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Alan Whicker

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Alan Whicker

BornAlan Donald Whicker
2 August 1921 (school records)[1]
[note 1]
Cairo, Egypt
Died12 July 2013(2013-07-12) (aged 91)
Trinity, Jersey, Channel Islands[2]

Alan Donald Whicker CBE (2 August 1921 – 12 July 2013) was a British journalist and television presenter and broadcaster. His career spanned almost 60 years, during which time he presented the documentary television programme Whicker's World for over 30 years. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2005 for services to broadcasting.

Early life[edit]

Dark-haired unshaven man
Whicker (right, with back to the camera) with John Amery shortly after the latter's arrest by Italian partisans in Milan.

Whicker was born to British parents in Cairo, Egypt, in 1921.[note 1][3][4] When he was three years old his father Charles became seriously ill and the family moved to Richmond in Surrey, where he and his mother remained after the death of his father. He attended Haberdashers' Aske's Boys School, where he excelled at cross-country running.

During the Second World War he was commissioned as an officer in the Devonshire Regiment of the British Army.[5] He then joined the British Army's Army Film and Photographic Unit in Italy in 1943,[4] filming at Anzio and meeting such influential figures as Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.[6]

In the documentary Whicker's War he revealed that he was one of the first in the Allied forces to enter Milan and that he took into custody an SS general and staff who were guarding the SS's paymaster's payroll money used to pay the SS troops, along with large amounts of cash in various foreign currencies, all contained within a large trunk. Whicker later handed over the SS men and the trunk of cash to the commander of an advancing US armoured column.[7] While in Milan Whicker shot footage of the body of Benito Mussolini[4] and was also responsible for taking into custody British traitor John Amery.[6]

Broadcasting career[edit]

After the Second World War, Whicker became a journalist and broadcaster, acting as a newspaper correspondent during the Korean War. After joining the BBC in 1957, he became an international reporter for their Tonight programme. In 1958, he started presenting Whicker's World, which began life as a segment on the Tonight programme before becoming a fully-fledged series itself in the 1960s. Whicker's World was filmed all over the globe and became a huge ratings success in the UK. Whicker continued to present the series up until the 1990s, and he won a BAFTA Award in 1964 for his presentation in the Factual category;[8] he also won the Richard Dimbleby Award at the 1978 BAFTA ceremony.[8] Whicker was instrumental in launching Yorkshire Television (which made Whicker's World for some years), producing television programmes for them from 1969 until 1992. At the beginning of the ITV series, Whicker made Papa Doc – The Black Sheep (1969)[9] on Haiti and its dictator François "Papa Doc" Duvalier who made himself available to Whicker and his team.[10]

Whicker appeared in various adverts for American Express,[6] Barclaycard,[11] and was also the man behind the advertising slogan "Hello World", for travelocity.[12] He narrated the 2007 and 2008 BBC documentary series Comedy Map of Britain.[13]

In the 2005 New Year Honours Whicker was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to broadcasting.[2] In 2009, then aged 88, Whicker returned to some of the locations and people who were originally featured in Whicker's World for the BBC series Alan Whicker's Journey of a Lifetime. In this, he met various people whom he had interviewed decades earlier to see how their lives had progressed or changed since the initial programme.[14]

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1983 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the Berkeley Hotel in Kensington, London.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Whicker had a relationship with Olga Deterding from 1966 to 1969.[14] He was with his partner, Valerie Kleeman (who was 25 years his junior), from 1969. He neither married nor had children.[14]


Whicker died on 12 July 2013 from bronchial pneumonia at his home in Jersey, in the Channel Islands, aged 91.[2][15][16] Broadcaster Michael Parkinson stated that Whicker was "a fine journalist and great storyteller", adding: "I can think of no other television reporter before or since who created such a wonderful catalogue of unforgettable programmes."[2] Michael Palin said that Whicker was "a great character, a great traveller and an excellent reporter", while travel presenter Judith Chalmers said he was "an icon for the travel industry".[2]

Most obituary writers said that Whicker was 87 at the time of his death, based on his entry in Who's Who giving a date of birth in 1925. The Financial Times pointed out that his age had been queried, with school records showing his birthdate in August 1921, making him 91 when he died.[1]

In June 2015 it was announced that Whicker's estate would fund, through The Whickers,[17] three annual awards totalling over £100,000 to be awarded to documentary makers, including funding and recognition prizes for audio documentaries.[18]

In popular culture[edit]

While presenting Whicker's World, Whicker was known for his subtle brand of satire and social commentary. Whicker's World was parodied in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch featuring a tropical island, "Whicker Island", where all the inhabitants dress and act like Whicker.[2] Benny Hill, towards the end of his BBC series in 1968, impersonated Whicker in a parody called "Knicker's World".[19]

He was parodied again in 1981 by the Evasions, a British funk group whose song, "Wikka Wrap", featured songwriter Graham de Wilde impersonating Whicker; the song was later sampled in American rapper Coolio's 1996 song "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)".[20] De Wilde also composed the theme tune for the 1980s BBC episodes of Whicker's World.[21]


Explanatory notes

  1. ^ a b Sources such as Whicker's Who's Who entry give a year of birth of 1925.


  1. ^ a b Crick, Margaret (12 July 2013). "Suave storyteller who made his life an enlightening journey". Financial Times. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Broadcaster Alan Whicker dies at 87". BBC News. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  3. ^ "Whicker, (Donald) Alan (1921–2013)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/107081. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ a b c Legge, James (12 July 2013). "'A wonderful life': Broadcaster Alan Whicker dies, aged 87". The Independent. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  5. ^ "Obituary: Alan Whicker". BBC News. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b c "Alan Whicker". The Daily Telegraph. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Whicker's War [DVD]". Amazon. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  8. ^ a b "Television Nominations 1964". BAFTA. Archived from the original on 15 August 2010. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
  9. ^ Tise Vahimagi "Whicker, Alan (1925–)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  10. ^ Calder, Simon (4 September 2010). "A well-travelled man: Veteran broadcaster Alan Whicker reveals his globetrotting tips". The Independent. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  11. ^ "Barclaycard: 45 years of credit cards in the UK". The Daily Telegraph. 29 June 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2013. In 1982 the travel journalist Alan Whicker appeared in a series of adverts spanning five years focusing on the acceptability of the Barclaycard in thousands of shops, restaurants and businesses around the world.
  12. ^ "Alan Whicker interview". Wanderlust. October 2004. Archived from the original on 13 July 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  13. ^ "Comedy Map of Britain". BBC. Retrieved 12 July 2013. Alan Whicker narrates an animated journey around the UK, pinpointing the special places that have inspired and affected our major comic talents
  14. ^ a b c Howse, Christoper (16 March 2009). "Alan Whicker interview: a journey of a lifetime". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  15. ^ Some sources, including The Times and The Financial Times, give his age as 91 when he died, based on a date of birth in August 1921.
  16. ^ "Broadcaster Alan Whicker dies". ITV. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013. Broadcaster Alan Whicker, whose distinguished TV career stretched nearly 60 years, has died at the age of 87 after suffering from bronchial pneumonia, his spokeswoman said
  17. ^ "The Whickers". The Whickers.
  18. ^ "Alan Whicker awards to fund documentaries". BBC News. 7 June 2015. Three prizes totalling £100,000 will be awarded to new film-makers, including one to encourage people aged over 50 to film their first documentary.
  19. ^ "Alan Whicker Dead: Globe-Trotting TV Legend Dies Aged 87". The Huffington Post. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  20. ^ "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New) by Coolio". WhoSampled. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  21. ^ Graham de Wilde Retrieved 13 July 2013.

External links[edit]