King's speach at the opening of Wembley

Public broadcast at Clacton-on-Sea.


By Alan Sabey.


            I recently picked up a card showing a crowd scene, and the owner had thoughtfully written on the back "Listening in to the Kings speach. Opening of Wembley Exhibition April 23rd 1924. Clacton on sea".


            On examining the card closely I thought several of the people in the crowd were holding what looked like a programme. So on the off chance I wrote to the library at Clacton to see if they could throw any light on the subject. Helen Cook the Local Studies Librarian was very helpful, and although she could not trace a copy of the programme she did send me a photocopy of the report which appeared on the 26th of April 1924 in the Clacton News.



            Wednesday was indeed a day of days in the British calendar, for not only was it St. George's Day, Shakespeare's Day, Zeebrugge Day, and a day of many other proud memories in our Island and Empire story, but it was marked by the opening of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, an exhibition which apart from the fact that it is the greatest thing of its kind which has ever been attempted in the history of the world, is one which must, from its very object and caracter, draw to itself the interest, if not a personal visit from every individual of the English speaking peoples in every Colony, Dependency, and country within the mighty British Dominions, and at noon on the great opening day the ceremony which was taking place in that London district must have been in the minds of millions of people whose number could never be gauged.


            Moreover in one particular respect that opening ceremony marked a historic achievement of science, for never before in the world's history has it been possible on such an occasion for the vast multitudes of people throughout the Kingdom to hear their ruler's voice as it was ringing out to those who were gathering together in the stadium. This was accomplished by the wireless and Clacton was among those who heard their beloved Prince the President, and their King, the choir of 10,000 voices, the Bishop of London, the massed bands, the guns in royal salute and the cheers of the spectators as plainly as if they had been present, and far more distinctly than hundreds on the fringe of the crowds within the Wembley grounds.  



Crowds in Pier Avenue Clacton


            In this Clacton participated, thanks to the arrangements made by Messrs F. W. Lewellen and Co. and it was a memorable scene in Pier Avenue when nearly a thousand people heard from two amplifiers, the audible sounds of the ceremony which was being enacted a hundred miles away. Everything was most distinctly heard, the apparatus working admirably and so clear was the reproduction that even the military commands to the soldiers as they were to come to the "Present" and the "Tion" were audible, giving that artistic touch that transported the listeners to the very scene in a mental visualisation of exactly what was taking place.


            The King on that day, thanks to the marvellous medium which is summed up in that one word 'Wireless' was literally addressing millions of his people, and the thought must have been an inspiring one. 


The end.



It would be appropriate to follow this with the actual speach. Editor.


The King's Speech at the Opening of the Exhibition.


            It gives me the greatest pleasure and satisfaction to come here today with the Queen for the purpose of opening the British Empire Exhibition.


            Our heartiest thanks are due to the Board of Management, to the Executive Council and to all who have worked with and under them for the marvellous organisation and industry which have produced this triumphant result. I am well aware of the numerous adverse circumstances, including the exceptionally unfavourable weather, which had to be faced. These were successfully overcome by arduous labours, carried out with resolution and good will. Many who, like the Queen and myself, have seen the work in the earlier stages, can appreciate to the utmost the skill and toil which have translated the magnificent conception into this splendid reality that now stands before us .


            I am happy to welcome the representitives, official and unofficial, of my Dominions beyond the Seas, and to express the pleasure we all feel that they are taking part in today's opening ceremony.


            You have said that your object has been to produce a picture of our commonwealth of nations. No one can doubt that this has been fully attained. The Exhibition may be said to reveal to us the whole Empire in little, containing within its 220 acres of ground a vivid model of the architecture, art and industry of all the races which come under the British Flag. It represents to the world a graphic illustration of that spirit of free and tolerant co-operation which has inspired peoples of different races, creeds, institutions and ways of thought, to unite in a single commonwealth and to contribute their varying national gifts to one great end.


            This Exhibition will enable us to take stock of the resources, actual and potential, of the Empire as a whole, to consider where these exist and how they can be best developed and utilised, to take counsel together how the peoples can co-operate to supply one another's needs and to promote national well-being. It stands for a co-ordination of our scientific knowledge and a common effort to overcome disease and to better the difficult conditions which still surround life in many parts of the Empire. 


            Think for example, of the scientific work accomplished in recent years for the prevention and treatment of tropical diseases? And it is easy to imagine how greatly the Exhibition can contribute towards the progress of our tropical territories and the development of the yet unexplored capacities of the Empire.


            Our thoughts go back to the Great Exhibition of 1851, associated for all time with the memories of Queen Victoria and of the Prince Consort, and to the brilliant hopes of the growth of international peace and friendship with which it was inaugurated. Our object here is not quite so ambitious, and for that very reason perhaps more hopeful of attainment. We believe that this Exhibition will bring the peoples of the Empire to a better knowledge of how to meet their reciprocal wants and aspirations, and that, where brotherly feeling and the habit of united action already exist, the growth of inter-imperial trade will make the bonds of sympathy yet closer and stronger. Business relation between strangers may or may not lead to friendhip, co-operation between brothers for the better development of the family estate can hardly fail to promote family affection.


            And we hope further that the success of the Exhibition may bring lasting benefits, not to the Empire only but to mankind in general. No nation or group of nations can isolate itself from the main stream of modern commerce, and if this Exhibition leads to a greater development of the material resources of the Empire and to an expansion of its trade, it will at the same time be raising the economic life of the world from the disorganisation caused by the war.


            I declare the British Empire Exhibition open, and I pray that by the Blessing of God it may conduce to the unity and prosperity of all my peoples and to the peace and well-being of the world.


                    © Exhibition Study Group 1993