DIMBLEBY, Richard (1913-1965)
Plaque erected in 2013 by English Heritage at Cedar Court, Sheen Lane, East Sheen, London, SW14 8LY, London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames
Journalist; Radio and Television Broadcaster
Journalism and Publishing, Radio and Television
RICHARD DIMBLEBY 1913-1965 Broadcaster lived here 1937-1939
Richard Dimbleby, through his 30-year career in radio and television, became the nation’s most famous broadcaster. During the early years of his career with the BBC, he lived at Cedar Court in East Sheen, where he is commemorated with a blue plaque.
Family and Early Career
Dimbleby was born into a journalistic family. He first worked at the Richmond and Twickenham Times, which was owned by his grandfather and where his father worked as an editor. It was here that he met his future wife, Dilys, née Thomas. They married in 1937 and went on to have four children, with Jonathan and David famously following their father into broadcasting.
Cedar Court and the BBC’s First Reporter
Cedar Court was Dimbleby’s first married home, where he moved with Dilysin 1937. He had joined the BBC a year earlier, as its first reporter – or ‘news observer’ as he was called – filing on-the-spot reports from all over Britain. He soon established his reputation as a ground-breaking broadcaster. It was from this flat that Dimbleby travelled to the Franco-Spanish border, to cover the Spanish Civil War in 1939. He also reported on such varied subjects as royal visits, the shooting of an escaped leopard and the golden jubilee celebrations of the London City Council. While living at Cedar Court, he signed several telegrams ‘Bumble’, the nickname he used in his early BBC years.
At the outbreak of the Second World War Dimbleby and his family moved to Cuddington, Buckinghamshire. He became the BBC's first war correspondent and reported from some 14 countries during the Second World War, including Libya, Eritrea and Iran. Most notably, Dimbleby flew with the RAF over Berlin in 1943 and recorded the first broadcast description of a bombing raid. In 1945, he was the first reporter to describe the horror of the Belsen concentration camp. Later he was among the first to enter Berlin, where he broadcast from the ruins of Hitler's bunker.
In the 1950s and 1960s Dimbleby had a wide impact on the emerging medium of television and current affairs broadcasting. His commentaries on several important events earned him a reputation as the ‘voice of the BBC’. He was the BBC's commentator at the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, a landmark event in the history of British broadcasting, which attracted 20 million viewers. From 1955 until his death, Dimbleby presented the BBC's new flagship current affairs programme, Panorama.
Death and Memorial
Early in 1960, Dimbleby noted the first symptoms of what turned out to be testicular cancer. By going public with his illness, he helped to diminish some of the stigma surrounding the disease. When he died in December 1965, his memorial service at Westminster Abbey was broadcast live by the BBC. He is the only broadcaster to have been honoured with a plaque in Poets’ Corner at the abbey. The Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund (re-launched as Dimbleby Cancer Care in 2008) was set up in his honour.