Obituary: Henry Straker

Henry Palmer Straker, teacher and broadcaster: born 27 August 1911; teacher, Bishops Diocesan College Rondesbosch 1935; South African Broadcasting Service 1938; Empire Service BBC 1939; Bucks Light Infantry 1940; Colonial Service 1945; BBC Paris Office 1949; BBC New York Office 1951; Assistant Head of Light Programme 1952-66; died Deal 7 April 1993.

HENRY STRAKER had a distinguished career as a broadcaster and planner for BBC Radio. His organising flair and innovative ideas made him responsible for a wide range of programmes, from the first radio soaps - Mrs Dale's Diary and The Archers - to the early editions of Alistair Cooke's Letter From America. Though much of his early work was overseas, his later years were spent as Assistant Head of the then Light Programme until he retired in 1966.

Educated at Westminster, Straker went on to Christ Church, Oxford. In 1935 he took an appointment in South Africa as English and History Master at Bishops Diocesan College, Rondesbosch which he combined with singing with the Cape Town Orchestra. In 1938 he joined the South African Broadcasting Service and became something of a celebrity with his Young Ideas programme. (He was delighted, last year, to receive a fan letter from a South African woman who still remembered his programmes of 55 years ago.)

On his return to Britain in 1939, he joined the Empire Service of the BBC. While announcing the evacuation of Dunkirk, he was given the additional news of several bomb outrages by the IRA in public lavatories in London where, although there were no injuries, 'several gentlemen suffered severe shock'. Unable to complete the sentence, Straker just managed to say - 'That is the end of the news.' This was relayed to the concert hall where the Empire Orchestra began their live transmission with audible mirth.

The result of this lapse was not, as Straker expected, the end of his career but a fan letter from Barbados saying it was a great boost to morale to know that Britain had not lost its sense of humour. In 1940 he volunteered for service with the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. Though surprised to find himself posted to Kenya for the duration, he set about running a leave centre for the troops and formed an entertainment unit with an orchestra of Italian prisoners of war.

He returned briefly to Broadcasting House after the war but was seconded by the Colonial Office for tours of duty in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cyprus, Malta, British Guyana and Jamaica, where he spent three years in educational broadcasting.

He became head of the BBC Paris office until 1949 and held a similar post in New York until 1951. During the Dewey-Truman election campaign, when the polls predicted a Dewey triumph, Straker advised Alistair Cooke to leave the last two minutes of his Letter From America unrecorded. So when Truman was elected President, Cooke was able to add a postscript. He gave Straker one of the few copies of An Evening With Alistair Cooke, a recording in which he plays and sings at the piano. On his return, Straker became assistant head of the Light Programme.

Henry Straker will be remembered by colleagues and friends as a kindly, generous man with an acute sense of humour. Recently, he was gratified to note the returning popularity of radio as an alternative to television.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk