Richard Dimbleby

Richard Dimbleby

Richard Dimbleby was born in Richmond-upon-Thames on 25th May 1913. After attending Mill Hill School he began his career with the family newspaper, the Richmond and Twickenham Times in 1931. He later worked for the Bournemouth Echo and Advertisers Weekly.

In 1936 Dimbleby joined the British Broadcasting Corporation as a news reporter. In 1939 he accompanied the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to France.

After Dunkirk Dimbleby reported from the frontline in Egypt and Greece. He also flew 20 missions with RAF Bomber Command. In 1945 he was the first reporter to enter Belsen Concentration Camp.

Richard Dimbleby
Richard Dimbleby

After the war Dimbleby became the main commentator on state occasions. This included the funerals of George VI and Winston Churchill. He was also managing director of the family newspaper business (1954-65) and presenter of BBC's Panorama (1955-63).

Richard Dimbleby died of cancer in London on 22nd December 1965.

Primary Sources

(1) Richard Dimbleby, BBC radio broadcast from Belsen (19th April 1945)

I picked my way over corpse after corpse in the gloom, until I heard one voice raised above the gentle undulating moaning. I found a girl, she was a living skeleton, impossible to gauge her age for she had practically no hair left, and her face was only a yellow parchment sheet with two holes in it for eyes. She was stretching out her stick of an arm and gasping something, it was "English, English, medicine, medicine", and she was trying to cry but she hadn't enough strength. And beyond her down the passage and in the hut there were the convulsive movements of dying people too weak to raise themselves from the floor.

In the shade of some trees lay a great collection of bodies. I walked about them trying to count, there were perhaps 150 of them flung down on each other, all naked, all so thin that their yellow skin glistened like stretched rubber on their bones. Some of the poor starved creatures whose bodies were there looked so utterly unreal and inhuman that I could have imagined that they had never lived at all. They were like polished skeletons, the skeletons that medical students like to play practical jokes with.

At one end of the pile a cluster of men and women were gathered round a fire; they were using rags and old shoes taken from the bodies to keep it alight, and they were heating soup over it. And close by was the enclosure where 500 children between the ages of five and twelve had been kept. They were not so hungry as the rest, for the women had sacrificed themselves to keep them alive. Babies were born at Belsen, some of them shrunken, wizened little things that could not live, because their mothers could not feed them.

One woman, distraught to the point of madness, flung herself at a British soldier who was on guard at the camp on the night that it was reached by the 11th Armoured Division; she begged him to give her some milk for the tiny baby she held in her arms. She laid the mite on the ground and threw herself at the sentry's feet and kissed his boots. And when, in his distress, he asked her to get up, she put the baby in his arms and ran off crying that she would find milk for it because there was no milk in her breast. And when the soldier opened the bundle of rags to look at the child, he found that it had been dead for days.

There was no privacy of any kind. Women stood naked at the side of the track, washing in cupfuls of water taken from British Army trucks. Others squatted while they searched themselves for lice, and examined each other's hair. Sufferers from dysentery leaned against the huts, straining helplessly, and all around and about them was this awful drifting tide of exhausted people, neither caring nor watching. Just a few held out their withered hands to us as we passed by, and blessed the doctor, whom they knew had become the camp commander in place of the brutal Kramer.