BBC reveals 2,500-hour World War I season

Hermione Norris and Kerry Fox in The Ark The Ark stars Hermione Norris and Kerry Fox as nurses in a field hospital in France

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The BBC has revealed how it plans to mark the centenary of World War I.

Programming and events will span four years, across television, radio and online, from 2014-2018, echoing the time frame of the war itself.

"I want 2014 to be remembered for our national commemoration of all those who served on the battlefield and on the Home Front," said BBC chief Tony Hall.

"And a chance for us all to learn something new about a war we think we know well."

The season will include 130 newly commissioned programmes, spanning almost 2,500 hours.

Among them will be two major TV dramas on BBC One: The Ark will take viewers into the lives of the medics and their patients at a fictional field hospital behind the trenches in France; while The Passing Bells tells the story of the war through the eyes of two very ordinary young men.

On BBC Two, Ian McDiarmid stars in 37 Days, which will explore the politics behind the build-up to war. The events will also be retold on BBC Radio 4 in 1914 Day-by-Day, a 42-part series featuring archive news excerpts, from the day of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand to the outbreak of war five weeks later.

37 Days 37 Days stars Tim Pigott-Smith as Prime Minister Asquith

Radio 4 will also air two dramas. Homefront is the story of "the 41 million Britons who didn't fight in the great war but whose hearts were pinned on the five million who did", and will run across four years in 15-minute instalments, pitting fictional stories against a background of truth.

Tommies, a series of plays narrated across the four years of war, revolves around British Empire soldiers, focusing on a sergeant in the Lahore division of the Indian army and a group of signallers.

Kate Adie tells The Story of Women in World War I on BBC Two, and relates the role of women as nurses, ambulance drivers and surgeons during the great war.

"We are setting out to broaden people's understanding of the war, to commemorate and remember those who were caught up in it and to tell both well-known stories from fresh perspectives and original stories so far untold," said Adrian Van Klaveren, BBC controller behind the centenary season.

Horrible Histories

The season will also include programming about poetry, paintings and music, as well as programmes by eminent historians including Sir Max Hastings, Christopher Clark and Niall Ferguson, tackling some of the biggest debates about World War I.

Meanwhile, BBC Children's and BBC Learning will seek to explain the war to younger viewers, through programmes including a specially-commissioned Horrible Histories.

"A century on, we should perhaps remember and respect that sacrifice," said Jeremy Paxman, who fronts the documentary series, Britain's Great War, looking at the impact of the World War I.

"And realise that more than any other event, this was the one that made modern Britain."

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