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How Dimbleby found vivid accounts of World War II desert campaign in his war correspondent father’s diaries
Jonathan Dimbleby says his father’s diaries, written when he was broadcasting from the Middle East during World War II provided vivid background material for his latest book on the British victory at El Alamein.
A pioneering giant of broadcasting, Jonathan’s dad Richard Dimbleby brought news of the campaign to the ears of anxious listeners back in the UK.
He reported for the BBC from not only El Alamein but the Normandy beaches during the D-Day Landings and also broadcast the first shocking reports from the newly liberated Belsen death camp.
Jonathan, who will talk about his book, Destiny in the Desert at the Ludlow Assembly Rooms tomorrow night (Wednesday November 28) and at the Malvern Festival Theatre on Thursday (November 29), says the timet Richard Dimbleby spent as BBC war correspondent in the Middle East yielded some valuable first-hand accounts of the battle.
“He described the desert conflict very vivdly in his diaries, which I came across when I was writing a biography about him. He didn’t talk about it at all. He was from the generation that wanted to move on,” Jonathan told Andy Richardson of the Shropshire Star newspaper.
Writing the book, which is published to mark the 70th anniversary of El Alamein, was no easy task. He wanted to give an accurate and insightful account of a strategic battle but also one that was accessible to the general reader.
To create his “page-turner” he was only too aware that he was competing with countless studies by academics and career war historians. “It had to stand up to scholarly scrutiny. I was swimming in a pond teeming with academic sharks and I didn’t want to look silly by making mistakes,” he told Richardson.
● Jonathan Dimbleby appears at Ludlow Assembly Rooms tomorrow Wednesday (November 28). Tickets and further information from www.ludlowassemblyrooms.co.uk or calling 01584 878141. He will also be at the Malvern Festival Theatre on Thursday. More details at http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk
Jonathan Dimbleby will soon be celebrating his 25th anniversary as chairman of Radio 4’s Any Questions? The occasion, next month, is being marked by the BBC with a special birthday party at Broadcasting House. It is being given by Graham Ellis, head of audio and music production.
Theories abound that Jonathan may use the occasion to step down from the job he has made his own. The 68-year-old broadcaster recently decided to give up his regular Saturday stint on sister programme Any Answers? So that he could spend more time with his young family.
Media watchers have pointed out that Any Questions? is actually quite a tough gig. It involves lots of travelling and the constant high-pressure requirement to keep the content – delivered from multiple sources often in the heat of the moment – balanced and legally sound.
Well, all we can say as that if Jonathan is planning to say farewell to the programme it is certainly the first we’ve heard of it.
What we do know is that he is currently out on the road with Clive Conway Productions talking about his fascinating life and career and specifically his latest book Destiny in the Desert. Published last month, it explores the British victory at the Battle of El Alamein in November 1942.
The book is a story of high drama, played out both in the war capitals of London, Washington, Berlin, Rome and Moscow, and at the front, in the command posts and foxholes in the desert. El Alamein is about the tensions and rivalries between politicians and generals, diplomats. Drawing on official records and the personal insights of those involved at every level the book creates a vivid portrait of a struggle which for Churchill marked the turn of the tide.
An Audience with Jonathan Dimbleby is at Ludlow Assembly Rooms,1 Mill Street, Ludlow, SHROPS, United Kingdom, SY8 1AZ on Wednesday November 28.
The following night (Thursday November 29) Jonathan will be at the Malvern Festival Theatre, Grange Road, Malvern , WORCES, United Kingdom, WR14 3HB.
Dimbleby told our old friend Rob McGibbon at the Mail Online – Rob did those fantastic Clive Conway Productions interviews with John Humphrys and Felicity Kendal at The Cadogan Hall in Chelsea earlier this year – that he’d love to ask Marx “why he thinks it all went so horribly wrong.”
Jonathan was taking part in the Mail’s Q&A feature The Definitive Answer. Although the exercise was clearly part of his current publiciity push to promote his latest book – Destiny in the Desert – it came up with some intriguing answers. Did you know for instance that, as a youngster, he was a keen showjumper (Jonathan Dimbleby that is of course NOT Karl Marx). In fact he was a professional for a time and even became the South of England champion in 1965. Well you live and learn. Unfortunately Jonathan’s showjumping days are behind him but we can offer you the chance to hear him talking about that fascinating book about the British victory at the Battle of El Alamein. An Audience With Jonathan Dimbleby is at Uppingham Theatre, 32 Stockerston Road, Uppingham, RUTL, United Kingdom, LE15 9UD tomorrow evening (Thursday November 15) http://www.uppthearts.co.uk/index.html
Broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby knows a thing or two about battles. He’s just published a rather fine book – Destiny in the Desert: The Road to El Alamein – the story of the game-changing campaign in the North African desert that changed the course of World War II.
However even he seems non-plussed at the lack of strategy that left former director general George Entwistle fatally wounded on the vicious battlegrounds of the BBC.
Entwistle’s resignation after just 54 days in the job showed him to be horrifyingly uninformed about the background to the Newsnight broadcast that wrongly implicated a top Tory in a child abuse scandal.
“Clearly, George was at the receiving end of nothing when he should have been knowing everything,” a surprised Dimbleby told The Andrew Marr Show
However had he been on the receiving end of information from his senior managers would he actually have been able to work out what was going on? Possibly not. According to Dimbleby’s brother David, a big name at the corporation for decades, the management speak gobbledygook
David Dimbleby was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, telling fellow veteran broadcaster John Humphrys – ironically the very man who fatally mauled Entwistle during an interview on the same show on Saturday – that the BBC was “over-managed” and is in danger of being throttled by its own bureaucracy.
Meanwhile Jonathan is getting back to the relatively logical manouvres of World War II. Thursday will find him appearing in An Audience With Jonathan Dimbleby at the Uppingham Theatre
32 Stockerston Road, Uppingham, RUTL, United Kingdom, LE15 9UD