7 episodes

"The best history podcast I've heard in years." - The Sunday Times

"Three million is great radio... and needs to be heard." - The Observer.

During the Second World War, at least three million Indian people, who were British subjects, died in the Bengal Famine. It was one of the largest losses of civilian life on the Allied side. But there is no memorial to them anywhere in the world - not even a plaque. Can three million people disappear from public memory?

From the award-winning creator and presenter of Partition Voices and Three Pounds in My Pocket, this is the story of the 1943 Bengal Famine in British India - the forgotten story of World War Two. For the first time it is told by those who were there - farmers and fishermen, artists and writers, colonial British and everyday citizens. Nearly all of the testimony in the series has never been broadcast before.

Eighty years on, those who lived through it are a vanishing generation. Time is running out to record their memories.

Three Million BBC Radio 4

    • History
    • 5.0 • 12 Ratings

"The best history podcast I've heard in years." - The Sunday Times

"Three million is great radio... and needs to be heard." - The Observer.

During the Second World War, at least three million Indian people, who were British subjects, died in the Bengal Famine. It was one of the largest losses of civilian life on the Allied side. But there is no memorial to them anywhere in the world - not even a plaque. Can three million people disappear from public memory?

From the award-winning creator and presenter of Partition Voices and Three Pounds in My Pocket, this is the story of the 1943 Bengal Famine in British India - the forgotten story of World War Two. For the first time it is told by those who were there - farmers and fishermen, artists and writers, colonial British and everyday citizens. Nearly all of the testimony in the series has never been broadcast before.

Eighty years on, those who lived through it are a vanishing generation. Time is running out to record their memories.

    Introducing Three Million: The Bengal Famine, WWII's Forgotten Story

    Introducing Three Million: The Bengal Famine, WWII's Forgotten Story

    The forgotten story of World War II: the Bengal famine in British India, where at least three million people died, told for the first time by the eyewitnesses to it.

    • 2 min
    1. War

    1. War

    During the Second World War, at least three million Indian people, who were British subjects, died in the Bengal Famine. It was one of the largest losses of civilian life on the Allied side. But there is no memorial to them anywhere in the world - not even a plaque. Can three million people disappear from public memory?
    From the award-winning creator and presenter of Partition Voices and Three Pounds in My Pocket, this is the story of the Bengal Famine of 1943. For the first time it is told by those who were there - farmers and fishermen, artists and writers, colonial British and everyday citizens. Nearly all of the testimony in the series has never been broadcast before.
    Eighty years on, those who lived through it are a vanishing generation. Time is running out to record their memories.
    We begin in 1942. As the Japanese sweep through South East Asia, Calcutta (now Kolkata) is inundated with hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers from all over the world. Fear of a Japanese invasion of British India provokes a consequential decision.
    Presenter : Kavita Puri
    Series Producer: Ant Adeane
    Editor: Emma Rippon
    Sound design and mix: Eloise Whitmore
    Production Coordinators: Maria Ogundele and Sabine Schereck
    Original music: Felix Taylor
    With thanks to Dr Janam Mukherjee, Professor Joya Chatterji and Dr Diya Gupta.
    Interviews with American soldiers courtesy of The National World War II Museum, New Orleans https://www.nationalww2museum.org/
    Interviews with G S Khosla and Debotosh Das Gupta courtesy of the University of Cambridge
    Major General Dharitri Kumar Palit interviewed by Gillian Wright, 1987, British Library reference C63/195/09. Audio © British Library Board and the interviewee. The British Library has been unable to locate the family of the interviewee. Please contact oralhistory@bl.uk with any relevant information.

    • 28 min
    2. The Cigarette Tin

    2. The Cigarette Tin

    A boy decides how much rice he can give from a cigarette tin to hungry people. A Christian missionary sets up a makeshift relief hospital. A small child watches through the gates of his house in Calcutta as emaciated women clutching children ask for food.
    As the food crisis deepens, shocking testimonies from the countryside show the extent of starvation. Many thousands of hungry people begin moving from the rural areas towards the cities.
    Indians - including children - are forced into life-or-death decisions
    Presenter Kavita Puri
    Series Producer: Ant Adeane
    Editor: Emma Rippon
    Sound design and mix: Eloise Whitmore
    Production Coordinators: Maria Ogundele and Sabine Schereck
    Original music: Felix Taylor
    With thanks to Dr Janam Mukherjee, Professor Joya Chatterji and Dr Diya Gupta.
    Interviews with Damodar Ramchandra Gole and Alan McLeod courtesy of the University of Cambridge

    • 28 min
    3. The F-Word

    3. The F-Word

    Colonial authorities wanted to censor the famine. They were worried that Britain’s wartime enemies - the Germans and the Japanese - would use it as propaganda against them.
    But as more and more starving people arrive in cities across Bengal, it becomes harder to suppress. Indian writers, photographers and artists document the humanitarian catastrophe, but it was risky as the censor forbade mention of the word famine. A British journalist and editor of the English language Statesman newspaper, in Calcutta, decides to challenge the censor and begins publishing photographs and then scathing editorials about what is really going on in Bengal. It shocks the world. In London, the BBC reports on “famine conditions” and, as we uncover, the British government tries to pressurize the broadcaster to tone down its coverage.
    Presenter Kavita Puri
    Series Producer: Ant Adeane
    Editor: Emma Rippon
    Sound design and mix: Eloise Whitmore
    Production Coordinators: Maria Ogundele and Sabine Schereck
    Original music: Felix Taylor
    With thanks to Dr Janam Mukherjee, Professor Joya Chatterji and Dr Diya Gupta.

    • 28 min
    4. The Tapes

    4. The Tapes

    Kavita discovers a set of cassette tapes containing rare interviews with Indian civil servants who were on the ground across Bengal during the famine, shedding new light on colonial responsibility.
    And as the need for relief in Bengal becomes ever greater, more pressure is put on the British government from India’s new Viceroy. He asks for more food imports. Could the War Cabinet and Prime Minister Winston Churchill have done more to help alleviate the famine in the middle of the war?
    Presenter Kavita Puri
    Series Producer: Ant Adeane
    Editor: Emma Rippon
    Sound design and mix: Eloise Whitmore
    Production Coordinators: Maria Ogundele and Sabine Schereck
    Original music: Felix Taylor
    With thanks to Dr Janam Mukherjee and Professor Joya Chatterji
    Interviews conducted by Lance Brennan courtesy of University of Cambridge
    Interviews with GS Khosla courtesy of University of Cambridge

    • 28 min
    5. Ghosts

    5. Ghosts

    The Bengal Famine, particularly the experiences of people in the rural areas who suffered the most, is not well remembered today. There is no memorial, museum, or plaque to the victims or survivors anywhere in the world.
    One man has made it his life’s work to record their testimonies with paper and pen. Kavita hears from him - and tries to understand more about why the three million people who perished aren’t better remembered or memorialised in India, Bangladesh and Britain.
    Presenter Kavita Puri
    Series Producer: Ant Adeane
    Editor: Emma Rippon
    Sound design and mix: Eloise Whitmore
    Production Coordinators: Maria Ogundele and Sabine Schereck
    Original music: Felix Taylor
    With thanks to Dr Janam Mukherjee, Professor Joya Chatterji and Dr Diya Gupta.

    • 28 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
12 Ratings

12 Ratings

Seton Notes ,

Really interesting topic

Am a history teacher in the US. Am learning a lot. Hope to share with my students soon!

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