Edward Underdown

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Edward Underdown
Born Charles Edward Underdown
(1908-12-03)3 December 1908
London, England, UK
Died 15 December 1989(1989-12-15) (aged 81)
Hampshire, England, UK
Nationality British
Occupation Actor, jockey
Years active 1932–1979
Spouse(s) Hon. Rosemary Sybella Violet Grimston

Charles Edward Underdown (3 December 1908 – 15 December 1989) was an English theatre, cinema and television actor. He was born in London and educated at Eton College in Berkshire.

Early theatre credits include: Words and Music, Nymph Errant, Stop Press and Streamline.[1]

His film credits include: They Were Not Divided, Beat the Devil, Wings of the Morning, The Rainbow Jacket, The Woman's Angle, Her Panelled Door, The Camp on Blood Island, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Thunderball, Khartoum, The Magic Christian and Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World.

Television appearances include: Dad's Army, Danger Man, The Saint, The Avengers, The Rat Catchers, Weavers Green, Man in a Suitcase, Doomwatch, The Regiment, Colditz, Upstairs, Downstairs, Survivors, The Duchess of Duke Street and Doctor Who (in the serial Meglos).

Both Wings of the Morning and The Rainbow Jacket were set in his beloved racing world, the former being set on Epsom Downs. Wings of the Morning, starring Henry Fonda, was Britain's first Technicolor film.

Edward Underdown was also a gentleman jockey and rode with great aplomb both on the flat and over sticks (see references to his riding career in John Hislop's books).

In 1950 he was voted by British exhibitors as the most promising male newcomer in the country.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Edward Underdown was born on 3 December 1908 in London.

Underdown was the son of Harry Charles Baillie Underdown and Rachel Elizabeth Orr. He married Hon. Rosemary Sybella Violet Grimston, daughter of Robert Grimston, 1st Baron Grimston of Westbury and Sybil Rose Neumann, on 10 February 1953. Charles Underdown and Rosemary Grimston are sixth cousins through their common grandparents Thomas Villiers, 1st Earl of Clarendon and Lady Charlotte Capell.[3]

He died on 15 December 1989 in Hampshire aged 81.

Theatre appearances[edit]


Television appearances[edit]

Love of horses[edit]

Edward Underdown's father owned a Norfolk estate in the Stanford Battle area. It was here that Edward learnt and developed his riding.

Before his career as an actor Edward was a gentleman jockey and rode with great aplomb both on the flat and over sticks (see references to his riding career in John Hislop's books).

The Norfolk estate is mentioned in Bill Pertwee's book about the making of Dad's Army. One of the Dad's Army episodes was by co-incidence filmed at the estate. By this time the estate was owned by the War Office and nothing was left except for the verandah and stables. As soon as John Le Mesurier arrived he realised it was familiar to him from weekend parties Edward's father had invited him to in the 1930s. So it was that Edward found himself working in a television series that featured part of his old home.[10]

The films Wings of the Morning and The Rainbow Jacket were set in his beloved racing world, the former being set on Epsom Downs.

Finally, after his acting career he worked as a steward at Newbury Racecourse. This was described by Bill Pertwee as "fitting for a man who not only loved horses but was also an expert rider." (ibit, page 86).

Military Service[edit]

On wanting to sign-up, Edward Underdown's first approach was to the Wiltshire Yeomanry. He reputedly appeared at the depot with his friend, Sandy Carlos Clarke, a friend who had recently returned from Canada working as a ranch hand. When asked by the recruiting Sergeant to state their professions, Underdown replied, "film star" and Carlos Clarke answered, "cowboy" and thinking this was a joke, the sergeant stated that their services were not required. Underdown did subsequently join the Wiltshire Yeomanry whilst Clarke found a post with another Yeomanry regiment.[11]

Underdown went on to have a distinguished second world war record as an officer in the Wiltshire Yeomanry serving in the 8th Army in Africa [12]

After the war Edward resumed his acting career but remained in the Territorial Army. He remained in the Territorial Army Reserve of Officers until is reached the age limit. He retired as Captain on 7 November 1959 and retained the rank of Honorary Major.[13]


  1. ^ University of Bristol Theatre Collection Database (2011). at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/theatrecollection, accessed 26 September 2011.
  2. ^ "Hope tops list for popularity.". The Mail (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 30 December 1950. p. 5 Supplement: Sunday Magazine. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Mosley, Charles. Ed. (2003) ‘Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition’, Volume 2, Page 1685. Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd.
  4. ^ Phoenix Theatre, London (1936). Theatre program for 'Tonight at 8.30'.
  5. ^ St. James's Theatre (1937). Theatre program for 'You Can't Take It With You'.
  6. ^ St. Martin's Theatre (1958). Theatre program for 'The Grass is Greener'.
  7. ^ Theatre Royal Brighton (1958). Theatre program for 'The Grass is Greener'.
  8. ^ Mermaid Theatre (1961). Theatre program for 'The Long Sunset'.
  9. ^ Theatre Royal Brighton (1965). Theatre program for 'Past Imperfect'.
  10. ^ Pertwee, Bill (2009) Dad's Army: The Making of a Television Legend, Page 86. U.S.A.: Anova Books.
  11. ^ Daily Telegraph Online Edition, 10 May 2003, Sandy Carlos Clarke Obituary.
  12. ^ Easter Daily Press (2009) ‘Film show has links to Breckland star’ (13 May 2009), at www.edp24.co.uk, accessed on 30 March 2014.
  13. ^ The London Gazette, No. 41861, Supplement of Tuesday, 3 November 1959.

External links[edit]