Witness: Archive 2010

Witness: Archive 2010

United Kingdom

The story of our times told by the people who were there.


Albert Luthuli Receives the Nobel Peace Prize  

When Chief Albert Luthuli won the Nobel Peace Prize he was living under a banning order in rural South Africa. His daughter Albertina talks to Witness. Also listen to archive recordings of his acceptance speech. He won the prize for advocating peaceful opposition to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Picture: Albert Luthuli receives the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960, Credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive

Jamaica Slave Rebellion  

*** Contains descriptions that some listeners may find upsetting *** Enslaved Africans are forced to work in sugar cane fields - the hours are long and there are frequent, brutal punishments. They have endured these conditions for 200 years. By 1831 the anti-slavery movement is gathering pace and the slaves decide to take action - by going on strike. Samuel Sharpe became a Jamaican national hero as he led the island's slaves in a rebellion against the overseers and sugar plantation owners. The rebellion was brutally crushed, but over time, the rebellion had a significant impact - and two years later in 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act is passed. Picture: Making sugar in Jamaica, Credit: HultonArchive/Illustrated London News/Getty Images

Chiapas Uprising  

People in the Chiapas region, led by the charismatic, ski-mask wearing, sub-commandante Marcos, rose up against the Mexican state. They called themselves, Zapatistas.


The play Hamlet can tell us a great deal about the time in which it was written. At the turn of the 16th century England was faced with many of the problems which plague its hero.

Assad and Syria  

Hafez al Assad was the Syrian Defence Minister in the winter of 1970 when his struggle for power came to a head. His former friend, the hardline Baathist, Salah Jadid, was jailed for life.

The Great Escape  

The film, The Great Escape, has become an all-time favourite. It is about a mass breakout from a German prison camp during World War 2. Flight Lieutenant Ken Rees, who died in August 2014, took part in the real-life escape effort, and talked to us about the escape.

Christmas Truce  

For several days over Christmas in 1914 the fighting stopped on the battlefields of the First World War. British and German soldiers left their trenches to sing carols, exchange gifts and even play football. Using archive recordings from the BBC and testimony from the Imperial War Museum, Witness takes you back to that Christmas Truce.

Andrei Sakharov  

The nuclear physicist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov had spent seven years in internal exile in the Soviet city of Gorky. His return marked a change in attitude towards dissidents under the rule of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Georgia in crisis  

Christmas 1991 was a difficult time for the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Economic and political difficulties crippled the government. Armed men roamed the streets of the capital Tbilisi, looting and fighting.


On December 21 1988 a US passenger plane blew up over Scotland. Pan Am flight 103 was heading for the USA when a bomb exploded on board, killing all the passengers and crew. The wreckage of the plane fell on the small town of Lockerbie in the Scottish borders. Witness hears from one man who lived through that night in Lockerbie.

US invasion of Panama  

On 20 December 1989 more than 20,000 US soldiers descended on Panama. General Manuel Noriega - the country's leader - sought refuge with the Papal Ambassador. Witness hears from a young man drafted in to help communicate with the US troops.

Washington Snipers  

It is seven years since one of the Washington snipers, Lee Boyd Malvo, was convicted of murder. He and John Allen Muhammad had terrorised the US capital for three weeks in autumn 2002, killing at random. Witness hears from one man who lost his brother during their rampage.

Operation Desert Fox  

On 16 December 1998 the US and Britain began a four day bombardment of Iraq. Their justification for Operation Desert Fox was Iraq's failure to comply with United Nations resolutions on disarmament. Prakash Shah was the UN special representative in Baghdad - he lived through the bombing.

Siege of Grozny  

"The destruction of Grozny was apocalyptic... I saw a lot of deaths. I saw people who got wounded by shrapnel from mortar fire and they were dying very slow deaths. But it was very difficult to go and help them because the next target could be you." In December 1994, Russian forces invaded Chechnya and laid siege to the capital Grozny. Aslan Doukaev was a university teacher when the first Chechen war began. He survived months of conflict on the streets before leaving the city for the safety of the mountains.

Capture of Saddam Hussein  

Hiding in a hole in the ground, bearded and unkempt, the former President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was dragged blinking into the light by American special forces. So how did it feel for Iraqis? Muwaffaq al Rubaie had suffered at his hands and was asked to go and identify the former dictator.

Argentina's disappeared  

After eight years of military rule, thousands of mainly young, left-wing, Argentinians had gone missing - 'the disappeared'. Miriam Lewin was one of the few who survived, she talks to Witness.

Smallpox Eradication  

Smallpox was once one of the most feared diseases in the world - disfiguring and often deadly. Donald Henderson is the American doctor who led the fight to rid the world of this terrible disease. His campaign started in the 1960s, and international scientists only agreed that he and his team had succeeded on 9 December, 1979. He tells Witness how they tackled virus - in the laboratory, and on the ground.

John Lennon  

It is exactly 30 years since the former Beatle, John Lennon, was shot dead in New York. Two days before John Lennon was killed, he spent several hours talking to a young BBC music journalist, Andy Peebles. For Witness, Andy remembers the man he met - his mood, his conversation, his wit. Andy Peebles with John and Yoko

Pearl Harbour  

When Japanese bombers and fighter planes attacked the US fleet in the Pacific it came as a huge surprise to many. Listen to some archive recordings from the time.

Somalia Marines  

In December 1992, the US sent armed troops into Somalia to help protect aid convoys carrying food to the hungry. They called it Operation Restore Hope - but it was not universally welcomed.

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