It took a team of British boffins using a magic typewriter called the Enigma machine literally loads of time to crack it.
But crack it they did.
And with Germany's secrets twatted wide open, Britain and its allies were able to organise D-Day and invade France, but in a nice way.
In gruelling and exciting scenes like these, expertly depicted in the pulse-quickening video game Call of Duty 2, soldiers scrambled out of their boats, looking for power-ups and health kits, terrified every second that a Nazi bullet might kill them, forcing them to respawn several feet away, and be delayed by a number of seconds.
Eventually, the British won - and immediately there was widespread jubilation and people dancing about in black and white and getting off with people who are almost certainly dead now.
A new, hopeful era had dawned, an era which 41 years later included the BBC painting and decorating sitcom Brush Strokes.
# Because of you # These things I do # Because of you Because of you, ooohhh.
After the war, returning soldiers rewarded national hero Winton Churchill by voting him out of office.
And the Britain that Britain came home to was a smaller Britain than the Britain Britain had left.
The Empire was crumbling.
Places like India decided they weren't British after all.
Which was sad because those countries had lots in common with us.
They had the same person on the stamps.
They spoke the same language.
They were the same colour on maps.
But despite all that, they chose to act as if they weren't part of Britain, just because that was geographically true.
What's more, around the world, superpowers like Russia and China were on the rise.
The future looked more uncertain than ever, and in 1948, one man wrote a book full of chilling predictions about just how terrible that future might be.
This is the book - George Orwell's chilling classic One Nine Eight Four.
In the book, using nothing but words, Orwell depicts a world in which people are manipulated by screens manipulated by the media manipulated by the government - something which thankfully didn't, and couldn't, happen.
Although One Nine Eight Four is set in the year 1984, it's not a 1984 anyone who lived through it would recognise.
Orwell didn't predict Band Aid or Ghostbusters.
Or Radio One's Mike Read banning Frankie Goes to Hollywood for singing about spunk.
In fact, almost the only thing he got right was that there'd be a thing on the screens called Big Brother.
And even then, he didn't predict it would eventually be on Channel 5.
Orwell's scary vision spooked Britain so much, it tried to avoid a nightmare future by reinventing itself, and the Government was going to help.
The post-war Labour Government was one of the most radical ever - kind of a cross between Jeremy Corbyn and the Taliban.
A landslide swept Labour to power with a majority unexpected even by its own leaders.
They were seen as the biggest archy-tects of something called the welfare state.
Where is the welfare state? Where is it? Yeah.
Well, it's sort of all around us.
Er Yeah, but where specifically in Britain? The welfare state is a phrase that refers to, broadly, the help that government gives to all of us.
Er, the Welfare State helps people from the cradle to the grave.
Hm.
So is it just for people lying down? It certainly helps people lying down, er They help to, you know, they give out bits and bobs, don't they? Yes, they-they, for poorer people they, you know, they provide a lot of help.
Schools and housing and And benefit payments Benefit payments.
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top-ups to your wages.
And how do they decide what not to give for free? Like was there ever a plan to give out free crisps? I don't think they've ever given out or thought about giving out free Although I quite like crisps I love crisps.
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I don't think many people would argue that you can't have a decent l I think I'd kill myself if I couldn't have crisps.
As part of its reforms, the Government introduced the National Health Service, or NHS for less long.
On July 5th, the new National Health Service starts, providing hospital and specialist services, medicines, drugs and appliances.
Once the NHS arrived, if you were poor and you got sick, you weren't on your own any more.
You were in a crowded waiting room full of other sick people.
Suddenly, you could see a doctor free of charge, like you can every Saturday evening on BBC One.
But staffing all those hospitals wasn't going to be easy, so Britain looked abroad for help.
In 1948, the Government granted British citizenship to everyone living in Commonwealth countries.
A sort of reverse Brexit, or Tixerb.
And a few months later, 492 migrants made the journey from the Caribbean to Britain, on board the Empire Windrush, which was a sort of sea-car, or boat.
The newcomers soon discovered life in Britain was very different to Jamaica - it was colder, wetter, we had potatoes instead of posh fruits.
But they soon settled into a British way of life - not smiling and being permanently tired.
Britain was becoming multicultural, although not everyone was happy.
Not even racists, who at long last had someone new to hate apart from Jews, Italians, Spaniards, women, the Irish, the French and the poor.
Because far-right Facebook groups hadn't been invented yet, the only way racists could express their fury was to take part in race riots, which are sort of artisan pop-up festivals of hatred.
Today, racist bigotry has no place in contemporary Britain, except Kent.
Britain was welcoming a new era.
And it was about to get something mega-new.
A new monarch.
The Royal Family had experienced a rough few decades.
Before the war, King Edward had abdicated, so he could spend more time in his mistress.
His brother George also vacated the throne unexpectedly early, to spend more time in his coffin.
This meant his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was to be the new, female king at the age of just 25.
Now the Princess Elizabeth we knew and loved returns amongst us as our q For centuries, the coronation of a monarch was a sacred event that took place behind closed doors - just like a visit to the toilet, but more dignified than that makes it sound.
But, now, thanks to progress, everyone was allowed to peep behind those closed doors.
In 1953, millions of Britons watched the Queen being coronationed on their new televisions.
It must've been like watching The Crown on Netflix, but live, and actually happening, like Britain's Got Talent, but more serious, like Game Of Thrones, but set in the real world, and starring Queen Elizabeth, like The Crown again.
Afterwards, incredibly, people didn't take the TVs back when they found there weren't any more coronations on.
They kept them in their front rooms and never went out again.
As well as a new queen, the nation had got itself a new prime minister.
Britain was changing so fast that the only way to tell what country it was was to keep getting everyone to wave flags.
The national mood was shifting.
It's the 1950s, a time of great change.
The war's over, the NHS has been founded, the Coronation's on TV, Mario 64's redefined the platform game for a new generation and Anthony Eden's Prime Minister.
How did Britain feel about these things? Well, I don't think computer games had been invented by the 1950s.
Um, the other things, I mean, the population was pretty positive about the Coronation.
That was a cause for excitement.
Anthony Eden, perhaps less successful, with the Suez Crisis.
What was up with the sewers? Did someone try to flush something that was awful? No, the Suez Canal.
What, the canals used to be sewers? That's disgusting.
No, no, Suez.
It's a place.
Oh, right.
During this "Suez Crisis", events in Suez reached crisis point.
More research needed - make sure script amended before voiceover record.
And it wasn't just grown men who were causing trouble.
A new form of human being, called the teenager, was evolving.
Teenagers were creatures that looked like adults, yet had the minds of children, like professional footballers do today.
And the young generation as a whole was about to deliver Britain a series of shocks that would shock it right up the shockbox.
On the next and final episode of Cunk On Britain, I'll see how the groovy young people of the 1960s encouraged Britain to tune over, turn off and drop up.
And Britain experienced a golden age that sadly couldn't last.
In the 1960s, if you switch your television on, you'd get Morecambe and Wise, Cilla Black, Bob Monkhouse, David Frost.
But nowadays, they're all dead - why is that?