The Story of ANNOUNCERS and ANNOUNCING over Thirty Years 

4 March 2022 tbs.pm/74732

‘This is London calling. This is 2LO calling… the London station of the British Broadcasting Company…’ (1923)

 

 

Radio Times Annual 1954 cover

From the Radio Times Annual 1954

IN those distant, carefree, and in some ways more exacting radio times when the man who read the news was expected to strike out the time-signal on a set of tubular bells and shift the piano when it was in the way, the BBC set a standard of announcing which has not only been maintained but is still unequalled in any other country in the world.

It didn’t matter in the least that they had to tidy up the studio, read the Fat Stock Prices, and be an uncle in Children’s Hour: they retained that poise and authority which still makes the British way with a microphone a model for announcers everywhere. Happy days — when the football commentator’s ‘Square Four…’ was a national joke, and you paid only ten shillings [50p in decimal, £30 now allowing for inflation – Ed] for your licence!

In the beginning the announcers were a select company—hand-picked by Major John Reith. They belonged (without realising it) to what was then the newest and probably the most exclusive profession of all, and were known by name to listeners who were numbered by the hundreds of thousands, not yet by the millions. It was some years before the great legend grew — the Voice of the BBC. At first, the young men who talked to us so amiably over the air were given their due credit in Radio Times. We would read: Announcer — R. Palmer, or D. Lewis, or whoever it might be.

Order for Anonymity

Then the order for anonymity went forth, and Stuart Hibberd, Rex Palmer, Derek McCulloch, David Tennant, Archie Harding, and the rest of their pioneer colleagues became disembodied voices. So the BBC’s announcers remained until, as a wartime precaution (to confound the enemy and frustrate any knavish tricks he might have in mind for spreading false intelligence) they identified themselves by name.

The announcers always had a vital job, no less vital because it was taken for granted. The announcers held together the whole framework of broadcasting. They explained, they informed, they warned, and they were masters of ceremony. They blandly spoke of deep depressions over Iceland to listeners who had never suspected the existence of such phenomena, and within the space of an hour or so were introducing a talk by Sir Oliver Lodge, a concert by the BBC’s own nightingale from a Surrey wood, or the appearance of Sir Harry Lauder. (It is not, I believe, generally known that the canny Lauder, cautious about the effect of this newfangled ‘wireless,’ stipulated that the BBC should indemnify him if his Variety audiences diminished after the broadcast: the BBC agreed, but Lauder had no cause to make a claim!)

These were everyday tasks, but when the General Strike paralysed Britain in 1926 the announcer became a figure of national importance. It was then that the BBC ‘grew up.’ In a night, broadcasting became not merely a form of entertainment, but a vital part of our social life. The public, deprived of its daily newspapers, looked to their wireless-sets for the latest news. The announcers gave it to them. They also spent hours reading the railway time-tables. Dull, but an important public service, none the less.

After this, listeners regarded their announcers with a new respect. They had already come to look on them with mild affection, and if the grave tones of, say, Mr. Hibberd became temporarily muffled owing to a cold in the head, the Savoy Hill postbags would next day be heavy with boxes of lozenges, bottles of cough mixture, and letters giving details of sovereign remedies.

 

Stuart Hibberd at the microphone

THE ELDER statesman of the microphone. In the years when broadcasting grew to maturity Hibberd was, in the minds of millions, the ‘voice of the B.B.C.’ Dignified, authoritative, and friendly, he told of many events that are now part of Britain’s history – including the moving pronouncement that the life of H.M. George V was ‘drawing peacefully to its close.’ He joined the BBC in 1924 and retired in 1951; he is still heard in ‘The Silver Lining’

 

How Announcing has Changed

The first ‘matey’ approach of radio’s experimental stage did give way for a while to the more formal and occasionally even austere approach. During the war that austerity was abandoned — to a large degree at any rate. The Old Brigade of the Announcers’ Room once again took on their genial personalities: the newcomers found that it was possible to create a friendly atmosphere and a genuinely close bond between themselves and the public. Today, there are more than fifty announcers — nine of them women — including those attached to the Home Services, Light Programme, Third Programme, and Television.

If the quality of the individual announcers has remained unaltered, the same can hardly be said of the job itself. It is altogether much more complicated and responsible. Let us consider some of the changes that have made it so.

Most people have forgotten (indeed, many of the younger listeners never knew) that before the war there were no news bulletins until six o’clock in the evening. Then again, broadcasting did not start until 10.15 a.m. — whereas all early risers, and possibly a great many light sleepers as well are aware that there is now music in the air as early as half-past six every weekday.

You may say that this is merely a personal problem for the men and women who tell us cheerfully what is going on, and what is about to go on. But there is a physical problem as well, one which John Snagge (with whom I have been discussing the subject at length) describes as ‘the worst headache of the lot.’

All Over the Place

John Snagge at the microphone

MOST of us find it hard to remember a BBC without John Snagge. His unmistakable voice has told us of many great happenings of our times – the surrender of Italy, D-Day, V.E.-Day, and V.J.-Day, to say nothing of a Royal Jubilee and two Coronations. He was born in 1904 and joined the BBC as Assistant Station Director, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1924. He would be famous for his Boat Race commentaries alone.

Today BBC studios are dispersed in many parts of London. Once it was possible to say to one announcer, ‘Take care of the National Programme for three hours tonight,’ and he could do the whole thing on the spot. Now it is often impossible for the same announcer to deal with consecutive programmes for the simple reason that these may be broadcast from the Maida Vale studios, from the Aeolian Hall in Bond Street, from the Camden Theatre, from the Paris Cinema, from Farringdon Street (near Ludgate Circus), from the Royal Albert Hall, or from other studios. All this involves a considerable number of nerve-racking journeys with an eye on the clock, and provides a new kind of geographical jig-saw puzzle for those who parcel out the announcers’ work.

Nor is the announcers’ job made any easier by the fact that a great many programmes are recorded in advance — usually days, but quite frequently weeks, before they are broadcast. There are many good reasons for this, chief among them being the shortage of studios and the fact that the stars concerned may be engaged in the theatre or on tour at the time it is planned to broadcast the shows.

The older hands on the announcing staff look back enviously to the days when pre-recording was practically unknown. Now the work is sometimes doubled, for recording of one programme and transmission of another can take place simultaneously, and two announcers, therefore, are required at one and the same time. And, needless to say, when our friends are introducing a programme which may not ‘go out’ for some weeks they have to keep an even closer watch on what they say and how they say it.

Continuity

One new responsibility which keeps the announcer on his toes and adds to his worries is — Continuity.

This means the smooth running of the day’s broadcasting, seeing to it that programmes follow each other as announced in Radio Times and on time, and dealing with any of the last-minute emergencies and crises that are always liable to arise. From the opening hours of broadcasting to the moment when the last note of the National Anthem dies away on the midnight air, the announcers on duty must ensure Continuity. He is in complete control, and can even perform that most drastic of operations — fading a programme out.

From the wealth of his experience, John Snagge summed it up like this: ‘The announcer assumes four things about a programme — that it is going to overrun; that it is going to under-run; that it will break down in the middle; and that it won’t take place at all. On behalf of the listeners he is prepared to deal with any of these unpleasant situations.’

The ‘fading-out’ process, by the way, is certainly not automatic. The announcer-in-charge will not blindly follow a rule, but will use his initiative and weigh up the pros and cons of the position. If mistakes are made, they are genuine mistakes, made in good faith, and never without due thought and consideration. And there is, according to John Snagge, one golden rule: ‘Always tell people the facts about a breakdown — never make excuses.’

Gentle Bricks

No doubt because they possess the best-known voices in the country and because they are accepted in the intimacy of every home, our announcers have always been ‘news.’ They have only to make a mistake, or drop a gentle brick, and the fact is gleefully recorded on the front pages of the daily Press. But I am inclined to agree with them that this is a compliment rather than otherwise. An announcer’s lapse becomes a ‘story’ because it happens so rarely!

The BBC is often asked why its news-readers should not revert to the wartime practice of giving their names. The answer, and it is a reasonable one, is that news reading must be an objective performance. The personality of the voice’s owner should never make itself felt — except for the impression it gives of authority ard impartiality.

This is not to say that the BBC encourages its announcers to do nothing but act as purveyors of news items. There has always been the rather pleasant tradition that an announcer is willing to turn his hand to anything — to conduct the Epilogue, to pass imperturbably from symphony concert to jam session. The same policy applies today inasmuch as he may be given, in the same evening, such tasks as the receiving and entertaining of distinguished guests and introducing a Variety show.

Broadcasting has indeed grown up: by human standards it is on the threshold of middle-age. But it is fascinating to realise that the principles have remained very much the same as they were thirty years ago. Policy, the type of voice, and the approach to the job have changed hardly at all since the days when listeners adjusted the cat’s-whisker, held the earphones to their heads as tightly as possible, looked daggers at the offender who dared to close the door noisily, and listened to a clear, rather metallic voice saying: ‘Goody Two Valves. In six or more stupendous scenes. Book by Allan Sundry. Lyrics by Juno Hooitz. Dresses by R. Agsun Bones. Scenery by I. Daubitt…’ and so on.

Pronunciation has altered scarcely at all, and the mistakes that novice-announcers make today are precisely the same as those made by their elders years ago. Margarine, Dvorak, Roosevelt — the same old snares are there to trip them up.

Favourite Stories

As you might expect, the announcers all have their favourite stories — many of them concerned with unfortunate spoonerisms, mispronunciations, and tongue-twisters.

It was Alvar Liddell who was suddenly faced with one of the classic tongue-twisters — ‘Six Swedish fishing smacks with a load of thirty-six thousands steel shelters.’

One senior announcer reading the cricket scores came to ‘Hutton — ill. I beg your pardon, one hundred and eleven.’ Punctuation is sometimes tricky, and a mislaid comma has often landed the most experienced announcer in trouble. There was the news-reader who announced: ‘We regret to announce the death of Lord —— so often — I’m sorry, we regret to announce the death of Lord ——, so often and so rightly called the Father of the House.’

Jolly and Companionable

As a journalist and scriptwriter since the dawn of broadcasting history, I have always regarded the announcers as a jolly crowd, companionable, and first-class conversationalists. Many of them — Philip Slessor, for instance, David Dunhill, Ronald Fletcher, and Michael Brooke — have been given a chance to enter into the spirit of some of the more light-hearted programmes, and no one can say they have not made the most of it.

The television announcers have encountered their own special problems. Even more, perhaps, than their brothers and sisters in sound they must display poise, and that peculiarly British quality exploited by Miss Cicely Courtneidge in her famous sketch, Sang Froid.

But these qualities would amount to nothing unless they were allied to professional skill.

 

The Home Service in London

News Readers and Announcers

 


 

Frank Phillips

A DEVONSHIRE man – born in Sidmouth – he was educated at Bedford School and Christ’s Hospital. Was articled to an engineering firm, but having a fine baritone voice took up music seriously and became a professional singer. He has sung at the Three Choirs Festival, at the Proms, and at Halle Concerts. Joined BBC in 1935 and is popular as lecturer and compare.

Ronald Fletcher

WON a host of friends by his good-humoured and unruffled participation in the Bedtime with Braden series. Having fun with the Bradens was just another routine assignment in his work as a Home Service announcer in London. Now in his early forties, Ronald Fletcher is married and has two children. He is a keen golfer and theatregoer.

Andrew Timothy

HIS slim, elegant figure has been familiar at Broadcasting House for six years. Before joining the BBC was a film executive with the Rank Organisation, and had served in the Army throughout the war. Is another of the announcing staff who can drop formality when the occasion arises, and is remembered for his introduction of The Goon Shows. Is a Londoner—born in November, 1912.

Colin Doran

WAS educated at Eton and Oxford, and at one time meant to make a career in the Foreign Office. Turned his attention to broadcasting instead, and read his first Home Service news bulletin at sight, with no rehearsal and during an electricity mains failure. Was an Infantry Officer in Burma. A keen golfer and cricketer.

 

 

Alvar Liddell

AFTER three years as Chief Announcer in Birmingham, he came to London in 1937 — and was next in seniority to Stuart Hibberd. Has announced many world-shaking events, including Abdication of King Edward VIII and the Declaration of War on September 3, 1939. Served in R.A.F. but was invalided out. Is 6 ft. 3 in. [1.9m] tall, and is married, with a son and daughter.

Robert Dougall

WAS the ‘anonymous Englishman’ who on the Sunday before the outbreak of war broadcast an appeal to the German nation. Was originally an accountant, and became announcer in the BBC Empire Service twenty years ago. Joined Royal Navy as ordinary seaman: commissioned, 1943. Has given commentaries from aircraft, ships at sea, and from bottom of a diving tank. Was educated at Whitgift and is now forty-one.

Richard Baker

WHILE a member of the Marlowe Society at Cambridge he recorded a speech of Aeneas (Troilus and Cressida) in English and Italian for the Italian Service. Says the idea of trying for an announcing job came to him ‘while playing about with a wire recorder at Aberystwyth.’ Was in the Royal Navy during the war, after which he became an actor. Is still a theatre enthusiast.

Alan Skempton

A CHRIST’S HOSPITAL boy who went to Magdalene College, Oxford. Began professional career as a journalist. He won an Honours degree in English and his hobbies are writing and photography. Was a pilot in R.A.F. from 1941 to 1946.

Wallace Greenslade

IS one of the best linguists among the announcers. An unusual background — after leaving Blundell’s he sailed in P. & O. liners and became a purser. During the war was seconded to Royal Navy as Lieut-Commdr., R.N.V.R. Joined BBC in 1945. A keen cricketer, and member of the Surrey C.C.C. Born in Formby, Lancs., in 1912.

Kenneth Kendall

Joined BBC in 1949 as ‘sick and holiday relief announcer’ and made such a good impression that his voice has been familiar to us ever since. Was born in the South of India in 1924, but went to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, taking his degree in modern languages. Served for three years in the Coldstream Guards.

Lionel Marson

WITH twenty years of experience as an announcer, is one of the ablest and most imperturbable broadcasters. He is a soldier who became an actor: he was educated at Haileybury and Sandhurst and served in the Royal Irish Dragoon Guards throughout the first world war. He studied at R.A.D.A., arid was in West End shows. Has played cricket for Wiltshire and for the Army, and is a keen fisherman.

Robin Holmes

WAS once a member of the Old Vic Company. After leaving Cambridge, he had varied experience in Rep. and was at the Mercury Theatre for some time. Was for five years in the Army, being wounded during the Falaise Gap fighting. Is thirty-eight, married, and has one child.

 

 

Joy Worth

BORN in Java, Joy Worth came to radio from the world of entertainment. Has been a gifted singer since childhood, and until the war was a member of the popular ‘Cavendish Three.’ After working in a Government office she joined BBC twelve years ago as an announcer in the Home Service. You will remember her introducing Sentimental Journey, Worth Hearing, and Top of the Bill.

Denys Drower

EDUCATED at Clifton College and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Was once articled to a firm of chartered accountants. Enlisted in the ranks of the Coldstream Guards, but was later commissioned in the Queen’s Royal Regiment. His voice is familiar not only to Home Service but to Third Programme listeners and to viewers. One of his hobbies is mending clocks.

 

 

Scottish Home Service

 

 

Alastair MacIntyre

THE senior announcer in Scotland was born in Edinburgh forty-one years ago, and is a brother-in-law of novelist Eric Linklater. Son of a famous sportsman, the late Ian MacIntyre, formerly M.P. for West Edinburgh (who played Rugby for Scotland and was a president of the Scottish Rugby Union). Alastair also played Rugby — for Cambridge University. Acted in West End for three years, then joined the Army. A major in 15th Scottish Division, was wounded at crossing of the Rhine. Joined BBC, 1946. After opening of Kirk o’ Shotts transmitter viewers saw him announcing T.V. programmes from London.

David Brown

STILL in his twenties — he was born in 1928. As a boy, he went to school in Littlehampton, Sussex, but went north to continue his education, first at Kilsyth Academy, then at Morrison’s Academy, Crieff. Holds the degree of M.A., Edinburgh University. Served in Kenya with the Royal Artillery and joined BBC as announcer in December, 1952.

Pamela Patterson

BORN, brought up and educated in Edinburgh. Studied medicine for a time, but decided to specialise in speech training, and became an L.R.A.M. and L.G.S.M. Did valuable work entertaining troops in the early part of the war. Is justly proud of her long-service record as a woman announcer, having become part-time announcer in April, 1941, joining staff later in the same year.

W. A. (Archie) Henry

IS the same age as Alastair MacIntyre. Was educated at Lenzie Academy. Is an accomplished actor, having belonged in turn to the Scottish National Players, the Scottish Children’s Theatre Company, and the Perth Repertory Company, of which he was stage director. Was with the Royal Signals throughout the war, serving in Orkney Islands, India, and Ceylon. After four years as a freelance broadcaster — much in demand — Archie Henry joined the BBC as an announcer in 1952.

 

 

Northern Ireland Home Service

 

 

Maurice Shillington

LISTENERS remember him as a wartime announcer from London, when — like Wilfred Pickles — he was one of the ‘Regional voices’ heard reading the news bulletins. Was educated at Rugby and Worcester College, Oxford. Is one of the best all-round sportsmen on the BBC staff — as hockey player, oarsman, polo player and first-class shot. Returned to Belfast in 1945, where besides announcing he organises Week’s Good Cause appeals and, with Duncan Hearle, runs the hospital request programme, I Prescribe.

Duncan Hearle

A CAMBRIDGE graduate, he took up an appointment in Singapore, and later joined the Malayan Broadcasting Corporation. He was in the Straits Settlements Volunteer Forces and was captured by the Japanese on the fall of Singapore. During his three and a half years as a prisoner he worked on the notorious Moulmein-Bangkok Railway. Hearle came back to England in 1945, after eight years in the Far East, and three months later became Maurice Shillington’s colleague in Northern Ireland.

 

 

Welsh Home Service

 

 

Mrs. Morfudd Mason-Lewis

IS one of the select band of BBC secretaries who have reached important positions in broadcasting. A native of Ynysybwl, Monmouthshire, Mrs. Mason-Lewis went to the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where she took an Honours degree in Welsh. After working as secretary to Sam Jones, North Wales representative, she became Children’s Hour Organiser for Wales, and later worked in London. Returned to Cardiff in 1946 and became senior announcer four years later. Is married to a Cardiff business man.

Carys Richards

IS twenty-four, a slim blonde of medium height, with blue eyes. She studied art and sculpture at Cambridge, and after six months as a teacher in London she became a BBC announcer on St. David’s Day 1953. Listeners took at once to her voice, with its distinctive North Wales lilt. One of her hobbies is climbing the Snowdonia mountains with her father. She designs and makes her own clothes.

Havard Gregory

IS an honorary member of the Gorsedd of Bards of the Royal Welsh National Eisteddfod. He speaks French and Spanish fluently and was for a time on the staff of the English Department of Rennes University. Knows Brittany intimately and while in France acted as guide to a French tourist agency — telling the French holidaymakers about their own country. He joined the BBC as announcer just over four years ago. He is twenty-nine.

 

 

West of England Home Service

 

 

Hugh Shirreff

WAS born in 1906 and educated at Haileybury. You will recognise him as ‘The Guide’ in the weekly musical travel programme, Conducted Tour with the BBC West of England Light Orchestra. With Peter Fettes, was for a spell one of the only two announcers at Bristol in the early days of the War, when between them they introduced up to twenty shows a day. Joined R.A.F. as an airman, was commissioned, and became Intelligence Officer to the Pathfinder Bomber Group.

Douglas Vaughan

IS a staunch supporter of anonymity for announcers, and information about him was extracted almost by force. Served during the war with the Devonshire Regiment, and later in small craft with the Royal Navy. Vaughan was for a time with the Listener Research Department of the BBC, but rejoined the Corporation as a West Region announcer eight years ago. Is married and has two children.

Elsie Otley

HAS broadcast since 1926, when she came to Savoy Hill as a singer at the invitation of Stanford Robinson. In more than twenty-five years as actress and singer on the air, Elsie Otley has taken part in Morning Services, epilogues, song recitals, opera, revue, variety and television broadcasts, and has played lead in a number of musical shows. First deputised as an announcer at Bangor in 1943. She adapted and produced Monsieur Beaucaire for radio.

 

 

North of England Home Service

 

Phillip Dobson

(NOTE the two Ls in his first name — it was an error on his birth certificate!). In his eight years with the Corporation, Phillip Dobson — besides announcing — has taken part in plays, features, children’s spelling-bees, story-reading, and T.V.’s Top Town. From Sandhurst, was commissioned in the Royal Tank Regiment. Answered an advertisement for an announcer in North Region and was chosen from nearly three thousand applicants. Is married, with three children — all girls.

Roger Moffat

SINCE joining North Region has announced every orchestral programme by the Northern Variety Orchestra — more than three hundred of them. A Warwickshire man, he left Malvern College to study agriculture. Was in the Royal Corps of Signals, joining Army Broadcasting Service in Austria as an announcer in 1947. Specialises in announcing light music and variety shows.

Randal Herley

BORN in Dewsbury, thirty-one years ago. Studied medicine at Leeds University, but joined the Army and served as a Royal Signals officer in the Far East and Middle East. Having broadcast regularly in the North as an actor since 1947, Herley became a North Regional announcer (H.Q., Leeds) in March this year. Enjoys puzzling over the lute scores of Elizabethan love-songs and is, so he says, ‘a chronic joiner of Madrigal Societies and part-song groups.’

Tom Naisby

SENIOR announcer in North Region for eight years. Was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Blackburn (his native town), and St. John’s College, Cambridge. His war service was spent almost entirely with the Polish Forces. He was the only British officer with their Bomber Squadrons, taught them English, and looked after their welfare. From 1931 until he joined the R.A.F. ten years later he was History Master at Kings’ School, Ely. Married, with two sons.

 

 

Midland Home Service

 

 

Christopher Stagg

IS a Londoner, but a Londoner who none the less feels at home in the Midlands, since his mother comes from Nottingham. His voice is widely known wherever BBC programmes are heard, for not only was he an announcer in the Overseas Service for three years, but a news-reader and narrator for the Overseas Radio Newsreel.

Richard Maddock

DURING the war Richard Maddock first served with the Royal Navy, but was later transferred to the Army. His regiment — the Cameron Highlanders. He joined the Army Broadcasting Unit at Rangoon, and — via Singapore — later went to Radio SEAC, Colombo. Maddock may be described as a Midland Regional announcer with West Country connections. He went to Clifton College and, before leaving for Birmingham, was with the West of England Region.

 

 

The Light Programme

 

 

Majorie Anderson

POPULAR with members of the Forces serving all over the world when she talked to them in wartime programmes, especially in Thank You for Your Letters and Forces Favourites. First broadcast in plays and poetry readings to schools. Has introduced many programmes in Woman’s Hour. Has a gift for putting speakers at their ease before the microphone. Is taller than average, with blue-grey eyes. Married, with one son, Jeremy.

Roy Williams

ANOTHER journalist and author who made the short but decisive journey from Fleet Street to Broadcasting House. Williams, born in Maidenhead forty-two years ago, has been a film commentator and a scenario expert. Joined BBC after being discharged from R.A.O.C. on medical grounds. Has a pleasant, easy style which has made him many friends among listeners since he joined the Light Programme as an announcer on its inception.

 

 

Philip Slessor

ONE of the ablest, most widely-read and stylish men of radio. Has had nearly twenty years experience at the microphone, beginning in Continental stations before the war. An adept in the art of impromptu announcing. With Gale Pedrick and Emlyn Griffiths, flew in 1943 to Algiers to set up the Army Broadcasting Service of mobile radio stations for fighting men in North Africa and Italy. Keenly interested in work of the ‘hams’ — the ‘amateurs’ who operate their own radio stations.

Michael Brooke

A LONDONER, born in 1904, he has one of the most easily recognisable voices on the air. Began his stage career in Paris twenty-five years ago, and was once stage manager for Sir Gerald du Maurier. Had long experience as an actor in rep. and in the West End. Came to sound radio from TV, thus reversing the usual process, having been studio-manager at Alexandra Palace before the war.

Became announcer, first in Empire Service, then in General Forces Programme, news-reading and presenting Forces Favourites. Married, with one son.

John Webster

BORN in Lancashire forty-three years ago and educated at Cowley School and Manchester University. Was for a time lecturer, specialising in psychological and medical subjects: and has held research appointments connected with hearing and music. First job with BBC was on the Programme Engineering staff. After working during the war on development of electronic precision instruments, was appointed Light Programme announcer in 1945. Is a talented musician, playing both piano and flute.

David Dunhill

KNOWN to the listening millions as the amiable and talented announcer of Take it from Here. The son of Dr. Thomas F. Dunhill, the celebrated composer, he was a journalist before enlisting in the R.A.F. in 1940. Had varied service career in Middle East and was eighteen months with the Desert Air Force. Has been a Light Programme announcer since 1946. Is married to an artist and has four children — two girls and twin boys.

 

 

Jean Metcalfe

BROADCAST Coronation commentary from inside Buckingham Palace — a great achievement for a girl who joined BBC in 1940 as a typist. While in the Empire Service she was given a voice test and told (to her surprise) that she was to be a continuity announcer. Was one of the announcers of Forces Favourites and other famous wartime programmes. Met her husband, Cliff Michelmore, when they were at opposite ends of Two-Way Family Favourites, she in London, he in Hamburg. Is twenty-nine.

Adrian Waller

ONE of the BBC’s Old Etonians. His career as an actor was interrupted by the war, but in 1947 he became a temporary announcer with the Third Programme. You will recognise his pleasant persuasive voice in Break of Day on Sunday mornings.

Robin Boyle

BORN in Folkestone, 1925. Was for a while a heating engineer, but joined the Tank Corps and served as an armoured-car driver. Was with the British Forces Network in Germany for several years and met his wife while working there. A keen motor-cyclist, and knowledgeable about music — ‘from bop to Stravinsky.’

Franklin Engelmann

A FLUENT, friendly style has won him a big following among listeners. An admirable chairman and master-of-ceremonies. Before radio claimed him, ‘Jingle’ worked on the London Stock Exchange, and was a leading spirit in the famous Stock Exchange Operatic Society. Joined BBC as announcer in the Forces Programme, but left for wartime service in the Royal Engineers.

 

 

The Third Programme

 

 

Peter Fettes

A LIKEABLE and witty former student from the Royal College of Music (subjects, singing and clarinet) who found himself on the Third Programme after a long and varied experience as a ‘utility’ announcer in Bristol and London, introducing every type of show. Born in Penang, Straits Settlements, forty-one years ago, he was at St. John’s College, Cambridge (Modern Language Tripos). Joined the BBC in 1937, and after service in the R.A.F., returned to his job as announcer when the Light Programme began in 1945. Married, with one daughter.

John Hoomstrom

WAS a schoolmaster and then a freelance radio actor before he came to the BBC early in 1951. Had experience as a news-reader and in presentation in the European Service. Was born in Worksop, Notts, twenty-seven years ago, and educated at Haileybury and King’s College, Cambridge. His interests are ‘The theatre, cricket, music — and remaining a bachelor.’

Christopher Pemberton

IS a qualified solicitor, the son of a doctor, and the grandson of a playwright and dramatic critic. He learned voice production at Stratford and is a skilled reader of poetry. Invalided out of the Army after war service in the R.A.S.C., Pemberton joined the Recorded Programmes Department, and later became an announcer. His voice was familiar to listeners who regularly tuned to Tuesday Serenade, Sunday Rhapsody and other Stanford Robinson programmes.

Thomas Crowe

YES, of course, he is known to his friends and colleagues as Tom. Is Dublin-born and was at Trinity College, Dublin, where he read Honours Course in Modern Literature, French and German. Has academic experience. He served as a subaltern with the Irish Guards 1944-48, and later acted as interpreter for a travel agency. Is ‘interested in anything relating to astronomy and the possibility of space travel.’

 

 

The Television Service

Regular Announcers

 

 

Sylvia Peters

Born in Highgate twenty-eight years ago. Was on the stage in musical comedy and revue before joining BBC as television announcer in June, 1947. Married Kenneth Milne-Buckley, TV studio-manager and producer, four years ago. Ballet programmes are her favourites.

Mary Malcolm

Is a grand-daughter of the celebrated Edwardian actress, Lily Langtry, and married to Sir Basil Bartlett. Has three children — Julia, Lucy and Annabel. A Scot, she is the only sister of Lt.-Col. G. I. Malcolm, Argyllshire, present head of the clan. After working in the theatre, she became a Home Service announcer, later being transferred to the Overseas Services. Has been a TV announcer since January 1948.

McDonald Hobley

‘Mac’ to his many friends, and to most viewers. His clergyman father ran an English Preparatory School in Chile, but Mac came to England in 1927 when he was ten and went to Brighton College. Acted in rep. at the Theatre Royal, Brighton (with Ronald Waldman, John Ellison) under the name Val Blanchard. Served in Royal Artillery. Has been in TV since service reopened in June 1946.

 

 

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3 responses to this article

Nigel Stapley 8 March 2022 at 8:06 pm

As a small child in the mid-to-late 60s, having heard the name many times but never having seen it written down, I thought the announcer’s name was ‘Al Varley-Dell’. Made sense to me…

Russ J Graham 9 March 2022 at 12:11 pm

Alan Bennett was similar: he thought it was Alvarliddel, all one word, like Geraldo.

Garry Humphreys 10 April 2022 at 6:41 pm

Or the small boy, sitting under the table during an air raid, heard intoning: ‘Here is the News, and this is Alvar the Devil reading it’.

Thanks for this excellent site, which reminds me of my childhood when the Northern Home Service was manned by Tom Naisby, Randal Herlet and (the sometimes subversive) Roger Moffatt. I remember Tom Naisby announcing a concert that was being broadcast simultaneously to Poland and announcing in English and Polish, the result of his War Service with the Polish Air Force, presumably. Very impressive!

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