The Preposterous Files

Julian Putkowski presents a series on cases frrom the National Archives that show up Civil Service bureaucracy at its nonsensical and frequently hilarious worst.

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Episodes

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01Tardis2007092320080126
20100913

Certain files held in the National Archive are preposterously large, why?

Julian Putkowski distills certain files down, discovering how civil servants make the policies that govern our lives.

At the same time Sherlock Holmes used a gang of boys to gather and disseminate information the Metropolitan Police began working on the high tech version.

But what was the real purpose behind the humble Police Box?

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Deciding the design of the police telephone box proved to be a dauntingly complex process.

Deciding on the design, location and function of the police telephone box proved a dauntingly complex process.

One difficulty was that most of the public had never used a telephone.

02Death By Beer2007093020080202
20100914

Files from the National Archive reveal preposterous acts both grand and petty.

Julian Putkowski distills them down.

Question- How many pints of beer a day does it take to kill a woman living in Manchester in 1900? Answer- 1.5.

Professor Hugh Pennington is shocked by the scale of death caused by accidental contamination.

There are many similarities between how the authorities dealt with the disaster then and his own experience in modern poisonings.

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

In 1900, a mysterious epidemic affected thousands of beer drinkers in the North of England.

In 1900, the North of England press began to report a mysterious epidemic that was affecting thousands of beer drinkers.

The medical profession declared that it was an outbreak of peripheral neuritis provoked by excessive alcohol consumption, but a sceptical chemist, working alone from a makeshift laboratory, thought otherwise.

03The Falmouth Dolphin2007100720080209
20100915

Files from the National Archive reveal preposterous acts both grand and petty.

Julian Putkowski distills them down.

When HM Customs and Excise want to transfer Falmouth's steam launch to a more important port the locals raise a stink.

Canny civil servants think they have fobbed them off with an inferior boat until the sailors play the ultimate trump card.

Reader: Crawford Logan

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

When Custom officials move Falmouth's steam launch to a bigger port sailors take action.

Julian Putkowski presents a series on cases from the National Archives that show up Civil Service bureaucracy at its nonsensical and frequently hilarious worst.

3/5.

In 1912, cost-conscious HM Customs replaced Falmouth's steam launch with a former sailing boat fitted with an auxiliary motor.

Unfortunately, the motor proved unable to cope with the strong currents off the Cornish coast.

04Asylum Seeker Or Scrounger?2007101420080216
20100916

Files from the National Archive reveal preposterous acts both grand and petty.

Julian Putkowski distills them down.

Klimowicz was just another Polish stowaway seeking political asylum in London in 1954.

The Home Office got ready to boot him out.

Then the Prime Minister, Churchill, got involved.

His solution? Send in the destroyers.

With Shami Chakrabarti

Reader: Crawford Logan

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

When an asylum seeker is found on a ship Churchill sends in destroyers - to bring him back.

Julian Putkowski presents a series on cases from the National Archives that show up Civil Service bureaucracy at its nonsensical and frequently hilarious worst.

4/5.

In 1954, stevedores reported finding an unconscious young man on board a Polish ship berthed at Bermondsey Docks.

Was he an asylum seeker or a stowaway?

05 LASTThe Wrong Button?2007102120080223
20100917

Files from the National Archive reveal preposterous acts: grand, petty and tragic.

Julian Putkowski distills them down.

It's not a good idea to retract the undercarriage of a bomber when it is standing still on the runway fully loaded with 6 X 1000lb bombs.

What, if anything, was Flying Officer Kenyon thinking?

Readers: Crawford Logan and George Gillespie

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

A pilot retracts the undercarriage of a stationary fully loaded bomber.

Why?

Julian Putkowski presents a series on cases from the National Archives that show up Civil Service bureaucracy at its nonsensical and frequently hilarious worst.

5/5.

The transcript of the court martial of Flying Officer DR Kenyon, who retracted his plane's undercarriage whilst still standing on the runway prior to taking off for a bombing mission during the 1956 Suez crisis, makes extraordinary reading.