“The Fleet’s Lit Up!”

In 1937, the BBC were to cover the Illumination of the Fleet at the Spithead Royal Naval review with live commentary by Lt Cdr Thomas ‘Tommy’ Woodroffe. Pre-transmission naval hospitality had been lavish, and Woodroffe was already listing heavily to port, awash in pink gins.

What followed was a masterpiece. The full eloquence of his commentary is a monument to radio broadcasting, full of long gaps, repetition, vagueness, and sudden changes of tone from obsequious to aggressive, against the whistling crackle of vintage radio.

There’s nothing between us and heaven. Nothing at all.

At this point Woodroffe was faded out and replaced by music. He later denied being “lit up” himself, claiming to have been affected by the emotion of the occasion – possibly the first recorded example of broadcaster euphemism.