The Announcers

Announcers and commentators in the '50s included the following:

Light Programme Announcers from the early '50s:

Roy Williams

Franklin Engelmann, Robert Dougall, Peter Fettes
Dennis Drower and John Webster

Jean Metcalfe

Michael Brooke

Marjorie Anderson and David Dunhill

Phillip Slessor

And for the Home Service:

Lionel Marson

Ronald Fletcher

Wallace Greenslade

Stuart Hibberd

Frank Phillips

Joy Worth and Colin Doran

Kenneth Kendall

Harry Middleton

And for the Third Programme:

Christopher Pemberton

Alvar Liddell

Patrick Butler

Stuart Hibberd: had a unique, immediately recognisable, voice. It could be described like someone whispering aloud. His voice was ideal for grave and solemn occasions and he is best remembered for his announcement of King George V's impending death on 20 January 1936 with the words: "The King's life is moving peacefully towards its close".
From 1949 he presented The Silver Lining, a Thursday afternoon programme aimed at disabled and housebound people. Hibberd retired as chief announcer in 1951, but continued to present The Silver Lining until it ended its run in 1964.

Freddie Grisewood: became a BBC announcer in 1929, had originally been a singer and was a goodish comedian - he created a rustic Cotswold character called Old Bill, who broadcast occasionally. He also presented "Any Questions?" for twenty years - throughout the fifties - until his retirement at the age of 79.

Alvar LidellWynford Vaughan ThomasAlvar Lidell (left): "Here is the news and this is Alvar Lidell reading it". He joined the BBC in 1932 after various other jobs. A keen darts-player, he spoke several languages fluently.
Anecdotes from Alvar's son

John Snagge: Famous commentator particularly for the University Boat Race. He was elevated to a very senior position in management and was always called back for announcing momentous news, where he invariably began in the same way with that deep serious voice.

Wynford Vaughan Thomas: Welsh radio reporter who showed an original turn of mind and a choice of phrase that lingered in the memory.

Roger Moffatt started with the BBC in the 1950s as a formal announcer but, as time passed, becoming one of the first to break out of the mould of formality and appear in programmes where he could express some of his own personality, presenting "Make Way For Music" from the Playhouse Theatre, Manchester. In 1960, he transferred to London and presented programmes such as "Night Ride" for the Light Programme and later Radio 2. In July 1971, he was fired from the BBC after he read the Shipping Forecast, stating that The Faroes would have a storm, force 28 (The worst storm possible is storm force 10). Unfortunately, the script from which he was reading contained the mis-print.

The public's affection for announcers was crystallized in Flotsam and Jetsam's popular song, 'Little Betty Bouncer loved an announcer, down at the BBC'.

Going back a little further, to wartime in fact, here is a memory of the announcers from Andrew Seddon:

Dear Radio Days,

I have always had an interest in the outstanding team of announcers and newsreaders of the BBC. I recall such names as Stuart Hibberd, John Snagge, Alvar Lidell, Frank Phillips, Freddie Grisewood, Joseph McLeod, Alan Howland, Bruce Belfrage, Maurice Shillington, Lionel Marson, and David Lloyd James.

Bruce Belfrage, was reading a news bulletin at Broadcasting House one night during the war when a bomb hit the building. After only a very short pause he carried on reading as normal after the blast. Somewhere in the BBC archives, I think there will be a recording of this incident.

As a matter of interest, before the war announcers and newsreaders were completely anonymous and it was only on the outbreak of war in 1939 that it was decreed by the powers that be that they should give their names at the start of each bulletin so that listeners would become accustomed to their voices and be able to detect if the voice was being impersonated by the enemy in the event of invasion.

Andrew Seddon, Southport, Merseyside

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