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Battle of Britain Broadcaster (Hardback)

Charles Gardner, Radio Pioneer and WWII Pilot

WWII Aviation British History Battle of Britain Social History Royal Air Force

By Robert Gardner MBE
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 220
Illustrations: 16
ISBN: 9781526746870
Published: 18th September 2019


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In 1936 Charles Gardner joined the BBC as a sub-editor in its news department. Shortly afterwards, he was joined by Richard Dimbleby and together they became the very first BBC news correspondents. They covered everything from shipwrecks to fires, floods to air raid precautions and, in Garner’s’ case, new aircraft. Their exploits became legendary and they laid down the first principles of news broadcasting – of integrity and impartiality – still followed today.

With the outbreak of war Charles Gardner became one of the first BBC war correspondents and was posted to France to cover the RAF’s AASF (Advanced Air Strike Force). He made numerous broadcasts interviewing many fighter pilots after engagements with the Germans and recalling stories of raids, bomb attacks and eventually the Blitzkrieg when they all were evacuated from France. When he got home he wrote a book AASF which was one of the first books on the Second World War to be published.

In late 1940 he was commissioned in the RAF as a pilot and flew Catalina flying boats of Coastal Command. After support missions over the Atlantic protecting supply convoys from America, his squadron was deployed to Ceylon which was under threat from the Japanese navy. Gardner was at the controls when he was the first to sight the Japanese fleet and report back its position.

Gardner was later recruited by Lord Mountbatten, to help report the exploits of the British 14th Army in Burma. He both broadcast and filed countless reports of their astonishing bravery in beating the Japanese in jungle conditions and monsoon weather.

After the war, Gardner became the BBC air correspondent from 1946-1953. As such, he became known as ‘The Voice of the Air,’ witnessing and recording the greatest days in British aviation history.

But Perhaps he will best be remembered for his 1940 eye-witness account of an air battle over the English Channel when German dive bombers unsuccessfully attacked a British convoy but were driven off by RAF fighters. At the time it caused a national controversy. Some complained about his commentary ‘being like a football match,’ and not an air battle where men’s lives were at stake. That broadcast is still played frequently today.

Definitely worth the read, it didn't disappoint me one bit.

NetGalley, Jan Broersma

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The author's painstaking research and attention to detail is obvious in the writing of this book. There were many facts that I only discovered after reading this!

NetGalley, Cristie Underwood

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A brilliant insight into the early days of outside broadcasting and reporting from the front line during WW2. Well worth a read both from a general interest point of view or as I did, as research into the inner workings of the BBC during the dark days of WW2.

NetGalley, Jean Woolmer

A thoroughly enjoyable and informative read, Battle of Britain Broadcaster tells the story of a young and determined Charles Gardner who joined the BBC in 1936 alongside Richard Dimbleby and as the blurb tells us they became the very first BBC News Correspondents and very close friends... I won’t delve too deeply into the book but suffice as to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and a chance to see how Charles and his colleagues struggled in those early days of News Broadcasting and the fight against the Fleet Street reporters who frankly struggled to compete.

NetGalley, Miles Orchard

About Robert Gardner MBE

Robert Gardner, Charles Gardner’s son, worked as a journalist for four years before moving into public relations with the British Aircraft Corporation becoming Head of Publicity and later Vice President of British Aerospace and BAE Systems. He is the author of From Bouncing Bombs to Concorde – The Authorised Biography of Sir George Edwards. Robert Gardner, who is now retired, was appointed MBE in 2001.

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