Obituary: Jeremy Hands

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
REPORTING THE Falklands War from "the sharp end" is how the award- winning ITN journalist Jeremy Hands will be best remembered by many veterans of the conflict.

Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands (the "Islas Malvinas"), a British crown colony in the South Atlantic, in April 1982. Hands sailed with his camera crew Bob Hammond and John Martin on board the P&O liner Canberra, with the Marines and Paras of 40 and 42 Commando and the Third Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, to cover the war for both ITN and the BBC.

He was one of the first journalists to land at San Carlos with the Royal Marines. He lived rough with the men, sleeping in foxholes and sheep sheds, and frequently being strafed by enemy aircraft. "He quickly endeared himself to the men," recalled a Falklands colleague. They especially liked Hands because he could take their wicked sense of humour and also dish it out. He wasn't a TV prima donna.

With his fellow correspondent Robert McGowan, Hands co-wrote a best- selling book about the conflict, Don't Cry for Me, Sergeant-Major (1983), a graphic, profane and frequently funny account of the British soldier at war, which has been reprinted 10 times. "It was written for soldiers and dedicated to them. The men loved it but some of the top brass weren't so enthusiastic," recalled a veteran.

Hands was popular with colleagues and soldiers alike, among whom he forged many lasting friendships. He was equally at home as a broadcaster or writing dispatches and contributing to the news reporting "pool". He was admired for challenging unnecessary bureaucracy. During the Falklands conflict he heavily criticised the Ministry of Defence for failing to provide facilities for transmitting pictures and commentaries quickly back to the United Kingdom.

During his 10 years at ITN through the 1980s Hands specialised in defence matters and covered some of the major stories of the decade including Northern Ireland, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Gulf War, the terrorist shootings in Gibraltar and ITN's award-winning live coverage in 1980 of the storming of the Iranian Embassy in London by the SAS.

Hands was born in 1951 and educated at St Marylebone Grammar School, in London. He began his journalistic apprenticeship in 1970 on the Hendon and Finchley Times and then moved to the Herald Express in his home town of Torquay, in Devon. His first job in broadcasting came in 1974, when he joined Westward Television in Plymouth as a researcher. Three years later he moved to Border Television in Carlisle as a reporter and in 1978 joined ITN.

Hands left ITN in 1989 and joined Anglia Television as anchorman on the daily news magazine programme, later becoming editor of the station's eastern news service. In 1994 he set up a specialist media consultancy with twin bases in Norwich and Aberdeen advising multinational companies in the offshore oil and gas industry how to deal with the media in a crisis. The business grew quickly and was highly regarded by clients including Mobil, Conoco, Total, BP Amoco, and latterly Marks and Spencer.

Hands demanded the same high standards from others as he set for himself. He was genial company and generous, always ready to help friends. He had a developed and impish sense of humour frequently and efficiently aimed at deflating egos. His hobbies included sailing, football (he was a lifelong supporter of Torquay United and Norwich City), cricket and maritime history. Once asked who he would most like to have met, he replied: "Lord Nelson, because of his positive way of dealing with the French."

Jeremy Gyles Hargrave Hands, journalist: born Torquay, Devon 4 April 1951; married 1977 Julia Rae (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1991), 1992 Margaret Gill; died Norwich 11 March 1999.

Comments