Alvar Lidell

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Alvar Lidell
Tord Alvar Quan Lidell

(1908-09-11)11 September 1908
Died7 January 1981(1981-01-07) (aged 72)
EducationKing's College School, Wimbledon
Alma materExeter College, Oxford
OccupationRadio announcer, newsreader
Notable credit(s)
BBC News
Spouse(s)Nancy Margaret Corfield

Tord Alvar Quan Lidell MBE (11 September 1908 – 7 January 1981) was a BBC radio announcer and newsreader. During the Second World War his distinctive voice became synonymous with the reading of news.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lidell was born in Wimbledon Park, Surrey, to Swedish parents. His father John Adrian Lidell was a timber importer; his mother was Gertrud Lidell (née Lundström). Lidell attended King's College School, Wimbledon and Exeter College, Oxford. As a boy, he studied piano, piccolo, cello and singing, and was a noted actor at Oxford.


After some brief teaching and singing jobs, he joined BBC Birmingham as chief announcer, transferring to London after a year. He became deputy chief announcer in 1937, and the following year married Nancy Margaret Corfield, a lawyer's daughter. They had two daughters and a son. He made some historic broadcasts, including the announcement of Edward VIII's abdication. On 3 September 1939 he read the ultimatum to Germany from 10 Downing Street and then, at 11 a.m. introduced Neville Chamberlain who told the nation that it was at war with Germany.[2]

It was during the Second World War that the BBC named its previously anonymous announcers and newsreaders - to distinguish them from enemy propagandists. During the war, "Here is the news, and this is Alvar Lidell reading it" became an inadvertent catchphrase.[3] Announcing the British victory at El Alamein, he said "Here is the news, and cracking good news it is too!"[1] In 1943 he served with the RAF as an intelligence officer (some of the time at Bletchley Park,[4]) but returned to the BBC a year later. In 1946 he was appointed chief announcer on the new BBC Third Programme, where he remained for six years.[1]

In 1952 the BBC's news service was reorganised, and he returned as a newsreader, also doing a little television work. He was appointed an MBE in 1964 and retired in 1969. In 1979 he published an article about the deteriorating standards of speech at the BBC in The Listener - the BBC immediately set up a panel of experts to report on the matter. Lidell also worked as a narrator, and recorded over 237 volumes for Books for the Blind, including long works such as Anna Karenina. As a baritone, he gave recitals and recorded with Gerald Moore at the piano. In 1970 Lidell was heard as narrator on the Apple Records recording of The Whale by composer John Tavener.

Recordings of Lidell's news bulletins have been included in many films set in Britain during the Second World War, such as the movie Battle of Britain (1969).

In later life he lived for a time at Little Knighton, Worcestershire, England. He died at Northwood, Middlesex, aged 72.


  1. ^ a b c "Heritage: This is the news - with Alvar Lidell". Wimbledon Guardian. 4 January 2013. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  2. ^ "News - Outbreak of War with Germany". BBC Archive. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  3. ^ "Alvar Lidell". The Radio Academy. Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  4. ^ Hill, Marion (2004). Bletchley Park People: Churchill's Geese That Never Cackled. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-3362-3.

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