Richard Dimbleby

Richard Dimbleby

Infobox Person
name = Richard Dimbleby

image_size = 173px
caption = Radio Times front cover for "Panorama"
birth_name = Frederick Richard Dimbleby
birth_date = birth date|1913|05|25
birth_place = near Richmond, London, England
death_date = death date and age|1965|12|22|1913|05|25
death_place = St Thomas' Hospital, London, England
death_cause = Lung cancer
resting_place =
resting_place_coordinates =
residence =
nationality = British
other_names =
known_for =
education =
employer = BBC
occupation = Broadcaster
title =
salary =
networth =
height =
weight =
term =
predecessor =
successor =
party =
boards =
religion =
spouse =
partner =
children = David Dimbleby
Jonathan Dimbleby
two further children
parents =
relatives =

website =
footnotes =

Richard Dimbleby CBE (May 25, 1913 – December 22, 1965) was an English journalist and broadcaster widely acknowledged as one of the greatest figures in British broadcasting history.

Early life

Frederick Richard Dimbleby was born near Richmond [GRO Register of Births: SEP 1913 3a 188 BRENTFORD - Frederick R Dimbleby, mmn = Bolwell] , in the western suburbs of London, the son of Gwendoline Mabel (Bolwell) and Frederick Jabez George Dimbleby, a journalist. [ [ Family detective - Telegraph ] ] He was educated at Mill Hill School in North London. He did not go to university. His great grandfather Jabez Bunting (J.B.) Dimbleby, born in Beverley, Yorkshire, 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, including "The Appointed Time" (translated into Swedish and Norwegian), and the anti-darwinian "The Bible’s Astronomical Chronology versus Evolution" (1905) [ [ Di - New General Catalog of Old Books & Authors ] ] . 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 [ [ Richmond and Twickenham Times: Contact Us: History of Richmond ] ] .

Richard Dimbleby began his career at "The Richmond and Twickenham Times" in 1931. He joined the BBC as a radio news reporter in 1936, and in 1939, accompanied the British Expeditionary Force to France. During the war, he flew some 20 raids as an observer with Bomber command, including one to Berlin, recording commentary for broadcast the following day.

In 1945, he broadcast the first reports from Belsen concentration camp. [ [ BBC web page on Belsen report] ] He also was one of the first journalists to experiment with unconventional outside broadcasts, such as when flying in a fighter plane, 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 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.

Career in television

Journalism and politics

After the war Dimbleby switched to television, 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 in 1953 and the funerals of George VI, John F. Kennedy [ [ Audio from Kennedy funeral] ] , and Winston Churchill. 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 satellite. His commentary: "there is a face... it's a man's face! I can see a man's face!" became iconic. In addition to heavyweight journalism, he hosted lighter programmes such as "Twenty Questions" and "Down Your Way".

During the same period, he was the host of the flagship current affairs series "Panorama". 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 a week before the Berlin Wall was erected across it by the communist authorities of East Germany.

Chronicling historic events

Richard 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, 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.

Identified with the Establishment

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 had Dimbleby mildly swearing ("Jesus wept") while unaware the microphone was live. He had been commentating for half an hour during the 1965 state visit [ [ Queen Elizabeth II paid an 11-day visit to the Federal Republic of Germany ] ] 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 hoax on April 1, 1957, as an April Fool's Day joke.


He was appointed an OBE in 1945 and advanced to CBE in 1959. This was one rank below Knighthood in the Order. At the time Knighthood was reserved for those who rendered service to government or retired from office in important public bodiesFact|date=January 2008, a case in point being Sir John Reith, former Director General of the BBC.

Death and legacy

Richard Dimbleby died in St Thomas' Hospital, London [ [ - Person Page 19624 ] ] , at the age of 52, from, according to Action on Smoking and Health, lung cancer, attributed to his habit of smoking 40 cigarettes a day [ [ ASH] marks 40th anniversary of the 1962 report] . However, in an interview with the Daily Mail, his son David reportedly said "treatment then wasn't as good as it is now, but he had testicular cancer which spread because he left it". [Collins, Laura [ The truth about my father's death, by David Dimbleby] Mail Online - Femail, 7 June 2008, accessed 11 June 2008] Two weeks before his death, he presented a documentary on the links between heavy tobacco 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 was founded in his memory.


Married ["Richard Dimbleby, Broadcaster", 1975. A biography written by Jonathan Dimbleby.] to Dilys Thomas in Copthorne, West Sussex in 1937, Dimbleby had four children, two of whom, David and Jonathan, 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).

Richard Dimbleby lecture

The Richard Dimbleby Lecture was founded in his memory and is delivered every year by an influential public figure. The 2004 lecture was delivered by vacuum cleaner tycoon, James Dyson; in 2005 by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair; by General Sir Mike Jackson in 2006 and by genetics pioneer Dr J Craig Venter in 2007.

ee also

*David Dimbleby
*Jonathan Dimbleby
*Spaghetti tree


External links

* [ Biography from]
* [ The Richard Dimbleby Lecture Series]
* [ The Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund]
* [ Dimbleby Wedding in Copthorne]

NAME = Dimbleby, Richard
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Dimbleby, Frederick Richard
DATE OF BIRTH = 1913-05-25
PLACE OF BIRTH = Richmond, Surrey, England
DATE OF DEATH = 1965-12-22
PLACE OF DEATH = St Thomas' Hospital, London, England

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Richard Dimbleby — Frederick Richard Richard Dimbleby (25 mai 1913 22 décembre 1965, CBE) est un commentateur britannique du petit écran télévisé, figure incontournable des grands reportages de la BBC depuis la fin des années 1930. Il commence par travailler dans… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • 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… …   Wikipedia

  • Richard Dimbleby Lecture — The Richard Dimbleby Lecture (also known as the 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 (with gaps in… …   Wikipedia

  • Dimbleby — is a surname. People with the surname include: Richard Dimbleby, British journalist and broadcaster His sons: David Dimbleby, British TV commentator and presenter of current affairs and political programmes Jonathan Dimbleby, British presenter of …   Wikipedia

  • Dimbleby, Richard — ▪ British journalist in full  Richard Frederick Dimbleby   born May 25, 1913, Richmond, Surrey, Eng. died Dec. 22, 1965, London       pioneer radio news reporter and the first of Britain s great broadcast journalists. He was the first war… …   Universalium

  • Richard Dawkins — Dawkins in 2010 at Cooper Union in New York City Born Clinton Richard Dawkins 26 March 1941 (1941 03 26) …   Wikipedia

  • Richard E. Grant — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Richard Grant Esterhuysen (Mbabane, 5 de mayo de 1957), conocido por el nombre artístico de Richard E. Grant, actor británico swazi. Es conocido por su papel en Withnail y yo. Es autor de diversos libros. Contenido 1 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Richard E. Grant — Infobox actor imagesize = caption = Grant as The Voice for 2+2+2 at Heavy Entertainment, London. birthdate = birth date and age|1957|5|5 birthplace = Mbabane, Swaziland birthname = Richard Grant Esterhuysen spouse = Joan Washington (1986 )… …   Wikipedia

  • Richard E. Grant — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Grant. Richard E. Grant lisant un texte dans un studio de radio londonien, en 2007. Richard E. Grant, nom de scène de Richard Esterhuysen, est un acteur, réalisateur et scénariste …   Wikipédia en Français

  • David Dimbleby — Born 28 October 1938 (1938 10 28) (age 73) Surrey, England, United Kingdom Nationality …   Wikipedia