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Frank Gardner (journalist)

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Frank Gardner
Francis Rolleston Gardner

(1961-07-31) 31 July 1961 (age 62)
Hampstead, London, England
Notable creditBBC Six O'Clock News
Amanda Jane Pearson
(m. 1997⁠–⁠2019)
PartnerElizabeth Rizzini
Military career
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1984–2021
Service number519796
AwardsVolunteer Reserves Service Medal (VRSM)

Francis Rolleston Gardner OBE TD VR FRGS (born 31 July 1961) is a British journalist, author and retired British Army Reserve officer. He is currently the BBC's Security Correspondent, and since the September 11 attacks on New York has specialised in covering stories related to the War on terror.

Gardner joined BBC World as a producer and reporter in 1995, and became the BBC's first full-time Gulf correspondent in 1997, before being appointed BBC Middle East correspondent in 1999. On 6 June 2004, while reporting from Al-Suwaidi, a district of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Gardner was seriously injured in an attack by al-Qaida gunmen, which left him partially paralysed in the legs. He returned to reporting for the BBC in mid-2005, using a wheelchair or a frame. He has written two non-fiction works as well as a series of novels featuring the fictional SBS officer-turned MI6 operative Luke Carlton.

Early life[edit]

Gardner was born on 31 July 1961. His father and mother, Robert Neil Gardner (1922–2010) and Evelyn Grace Rolleston (1923–2014), were both diplomats,[1] and when he was six he moved from the UK to the Hague in the Netherlands. In 1951, while second secretary at the British Embassy in Czechoslovakia, his father was expelled from the country for espionage activities after an incident in a prohibited military area where he was shot at.[2][3] His grandfather was physician John Davy Rolleston. Educated at Saint Ronan's School, and Marlborough College, Gardner was pushed by his teachers into taking up biathlon, which enabled him to travel to Austria to train with the British Army biathlon team.[4]

When he was 16, Gardner met the Arabian explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger, and was invited to the explorer's home in Chelsea. Partly as a result – and partly reasoning that knowing the Arabic language would make him employable in that part of the world – he was determined to study Arabic.[4] In his gap year Gardner saved up by working in a brick factory then went backpacking from Morocco to Istanbul. He then travelled to Manila in the Philippines, to go hiking in the mountains of Luzon.[4] He returned to study at the University of Exeter,[4][5] graduating in 1984 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA Hons) in Arabic and Islamic Studies.[6]


Military service[edit]

Gardner was commissioned on 23 May 1984 as a second lieutenant (on probation).[7] On 30 September 1984, he transferred from the general list to the 4th Volunteer Battalion, the Royal Green Jackets, as a second lieutenant (on probation) and was given seniority from 23 May 1984.[8] His commission was confirmed and his rank of second lieutenant was dated to 23 May 1984 with seniority from 23 May 1982. He was promoted to lieutenant on 30 September 1985, with seniority from 23 May 1984.[9] He was promoted to captain on 1 October 1990, with seniority from 1 February 1989.[10]

On 11 November 1993, Gardner was appointed a captain in the Regular Army Reserve.[11] He returned to the Territorial Army on 24 April 1997, serving in the Educational and Training Services Branch of the Adjutant General's Corps.[12] He was promoted to major in the Territorial Army on 1 July 2006,[13] and retired on 30 July 2021.[14]


Gardner worked as a marketing manager for Gulf Exports from 1984 to 1986 and in trading and sales for Saudi International Bank from 1986 to 1990. He worked for five years for Robert Fleming Bank from 1990 to 1995, becoming Director of Middle East.[6] He had a nine-year career as an investment banker.


In 1995 he left banking and joined BBC World as a producer and reporter.[15] He became the BBC's first full-time Gulf correspondent in 1997, setting up as a freelance stringer in Dubai. In 1999 Gardner was appointed BBC Middle East correspondent in charge of the bureau in Cairo, but travelled throughout the region. Following the September 11 attacks on New York, Gardner specialised in covering stories related to the War on terror.[15]

On 6 June 2004, while reporting from Al-Suwaidi,[16] a district of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, notorious for extremism, Gardner was shot six times and seriously injured in an attack by al-Qaida gunmen. His colleague, Irish cameraman Simon Cumbers, was shot dead. Of the bullets which hit Gardner in his torso (others passed through his shoulder and leg) one hit his spinal nerves and he was left partially paralysed in the legs and since then has used a wheelchair. The pair had continued filming for more than half an hour, against the advice of Gardner's official Saudi Arabian government minders.[17] The Saudi government promised compensation but they have never paid.[4] After 14 surgical operations, seven months in hospital and several months of rehabilitation, he returned to reporting for the BBC in mid-2005, using a wheelchair or a frame.[18] Despite his injury, he still frequently reports from the field including places like Afghanistan[19] and Colombia[20] but usually comments on top stories from a BBC studio.

One of the gunmen who shot Gardner and Cumbers, Adel al-Dhubaiti, was captured and executed by Saudi authorities in January 2016.[21]

In September 2012, he revealed that Queen Elizabeth II had been upset some years earlier that Abu Hamza al-Masri could not be arrested. The BBC apologised later that day for the revelation.[22]

Other media work[edit]

Gardner has presented a variety of documentaries for the BBC since 2011. In 2011, Gardner presented Tintin's Adventure with Frank Gardner for the BBC, a documentary in which he retraced Hergé's character Tintin's journey from Brussels to Berlin to Moscow on his first ever adventure – Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. In 2013 Gardner presented a one-hour BBC Two documentary entitled Frank Gardner's Return to Saudi Arabia, visiting the Yemeni border, Jeddah, Eastern Province and the Riyadh hospital where he recovered from his attack in 2004. In September 2015 Gardner was featured in an episode of the BBC's family history programme Who Do You Think You Are? in which he learned that he was directly descended from William the Conqueror. In 2016 Gardner teamed up with Benedict Allen in the BBC Two two-part documentary Birds of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest. During an expedition to Papua New Guinea, they sought the elusive birds-of-paradise (a life-long ambition of Gardner's as an experienced birdwatcher), including the King of Saxony. The programme was broadcast on 3 and 10 February 2017.[23][24]

In March 2012, Gardner pulled out of hosting the Counter-Terrorism and Specialist Security Awards (CTSS) amid concerns that this would compromise the BBC's impartiality.[25] In June 2018, Gardner chaired the keynote stage across the first two days of the security industry event IFSEC International, taking place in the ExCeL exhibition centre in London.[26]

In 2016, Gardner appeared on Channel 4's coverage of the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in his role as President of the GB Ski Club.

Being Frank: The Frank Gardner Story was broadcast by BBC Two on 5 November 2020. The documentary explores what is it like to be suddenly disabled.[27]

On 24 September 2022, Gardner presented the BBC News special, Ukraine: Putin's Nuclear Threat. The documentary focuses on recent gains by Ukrainian forces in the Russo-Ukrainian War, and how it could provoke President Putin into the use of tactical nuclear weapons.[28]

Published works[edit]

Gardner's Sunday Times bestseller Blood and Sand (ISBN 978-0-553-81771-3), describing his 25 years of Middle Eastern experiences, was published by Transworld in 2006. His book Far Horizons (ISBN 978-0-593-05968-5), about unusual journeys to unusual places, was published in May 2009.

Gardner's bestselling first novel, Crisis, featuring the fictional SBS officer-turned MI6 operative Luke Carlton and a ruthless Colombian drug lord, was published in June 2016.[29] [30] His second novel, Ultimatum, was published in June 2018 followed by the third Luke Carlton novel, Outbreak in 2021.[31]

Honours and awards[edit]

In the 2005 Birthday Honours, Gardner was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to journalism.[32] As a Territorial Army officer, he was awarded the Efficiency Decoration (TD) for past years of service on 29 January 2008 and its replacement, the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal (VRSM), on 8 March 2011.[33][34] He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates of Law by the University of Nottingham, Staffordshire University, the University of Exeter, the University of East Anglia and the Open University. He has also received the McWhirter Award for Bravery, Spain's El Mundo Prize for International Journalism, the Zayed Medal for Journalism and been voted Person of the Year by the UK Press Gazette. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS).

Personal life[edit]

Gardner remains an enthusiastic skier despite his injuries. After his spinal injury and having attended a training course for disabled skiers, he resumed skiing using a sitski, a device that allows disabled people to ski while seated. In November 2011 he was elected honorary president of the Ski Club of Great Britain for six years. He is now a Patron of Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK).

He is a keen birdwatcher[35] and presented a September 2009 BBC Archive Hour programme on Sir Peter Scott.[35] In 2019 he was elected President of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

BBC Two's Being Frank, his documentary broadcast in November 2020, explored what it is like to become disabled. Gardner spoke candidly of his recent separation from his wife of 22 years; the two remain great friends.


  1. ^ "Frank Gardner featured article: TheGenealogist". TheGenealogist. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Czech Sentries Shoot British Official, Embassy Employee". Sydney: The Sunday Herald. Australian Associated Press. 16 December 1951. Retrieved 29 July 2023.
  3. ^ Thorne, Nick (22 September 2015). "Frank Gardner - From a diplomatic incident in the 1950s to a tudor ancestor who was executed for treason..." TheGenealogist. Retrieved 29 July 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Excess Baggage". BBC Radio 4. 9 May 2009. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  5. ^ Gardner, Frank (31 August 2003). "Memories of a veteran explorer". BBC News. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  6. ^ a b "GARDNER, Francis Rolleston". Who's Who 2014. A & C Black. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  7. ^ "No. 49837". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 August 1984. p. 11065.
  8. ^ "No. 49987". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 January 1985. p. 198.
  9. ^ "No. 50965". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1987. p. 7676.
  10. ^ "No. 52465". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 March 1991. p. 3469.
  11. ^ "No. 53620". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 March 1994. p. 4384.
  12. ^ "No. 54820". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 June 1997. p. 7555.
  13. ^ "No. 58132". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 October 2006. p. 14542.
  14. ^ "No. 63875". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 November 2022. p. 21745.
  15. ^ a b "Profile: Frank Gardner". BBC News. 7 June 2004. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  16. ^ Bradley, John (2005). Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 147.
  17. ^ Small, Thomas; Hacker, Johnathan (2015). Path of Blood : The story of All Qaeda's war on Saudi Arabia. Simon and Schuster. pp. 275, 276. ISBN 9781471135743.
  18. ^ Gardner, Frank (9 July 2005). "Honourable Mention". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  19. ^ "Muslim troops help win Afghan minds". BBC News. 28 March 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  20. ^ "From Our Own Correspondent". BBC News. 18 December 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  21. ^ "Saudi Arabia execute inmate who shot BBC journalist Frank Gardner and killed cameraman Simon Cumbers". The Independent. 4 January 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  22. ^ "BBC apology to Queen over Abu Hamza disclosure". BBC News. 25 September 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  23. ^ "Birds of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest – BBC Two".
  24. ^ "BBC – Birds Of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest – Media Centre".
  25. ^ Sherwin, Adam (10 March 2012). "BBC star quits 'awards dinner for arms dealers'". The Independent. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  26. ^ Media, 1st 4. "Join the critical security conversation this June at IFSEC International 2018". 1stsecuritynews.com. Retrieved 21 August 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ "Being Frank:The Frank Gardner Story". BBC Two. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  28. ^ "Ukraine: Putin's Nuclear Threat". bbc.co.uk/iplayer. Retrieved 27 September 2022.
  29. ^ London: Bantam. ISBN 978-0-593-07578-4
  30. ^ "Crisis by Frank Gardner – review". 30 June 2016.
  31. ^ "Outbreak by Frank Gardner". 19 January 2021.
  32. ^ "No. 57665". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2005. pp. 9–10.
  33. ^ "No. 58594". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 January 2008. p. 1280.
  34. ^ "No. 59720". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 March 2011. p. 4239.
  35. ^ a b Anderson, Jane (19 September 2009). "The Archive Hour – Scott of Slimbridge". Radio Times.

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