Richard Dimbleby
Richard Dimbleby CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (25 May 1913 – 22 December 1965) was an English journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

 and broadcaster
A presenter, or host , is a person or organization responsible for running an event. A museum or university, for example, may be the presenter or host of an exhibit. Likewise, a master of ceremonies is a person that hosts or presents a show...

 widely acknowledged as one of the greatest figures in British broadcasting history.

Early life

Frederick Richard Dimbleby was born near Richmond, in the western suburbs of London, the son of Gwendoline Mabel (Bolwell) and Frederick Jabez George Dimbleby, a journalist. He was educated at the independent Mill Hill School
Mill Hill School
Mill Hill School, in Mill Hill, London, is a coeducational independent school for boarding and day pupils aged 13–18. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, an organisation of public schools in the United Kingdom....

 in North London
North London
North London is the northern part of London, England. It is an imprecise description and the area it covers is defined differently for a range of purposes. Common to these definitions is that it includes districts located north of the River Thames and is used in comparison with South...

. He did not go to university. His great grandfather Jabez Bunting (J.B.) Dimbleby, born in Beverley
Beverley is a market town, civil parish and the county town of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, located between the River Hull and the Westwood. The town is noted for Beverley Minster and architecturally-significant religious buildings along New Walk and other areas, as well as the Beverley...

, Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

, was the first of the Dimbleby family to become involved in journalism. He was editor of the journal All Past Time "A journal devoted to the application of Astronomy to the measurement of time" and was described as the premier chronologist to the "British Chronological and Astronomical Association". He wrote a number of works on chronology
Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time, such as the use of a timeline or sequence of events. It is also "the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events".Chronology is part of periodization...

, including The Appointed Time (translated into Swedish and Norwegian), and the anti-darwinian "The Bible’s Astronomical Chronology versus Evolution" (1905). Richard's grandfather Frederick William Dimbleby joined the Richmond and Twickenham Times in 1874 and bought the newspaper in 1894 after its founder, Edward King was declared insane.

Dimbleby began his career at The Richmond and Twickenham Times in 1931. He then worked as a news reporter on the "Southern Evening Echo" Southampton. He joined the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 as a radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 news reporter in 1936, and in 1939, became their first war correspondent. He accompanied the British Expeditionary Force
British Expeditionary Force (World War II)
The British Expeditionary Force was the British force in Europe from 1939–1940 during the Second World War. Commanded by General Lord Gort, the BEF constituted one-tenth of the defending Allied force....

 to France. He made broadcasts from the battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle took place over 20 days from 23 October – 11 November 1942. The First Battle of El Alamein had stalled the Axis advance. Thereafter, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery...

 and the Normandy beaches during the D-Day landings.

During the war, he flew on some 20 raids as an observer with RAF Bomber Command, including one to Berlin, recording commentary for broadcast the following day. In 1945, he broadcast the first reports from Belsen concentration camp. He also was one of the first journalists to experiment with unconventional outside broadcasts, such as when flying in a de Havilland Mosquito
De Havilland Mosquito
The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was a British multi-role combat aircraft that served during the Second World War and the postwar era. It was known affectionately as the "Mossie" to its crews and was also nicknamed "The Wooden Wonder"...

 accompanying a fighter aircraft raid on France, or being submerged in a diving suit, and also describing the wrecked interior of Hitler's Reich Chancellery at the war's end.

He was a contemporary of fellow commentator Brian Johnston
Brian Johnston
Brian Alexander Johnston CBE, MC was a cricket commentator and presenter for the BBC from 1946 until his death.-Early life and education:...

 who, while better known for sports commentary and light journalism, also shared the job of covering national events with him. Dimbleby was, unlike Johnston, not a traditional 'establishment' figure; he was one of the first well-known media professionals not to have attended a major public school or Oxbridge
Oxbridge is a portmanteau of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge in England, and the term is now used to refer to them collectively, often with implications of perceived superior social status...


Married to Dilys Thomas in Copthorne, West Sussex
Copthorne, West Sussex
Copthorne is a village in the Mid Sussex district of West Sussex, England. It lies close to Gatwick Airport, south of London, north of Brighton, and northeast of the county town of Chichester. Nearby towns include Crawley to the southwest and East Grinstead to the east...

 in 1937, Dimbleby had four children, two of whom, David
David Dimbleby
David Dimbleby is a British BBC TV commentator and a presenter of current affairs and political programmes, most notably the BBC's flagship political show Question Time, and more recently, art, architectural history and history series...

 and Jonathan
Jonathan Dimbleby
Jonathan Dimbleby is a British presenter of current affairs and political radio and television programmes, a political commentator and a writer. He is the son of Richard Dimbleby and younger brother of British TV presenter David Dimbleby.-Education:Dimbleby was educated at Charterhouse School, a...

, have followed in his footsteps to become major broadcasting figures in their own right, both anchoring election night broadcasts (David on the BBC, Jonathan on ITN). In addition, Dimbleby's third son, Nicholas, sculpted the plaque in his father's name that was placed in Poets' Corner in 1990.

Broadcasting career

After the war Dimbleby switched to television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

, eventually becoming the BBC's leading news commentator, and is perhaps best remembered as the commentator on a number of major public occasions. These included the coronation of Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

 in 1953 and the funerals of George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

, John F. Kennedy
State funeral of John F. Kennedy
The state funeral of John F. Kennedy took place in Washington, DC during the three days that followed his assassination on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas....

, and Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

. He wrote a book about the coronation, Elizabeth Our Queen, which was given free to many schoolchildren at the time.

He took part in the first Eurovision television relay in 1951 and appeared in the first live television broadcast from the Soviet Union in 1961. He also introduced a special programme in July 1962 showing the first live television signal from the United States via the Telstar
Telstar is the name of various communications satellites, including the first such satellite to relay television signals.The first two Telstar satellites were experimental and nearly identical. Telstar 1 was launched on top of a Thor-Delta rocket on July 10, 1962...

 satellite. In addition to heavyweight journalism, he hosted lighter programmes such as Twenty Questions
Twenty Questions
Twenty Questions is a spoken parlor game which encourages deductive reasoning and creativity. It originated in the United States and escalated in popularity during the late 1940s when it became the format for a successful weekly radio quiz program....

and Down Your Way
Down Your Way
Down Your Way was a BBC radio series which ran from 29 December 1946 to 1992, originally on the Home Service, later on BBC Radio Four, usually being broadcast on Sunday afternoons. It visited towns around the United Kingdom, spoke to residents and played their choice of music...


From 1955 he was the host of the flagship current affairs series Panorama
Panorama (TV series)
Panorama is a BBC Television current affairs documentary programme, which was first broadcast in 1953, and is the longest-running public affairs television programme in the world. Panorama has been presented by many well known BBC presenters, including Richard Dimbleby, Robin Day, David Dimbleby...

. This programme saw him use his journalistic skills to full advantage in conducting searching, but polite interviews with key figures of the day, while acting as an urbane anchorman for the programme. He was able to maintain his reporting talents by visiting places like Berlin, standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate
Pariser Platz
Pariser Platz is a square in the centre of Berlin, Germany, situated by the Brandenburg Gate at the end of the Unter den Linden. The square is named after the French capital Paris in honour of the Allied occupation of Paris in 1814, and is one of the main focal points of the city.-History :Pariser...

 a week before the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

 was erected across it by the communist authorities of East Germany.

Dimbleby's reputation was built upon his ability to describe events clearly yet with a sense of the drama and poetry of the many state occasions he covered. Examples included the Lying-in-State of George VI in Westminster Hall where he depicted the stillness of the guardsmen standing like statues at the four corners of the catafalque
A catafalque is a raised bier, soapbox, or similar platform, often movable, that is used to support the casket, coffin, or body of the deceased during a funeral or memorial service. Following a Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, a catafalque may be used to stand in place of the body at the Absolution of...

, or the description of the drums at Kennedy's funeral which, he said, "beat as the pulse of a man's heart." His commentary for the funeral of Churchill in January 1965 was the last state event he commentated upon.

To produce his commentaries he carried out encyclopedic research on all aspects of the venues of great events, their history and that of the ceremonies taking place, and the personalities involved. This was a necessary part of radio commentary, which transferred well to television coverage. He could also improvise extensively if there were delays in the schedule. His audience always felt that they were in "safe hands", especially in Panorama programmes like the one dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...


Inevitably, because of his close association with establishment figures and royalty, some people criticised his "hushed tones" style of speaking at state occasions, claiming he was pompous. In an interview he laughed-off such attacks explaining that, even though he had to use a special microphone which covered his mouth to obviate his speaking disrupting the solemn atmosphere, he still had to pitch his voice low to avoid his voice carrying. A more common touch was demonstrated in his friendly broadcasts like Down Your Way where he met thousands of ordinary people in towns and villages, and the many trade unionists, politicians and industrialists etc. who appeared on Panorama and other programmes. Dimbleby also showed stamina and imperturbability in marathon election night broadcasts which ran from 10pm when the polls closed to around 6 or 7 the following morning.

Controversy and comedy

An infamous, if isolated, incident occurred when Dimbleby uttered the minced oath
Minced oath
A minced oath is an expression based on a profanity or a taboo term that has been altered to reduce the objectionable characteristics.Many languages have such expressions...

, "Jesus wept
Jesus wept
Jesus wept is a phrase famous for being the shortest verse in the King James Version of the Bible, as well as many other versions, though it is not the shortest in the original languages...

," while unaware the microphone was live. He had been commentating for half an hour during the 1965 state visit of HM Queen Elizabeth II to West Berlin, without knowing that the TV pictures had failed for all that time. It meant he would have to cover much ground all over again. During his time with Panorama Dimbleby also reported the famous spaghetti tree
Spaghetti tree
The spaghetti tree hoax is a famous 3-minute hoax report broadcast on April Fools' Day 1957 by the BBC current affairs programme Panorama. It told a tale of a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the fictitious spaghetti tree, broadcast at a time when this Italian dish was not...

 hoax on 1 April 1957, as an April Fool's Day joke.


He was appointed an OBE in 1945 and advanced to CBE, one rank below a knighthood in the Order of the British Empire, in 1959.

Death and legacy

Richard Dimbleby died in St Thomas' Hospital
St Thomas' Hospital
St Thomas' Hospital is a large NHS hospital in London, England. It is administratively a part of Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. It has provided health care freely or under charitable auspices since the 12th century and was originally located in Southwark.St Thomas' Hospital is accessible...

, London, at the age of 52, from testicular cancer diagnosed five years earlier. In an interview with the Daily Mail
Daily Mail
The Daily Mail is a British daily middle-market tabloid newspaper owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust. First published in 1896 by Lord Northcliffe, it is the United Kingdom's second biggest-selling daily newspaper after The Sun. Its sister paper The Mail on Sunday was launched in 1982...

, his son David confirmed that "treatment then wasn't as good as it is now, but he had testicular cancer
Testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is cancer that develops in the testicles, a part of the male reproductive system.In the United States, between 7,500 and 8,000 diagnoses of testicular cancer are made each year. In the UK, approximately 2,000 men are diagnosed each year. Over his lifetime, a man's risk of...

 which spread because he left it". Two weeks before his death, he presented a documentary on the links between heavy tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 smoking and lung cancer. Dimbleby decided to admit he was ill with cancer, which, in those days, was a taboo disease to mention. It was helpful in building public consciousness of the disease and investing more resources in finding a cure. The Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund
Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund
The Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund is a charity founded in the memory of Richard Dimbleby, a British journalist and broadcaster, who died in 1965 aged only fifty two from lung cancer. Before his funeral, his family requested well-wishers to make donations to the new fund rather than sending flowers...

 was founded in his memory. Dimbleby was cremated
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

, the ceremony receiving national publicity.

Richard Dimbleby lecture

The Richard Dimbleby Lecture
Richard Dimbleby Lecture
The Richard Dimbleby Lecture was founded in the memory of Richard Dimbleby, the BBC broadcaster. It has been delivered by an influential business or political figure almost every year since 1972 ....

 was founded in his memory and is delivered every year by an influential public figure. The 2004 lecture was delivered by vacuum cleaner
Vacuum cleaner
A vacuum cleaner, commonly referred to as a "vacuum," is a device that uses an air pump to create a partial vacuum to suck up dust and dirt, usually from floors, and optionally from other surfaces as well. The dirt is collected by either a dustbag or a cyclone for later disposal...

 tycoon, James Dyson
James Dyson
Sir James Dyson is a British industrial designer and founder of the Dyson company.He is best known as the inventor of the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner, which works on the principle of cyclonic separation. His net worth in 2011 was said to be £1.45 billion.-Early life:Dyson was born in...

; in 2005, by Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan police
Metropolitan Police is a generic title for the municipal police force for a major metropolitan area, and it may be part of the official title of the force...

 Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair; by General Sir Mike Jackson
Mike Jackson
General Sir Michael David "Mike" Jackson, is a retired British Army officer and one of its most high-profile generals since the Second World War. Originally commissioned into the Intelligence Corps in 1963, he transferred to the Parachute Regiment, with whom he served two of his three tours of...

 in 2006; by genetics pioneer, Dr. J. Craig Venter
Craig Venter
John Craig Venter is an American biologist and entrepreneur, most famous for his role in being one of the first to sequence the human genome and for his role in creating the first cell with a synthetic genome in 2010. Venter founded Celera Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research and the J...

, in 2007; and by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2009. The 2010 lecture was delivered by Discworld author, Sir Terry Pratchett.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.