Thursday, 27 November 2014

Britain is still a country for an old, self-effacing Second World War hero called Lieutenant Roy Wooldridge

Roy, who is 95 years old, appeared on the BBC TVs, 'Antiques Road Show', filmed in the Summer and televised on Sunday ,where he told expert Graham Lay his Second World War story which he illustrated with a cigarette packet and his Military Cross and Bar, along with a photo of him being presented with a ribbon to his MC by British Army Chief, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

Graham : "Well there's a photograph in this album which shows two tiny little figures in the distance and underneath the photograph it says 'somewhere in the Western Desert, receiving M.C. ribbon Field Marshall Montgomery' "
Roy : "That's right."

Graham : So one of these figures is Montgomery. Who's the other one ?"
A photograph from World War TwoRoy : "Me."
Graham : "You ? And why were you receiving the military cross ?"
Roy : "Because I'd cut two pathways through a minefield at Alamein under mortar fire for the tanks to go in on the attack."
Graham "And you were a mine specialist were you ?"
Roy : "I suppose I knew as much about mines as anybody else did."

Roy served in the Royal Engineers as an explosives expert, based at Dover, Kent and in 1944, was on his honeymoon in London (left) and when we he and his bride returned to their hotel from the theatre there was a telegram asking him to report to his unit immediately.

Graham: "Now here is something that I'm puzzled by because it's an empty cigarette packet, but what is interesting is that underneath that is written : 'Received with thanks from Field Marshal Rommel.' "
Roy : "That's right. I was doing raids on the French coast to look at the defences for D-Day."
Graham : "This isn't anything to do with Operation Tarbrush is it ?"
Roy : "Yes."

In Dover, he examined reconnaissance photos which had spotted obstacles just below the waterline off the coast in Northern France was assigned to 'X Troop Commando' led by George Lane and with two others, who were taken by motor torpdeo boat across the Channel and anchored one mile off shore, then took two dingies to the shore, where he, under the cover of darkness, shinned up a post at Onival beach, Picardy.

Graham: "This was a very secret operation to check defences a couple of weeks before D-Day ?"
Roy : "That's right. I was looking at what was thought to be an unknown mine. It would have been underwater at high tide so that a landing craft coming in, lowering its door would be blown up. So the D-Day planners wanted to know what this was. Funny enough I found out that all it was. was a block of wood with a German teller mine on top."
Graham: "An anti-tank mine on top ? But they weren't waterproof."
Roy : Laughs. "I didn't have time to check that. I just looked at it and said :"Great. We can handle this."
At this point he gave the 'thumbs up' sign, no doubt imitating the same sign he had made on that beach 70 years before.

The cigarette packet given to Roy Wooldridge
With X troop, returned for the next four nights to carry out further inspections and photograph other obstacles on the beach using infrared equipment but on the last mission, with the group, was taken by surprise when star shells illuminated the beach and with George Lane, hiding in the dunes, came under fire from two German patrols.

Graham: "How many were in your team ?"
Roy : "Just myself and the commanding officer, George Lane."
Graham : "He was captured. Were you captured at the same time ?"
Roy : "Yes".

With George, was cut off from the others in the raiding party, who, unable to wait any longer and had swum out to their boat and when the firing stopped, returned to the beach and in a dinghy, paddled out to sea as fast as they could.  In the dark and pouring rain, were spotted by a German patrol boat spotted and managed to jettison their photographic equipment before they were taken prisoner. Neither wearing uniform nor carrying identification, was told with George that they would be handed over to the Gestapo and shot immediately in accordance with Hitler's 1942 'Commando Order'.

With George, was taken to and kept in the cellars of a house at Cayeux-Sur-Mer and 'interrogated' for two weeks about what they had been doing, but didn't say anything, despite being told on several occasions that "if you don't answer the questions, we'll hand you over to the Gestapo and you'll get shot." Was then bound, blindfolded, pushed into a car and taken to a chateaux and in the guard room, was given a cup of tea and some cake and told to have a wash and smarten up because he was going to see someone very important. Was then blindfolded and ordered up a flight of stairs opened the door and finding Rommel standing behind the desk, gave him the courtesy of standing to attention.

Graham : "What happened to you ?"
Roy :"I was taken to a French Chateau, Chateau La Roche - Guyard and shown into a big room and standing there was Field Marshal Rommel and looking out of the window was Field Marshal Von Runsted."
Graham : "Two of the most important officers, high ranking officers in that part of the theatre at the time."
Roy :"That's right."
Graham : "I can't believe it."
Roy : Laughs. "I couldn't believe it at the time."
Graham : "What rank were you ? Were you a senior officer ? "

Roy : " I was a lieutenant and I asked the German officer who was acting as interpreter : "Why was I, a mere lieutenant, taken to see Field Marshal Rommel (left) and Field Marshal Von Rundstedt ? " and his reply was : "Well we know that D-Day is pretty soon, so you are a very important prisoner. He asked me two questions, he said "Was I an engineer officer ?" Well I was actually, but I reminded him of the Geneva Convention and I could only give him my rank, name and number and then he said "Is there anything that you require ? So I said "Yes. I'd like a pint of beer." Laughs. "I'd like a packet of cigarettes and a good meal please" and I was served in his mess and on the table was a Stein of Bier and there was a packet of cigarettes."
 The meal consisted of  meatballs, or faggots, with potatoes and sauerkraut.

Graham : "Not this packet ?"
Roy : "That's the empty packet. Which I kept."
Graham : "As a matter of interest you've brought the miniatures with you, do you have the full sized models ?"
Roy :"I have the full size medals."
Graham  : "I think the medal group, plus the story, plus the objects you have, are going to be worth somewhere in the region of  seven to ten thousand pounds."
Roy : "Not for sale."
Graham : "Good for you." and the attendant crowd clapped.

Roy had been told that Rommel always wanted to meet captured men who had been doing something unusual and although Hitler had issued orders that commandos were to be shot, Rommel declined to obey and later said : "Rommel saved my life. He was a very fine German and a clean fighter." With George was taken to Fresnes Prison near Paris (right) and told that they would be hanged or shot. The screams from the other cells were terrifying but after two days the pair were sent on to the castle prison for 300 officers at Spagenberg, in Hesse, Germany, where they rubbed shoulders with a Lieutenant Airey Neave, the future confidant of Mrs Thatcher and Major Bruce Shand, father of Camilla and future-in-law father of Charles, Prince of Wales. They were liberated by American forces in the closing stages of the War.

A few days after their meeting, Rommel and his car were shot up by the RAF and he played no part in D-Day in June and  accused by Hitler of being part of the 'July Bomb Plot' to assassinate him, was forced to commit suicide and so, with George, was probably the last non-German to see him alive. 

After the War Roy went on to become Principal of Derby College of Art and Technology and remained married to Phyllis, who must have thought she had lost him in shortly after their marriage in 1944. She died when he was seventy, 25 years ago.

Roy, who remains one of the few soldiers who has spoken to those two great rivals of the 1942 Desert War, Fields Marshal Montgomery and Rommel, has said with quintessential self-effacement :
"After a few near misses, I am thankful to have survived the War without a scratch and remember with reverence and deep humility, those who gave their lives."

The MC or Military Cross is granted in recognition of 'an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land to all members, of any rank in Our Armed Forces'.
Roy received his first MC in 1941 in recognition of his service as a second lieutenant with the Royal Engineers  North Africa in 1941 and his second in 1945 for his service as a lieutenant in Northern France.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and ends its love affair with a once feared and violent old villain called 'Mad' Frankie Fraser

Frankie, who died today at the age of 90, was the subject of an article in 'The Independent' in June 2013 entitled :

Frankie Fraser: We can’t seem to stop ourselves falling for these old villains
This gangster is treated with a strange amount of indulgence by the press and public

Frankie interviewed and describing his crimes some years ago :

The article made the following points about the then, 89 year old Frankie, that :

* few figures in Britain revealed the confusion between reality and show business, quite as clearly as him, who, as the former 'enforcer' of the Richardson Gang and after spending over 40 years in prison, had become a firm media favourite.

* the 'old rascal', as one newspaper described him, had his popularity reinforced a tv documentary shown that sunday, entitled : 'Frankie Fraser’s Last Stand'.

*  his son revealed in the film, that he had recently been given a court issued 'anti social behaviour order' (ASBO) for threatening a fellow resident in the home where he lived and press coverage of the story had been amused and indulgent.

* he, in his post-prison years, from the 1990s onwards, quickly learned how to play the media game, was a star turn at Oxford Union debates, put his name to four books and later had his own website on which he expressed his views about this and that.

* explained his popularity as : “You do something a bit naughty. You go to prison for 20 years. When you come out, everyone wants to talk to you.”
                                                    *      *      *      *     *     *     *     *     *
What you possibly didn't know about Frankie who, on his own admission had been a genuinely violent man and was then a feted figure, that he :

* was born in 1924 in Lambeth, South London and later complained  that : "I had no help from my family; my mother and father were dead straight so I had to make my own way."

* also said : "In the area where I grew up and was brought up, right where the Festival Hall is now, on the docks, people were tough and rough and ready. Every other family was into crime. You had more chance of winning the Lottery than finding six straight families. So it was inevitable that I would fall into crime."

* started his life of crime aged nine, when he worked for the notorious Sabini Gang, which ran protection rackets at racecourses at a time when 'off-course betting' was illegal, as a 'bucket boy' who would offer to clean the bookies' blackboards with a sponge, for which they were obliged to pay the Sabinis.

* was (on the left), along with his sister Eva (right), a juvenile thief and said : "You name it, we nicked it.  As I was growing up, I never had to buy a shirt – Eva made sure she nicked them for me."

* was drafted into the Army at 18 in 1942, during the Second World War after trying to avoid the 'call-up' by pretending to be 'Mad', deserted from his barracks and first became involved in serious crime in a London where 'blackout' at night provided cover, shortage of police due to conscription reduced detection and shortages caused by rationing provided opportunities to plug the gaps with stolen goods.

* did time inside for the first time, sent to to a 'young offenders borstal' for breaking into a Waterloo hosiery store and then given a 15-month prison sentence at Wandswoth Prison for shopbreaking and later said of the War years, when he was heavily involved in theft from bombed-out stores : "You wanted to win the War but you wanted it to go on for ever. It was a thief's paradise, Gor blimey! Whatever you nicked you could sell, they'd be queueing up to buy it off you during the War" and that he had "never forgiven the Germans  for surrendering in 1945."

* after the War, was involved in a smash-and-grab raid on a jeweller's and received a two-year prison sentence, served largely at Pentonville Prison, was certified insane and sent to the Cane Hill Hospital, London, before being released in 1949.

* during the 1950s became a bodyguard to well-known gangster Billy Hill, for whom he carried out razor attacks and was paid one pound for every stitch, took part in more bank robberies and spent more time in prison :  in Durham Prison was again certified insane and was sent to Broadmore Prison (left) and aware of the punishments for bad behaviour, stayed out of trouble and was released in 1955.

* in 1956, at the age of 32, attacked mobster Jack Spot and wife Rita on Hill's say-so, along with at least half a dozen other men and was given a seven year prison sentence.

 * early in the 1960s, met and joined Charlie and Eddie Richardson, members of the notorious 'Richardson Gang', rivals to the Kray Twins with one member of the criminal fraternity saying that : “Mad Frank joining the Richardson’s Gang was like China getting the atom bomb” and seen on the right with actor Stanley Baker in the centre and Eddie on the right,

*  in 1966, was charged with the death of Richard Hart
who was shot at Mr Smiths's Club in Catford and when the witness changed his testimony and charges were dropped, still received a five-year sentence for affray and always maintained that, while he fought with Hart, he did not shoot him. 

* was also implicated in the so-called 'Torture Trial', in which members of the Gang were charged with burning, electrocuting and whipping those found guilty of disloyalty by a 'kangaroo court', with him accused of pulling out the teeth of victims with a pair of pliers and i
n the 1967 trial at the Old Bailey, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

* probably inspired, along with the Kray Twins, the 1970 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' sketch featuring the   Piranha Brothers :

 * in total, served 42 years in over 20 different prisons in Britain where he was involved in riots, frequently fought with prison officers and fellow inmates, attacked governors and was one of the ringleaders of the major Parkhurst Prison Riot in 1969 and as a result of his injuries, spent six weeks in the prison hospital.

* often had sentences extended for violent behaviour but whilst in Strangeways, Manchester in 1980,  was 'excused boots' and allowed to wear slippers after claiming he had problems with his feet because another prisoner dropped a bucket of boiling water on them after he had hit him. 

* was released from prison in 1985 and in 1991 Fraser was shot in the head from close range in an apparent murder attempt outside the Turnmills Club in Clerkenwell, London and  has always maintained that a policeman was responsible.

* became a tv celebrity in the 1990's  and appeared on 'Operation Good Guys' and 'Shooting Stars', produced his autobiography and in 1999 at the age of 75, appeared at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London in a one man show, 'An Evening with Mad Frankie Fraser' which subsequently toured Britain.

* appeared as East End crime boss, Pops Den, in the feature film, 'Hard Men', a forerunner of British gangster movies such as 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels', had a documentary made of his life, 'Mad Frank'.

* in 2013 was giving gangland tours around London, where he highlighted infamous criminal locations such as the Blind Beggar Pub where Ronnie Kray shot dead George Cornell, one of the Richardson gang in 1966, lived in the Walworth area of London and was photographed in public in October 2012 at the funeral of his former boss, Charlie Richardson.

* according to his sons, had no regrets and said : "No, I wouldn't have done my life any other way". and reflected on his career in crime :

From 'bucket' boy to juvenile thief, shop breaker, smash and grab raider, razor slasher, accused murderer, torturer and prison rioter with "no regrets" and finally a press and television personality and gangland tour guide and a rest in peace ?


Sunday, 23 November 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and said "Farewell" to an old, 'invisible' star of television, Paul Vaughan

Paul, a talented clarinet player since his school days, who has died at the age of 89, presented BBC TV's 'Horizon', science documentaries and Radio 4's arts magazine, 'Kaleidoscope' in the last quarter of the twentieth century and was instantly recognisable from his 1995 Orange mobile phone advert : "The future's bright. The future's Orange" :

What you possibly didn't know about Paul, that he :

*  was born in 1925 and grew up in Brixton, in the borough of Lambeth, South London, which he recalled as 'a clattering, grimey district', where his Grandfather, who died from the effects a gas attack in the First World War when he was a year old, had worked as a prison warden and his Father worked as the secretary of the 'Linoleum and Floorcloth Manufacturers' Association'.

* was 9 years old when the family moved to a new semi in New Malden, Surrey with the countryside within walking distance and first attended Malden College, then in 1936 at the age of 11, Raynes Park County School, a boys' grammar school opened the year before with the 33 year old, John Garrett, as its charismatic headteacher.

* benefited from : Garrett's large circle of friends including poets, novelists, theatre people and fashionable dons,
who visited the school and talked to the boys ; the presence, on the staff, of the novelist and poet Rex Warner, who taught classics; the Euston Road Group painter, Claude Rogers (left), who taught art; readings from poet Cecil Day-Lewis and WH Auden (right), who wrote the school song and its motto, adapted from Marx : 'To each his need, from each his power' and the presence of T S Eliot, inveigled into presenting prizes on speech day.

* with his life in New Malden and at the school, later said that it 'was shaped by two quiet different phenomena of the 1930s : the rapid redistribution of population that went with the creation of the London suburbs and the literary and artistic movement of the times. In Raynes Park, the Man on the Clapham Omnibus came face to face with the Auden generation' and found that Garrett 'with the manners and bearing of an Oxford aesthete, he brought an exotic distinction to an ordinary, outwardly colourless corner of suburban England'.

* later recalled : "We all lived in these suburban houses, self-improvement was the thing. It was very important for people to better themselves and you could do that by being able to speak proper English. Talk proper" and had his speech shaped by 'Mr Gibb who taught 'Geography and English Grammar, and took the latter to include pronunciation. He would go round the class making each of us say, in turn "how now, brown cow' and 'put caols on the fire', grimacing at our nasal South London dipthongs and exhorting us to listen carefully to the BBC announcers and their faultless dialect-free English'.

* left school in 1943, during the Second World War and started his undergraduate studies in French and English at Wadham College, Oxford, interrupted when he was enlisted into the Army with  the 'Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers', set up and responsible for the maintenance, servicing and inspection of equipment in the combat and described by Field Marshal Montgomery as : "REME exists to keep the punch in the Army's fist".

* enjoyed a brief friendship with a Lance Corporal called John Schlesinger and weekends spent in the sophisticated family house in Berkshire where he was 'propelled into a beautiful new world : but it made me feel clumsy and gauche', returned to his studies at Wadham after the War in 1947 on a Government grant of £267 p.a. and an Oxford "filled to bursting point with returning servicemen- older than the average pre-war undergraduate and eager for the kind of intellectual stimulation they'd been denied.'

* was, for three terms, the Films Editor of 'The Isis', the oldest undergraduate magazine and after graduation stayed on briefly to study for a B.Lit but flunked the exams, returned home and then worked for five years exporting pharmaceuticals for 'Menley and James' in Camberwell makers of 'Mother Siegel's Syrup' for dyspepsia and 'Dethblo' for ringworm and 'Antidipso' for alcoholism.

* recalled of his occupation, that 'it was boring work and the more I did it, the more boring it became' and with time on his hands, enrolled on a correspondence course for writers and was amazed to have his first article about Victorian theatres, accepted by 'The Lady' Magazine.

* at the age of 26, in 1951, married Barbara Prys-Jones, daughter of Welsh poet Arthur Prys-Jones and in 1955 started work as assistant to an 'almost unbearably twitchy' PR officer at the British Medical Association, rose to the position of 'Chief Press Officer', where he was involved in the fuss over the surgical separation of a pair of Siamese twins in Hammersmith Hospital filmed for the tv programme 'Your Life in their Hands'.

* in 1958, after making his broadcasting debut with a two minute report on the BMA's annual clinical meeting in the BBC World Service radio programme, 'New Ideas', resigned from the BMA, taught himself shorthand, joined the Press Club and National Union of Journalists and as a freelance, started occasional work for the BBC and in 1962, recorded a talk with James Watson and Francis Crick about : 'how they discovered DNA ? whether their discovery of DNA changed the direction of scientific research ? and regrets about what they did and didn't do ? '

* was kept financially afloat by writing stories about the state of British medicine for the American magazine, 'Medical Tribune' and kept his contact with the profession with the publication of 'Family Planning: The Family Planning Associations Guide to Birth Control' in 1969, with po-faced anatomical drawings, including one of the erect penis, helpfully labelled 'Penis' and 'The Pill On Trial' by Penguin Books in 1972, dealing with how the medical profession coped with the first throes of the sexual revolution.

 * in 1968 at the age of 43, started his 27 year career working as the main narrator of the BBC's science documentary series, 'Horizon' in a period rapid development of science and technology, with much to report in biology and electronics.

* later recalled that "I realised my voice was a saleable commodity. I was the voice of 'Horizon' and there's a difference between someone like me- a journalist, basically doing that and an actor who will give a performance of a man reading a commentary and somebody else who reads the commentary, understands what it means, a kind of intelligent appreciation of what the script was all about" and put his voice to good use on the BBC World Service, 'Science in Action' and 'Discovery' and on Radio 4's, 'New Worlds'.

* in 1977 in Horizon's 'The Chips Are Down', apparently watched by Cabinet Ministers seeking enlightenment, dealt with the invention of the silicon chip, the predicted death of the Swiss watch industry and the new 'word processor' , which would see the end of the typing pool and was followed by a debate with a Government Minister about what could be done to prevent a  future of mass unemployment.
* saw his older brother, David's career flourish, as a dance archivist and historian and himself moved into 'The Arts' presenting the BBC Radio 4 magazine 'Kaleidoscope' from its beginning in 1973 until its closure in 1998 and on Radio 3, used his musical expertise, not the least as a lifelong clarinetist, in presenting  'Record Review' from 1981.
* memorably interviewed Gerald Scarfe on 'Kaleidoscope' in 1982 about his reportage drawing in SE Asia and Northern Ireland, reducing characters to abstracts, the influence of other artists and his drawing process and making sculptures in paper mache.
*  narrated the visceral, 1984 Hot War tv drama, 'Threads', dealing with everyday life in 1980s Sheffield, devastated by a nuclear missile attack and its aftermath which drew upon research and footage from director Mick Jackson's 1982 QED documentary, 'A Guide to Armageddon.'

* in 1988 narrated an 'Horizon' programme, filmed and based on interviews in Newcastle and Burnley, which examined the theories to explain why working class people were more likely to suffer ill health and die young than those in professional classes :

*  published his autobiography 'Something in Linoleum: A Thirties Education' in 1994, a reference to the comment he suspects his old Headmaster wrote about his father's occupation after his interview, as an 11 year old, for a place at Raynes Park County School and followed it in 1996 with 'Exciting Times in the Accounts Department' about his time at the BBC, with references to the 'bored, off-hand, unsmiling' Otto Preminger, 'modest, almost embarrassingly polite' David Niven and Tony Benn's exclamation : 'Golly. It's James Mason.'

* in 2010, at the age of 85 provided narration for the British English edition of the Japanese Nintendo Wii video game 'Kiby's Epic Yarn' and in 2013 narrated the audiobook, 'Paddington and the Grand Tour' :

* had fellow Kaleidoscope presenter, Paul Gambacinni say of him on the BBC Radio 4 'Last Word' this week : "He did have a remarkable voice and he knew how to use it. He was a master of tempo, enunciation and he used this gift... it was absolutely riveting; it commanded attention. It's how people would speak if they could speak well, an example : "The futures bright. The future's Orange". Six words, two of which are 'the' and yet entire generations know them because of the way Paul Vaughan said them."

* Paul also said that he presented the last regular edition of Kaleidoscope about Arthur Miller, who had been asked :"what he remembered from the opening night of 'Death of A Salesman' because there was no recording of it ?" and Miller said : "All that's left are memories of voices in the air and that's not nothing." Well, after this week's news, all I have are  memories of Paul Vaughan's voice in the air and that's not nothing."

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Adieu" to an old actor called Richard Pasco who, for half a century, beguiled it with his voice and presence

Richard, an actor who, whatever role he played on stage and screen 'invested it', in the words of Michael Billington, 'with authority and adorned it with an unforgettable voice that could switch naturally from trumpet to cello', has died at the age of 88.

What you possibly didn't know about Richard, that he :

* was born in in 1926 in Richmond, Surrey, the son of Phyllis and Cecil and educated at the boys' independent school, King’s College, Wimbledon, which he left at the age of 16 in 1942, during the Second World War and joined as an 'apprentice stage manager' and occasional actor at the Q Theatre near Kew Bridge.

* made his London debut at the age of 17 in 1943 as Diggory in 'She Stoops to Conquer' at Queen's Theatre and then was called up for War-time Military Service in 1944, served until he was demobbed in 1948, then trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, graduated with a gold medal in 1950 and began his stage career proper at the age of 24.

* had two at seasons at the Old Vic, followed by the Birmingham Rep, from 1952 to '55, under the directorship of Douglas Seale and increased his versatility with work in British, Greek and French drama including 'The Enchanted' (right), by Jean Giraudoux in 1955.

* in 1957, at the age of 31, played the dastardly Rodriques in the Robert Shaw tv series, 'The Bucaneers' (two thirds into the clip) : and Jimmy Porter at the Royal Court in John Osborne’s 'Look Back in Anger' and in the same year, Archie Rice’s son, Frank, in 'The Entertainer' and, as his friend John recalled, sang : “Don’t be afraid to sleep with your sweetheart” at the lively first-night party.

* in 1959 played 'Teddy' (left) with Lawrence Harvey in the screen version of 'Room At The Top' : ttp://
and in 1960, the 'treacherous Earl of Newark' (right) in the Hammer Production : 'Sword of Sherwood Forest', with a young Oliver Reed as Lord Melton : , then in 1964, for Hammer again, played Paul Heitz, in the company of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in 'The Gorgon' :

* back on stage, after West End appearances, in 1964, at the age of 38, joined the Bristol Old Vic and for three successful seasons played Henry V, Hamlet, Berowne in 'Love’s Labour’s Lost', Angelo in 'Measure for Measure', Peer Gynt, John Tanner in Shaw’s 'Man and Superman'.

* in 1966, played an 'intriguing' Cardinal Richelieu in the tv production, 'The Three Musketeers' (as seen two thirds through you tube clip) :

* signed up with the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the age of 43 in 1969 and played Leantio in Middleton's 'Women Beware Women', acting for the first time with Judi Dench, as Bianca, and later recalled that he found it 'the most fiendishly difficult text to learn. I didn't think I'll ever learn it; it's one of those texts where if you don't go over it at least once every two days it'll never come back to you. We were often doing it after a break of eight or ten days, without even a word-run sometimes, so Jude and I endured that together.'

*  stayed with the RSC, more or less continuously, until 1980, playing in his first season, Polixenes in 'The Winter’s Tale', Proteus in 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' and Buckingham in 'Henry VIII' and graduated to his favourite as Becket in 1972 in Terry Hands’s production of TS Eliot’s 'Murder in the Cathedral'.

* had his finest hour in 1973 in the famous alternation of Richard II and Bolingbroke, with Ian Richardson, using John Barton’s revelatory idea of seeing the two leading characters as mirror images of each other, rather than violent opposites, their interchangeability underlined before scene 1, when an actor dressed as Shakespeare arbitrarily placed the crown on one actor rather than the other.

* in the same season, played Jacques, to Eileen Atkins’s Rosalind, in Buzz Goodbody's  'As You Like It'.

* received his CBE with his son and wife, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, when he was 51 in 1977.

* in 1979 played Brutus to Charles Grey's Caesar in the tv production of 'Julius Caesar' and in 1982, with John Barton, Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, took part with many of the finest British actors of his generation in one rehearsal room, in a grapple with the work of  'Playing Shakespeare' in 'rehearsing the text' , 'irony and ambiguity' : and Richard II's : "Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Kings" speech :

* in 1980 contributed to 'Birds, Beasts and Flowers : a programme of poetry, prose and music' reading  'The Unanswered Question: Miracles' : and 'The Lark Ascending: Proud Songsters' :

* played the Bastard in 'King John', Aleister Crowley in Snoo Wilson's, 'The Beast' and Timon of Athens in Ron Daniels’s 1980 production, at first with the air of an innocent prodigal, but later as Michael Billington wrote : 'With his red-rimmed eyes, patchwork costume and habit of gnawing passionately at root vegetables, he is the picture of desolation: a poor, bare, forked animal with vast reserves of hate.'

* in 1984 at the age of 58, starred in the six episode, Yorkshire TV mini-series, 'Sorrell and Son' as a decorated First World War hero, raising his son Kit alone after his mother had deserted husband and child :

Michael Bryant, left, and Richard Pasco in Murmuring Judges, the second of the plays that went to make up David Hare's trilogy, National Theatre, 1991.* with Michael Bryant, played in David Hare's 'Murmuring Judges' at the National Theatre in 1991 and was back on stage in '93 in the David Hare trilogy about religion, the law and the Labour Party, especially memorable as the Bishop of Southwark, in 'Racing Demon', “brass balls clang as he walks”.

* at the age of 71 in 1997, played the physician, Dr Jenner, to Judi Dench’s Queen Victoriain 'Mrs Brown' in a period when he made appearances in popular tv series : 'Inspector Morse', 'Kavanagh QC' and 'Hetty Wainthropp Investigates'.

* in 1995 produced an audio cassette, 'How Pleasant to Know Mr Lear !' with his wife Barbara.

* in 2008 at the age of 82 produced a 'Frankenstein' audiobook in 13 parts : and in 2010 in a 'Short Stories' compilation read Edgar Alan Poe's 'The Tell-tale Heart' : 'One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture -- a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever....'

* could look back with pride over a life well spent, thrilling audiences over fifty years on stage, screen and television : and should have the last word reading, with that beautiful voice, Robert Frost's 'The Span of Life' :
      The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
      can remember when he was a pup.