Frank Gardner (journalist)

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Frank Gardner
Born Francis Rolleston Gardner
(1961-07-31) 31 July 1961 (age 56)
Hampstead, London, England
Nationality British
Education Marlborough College
Alma mater University of Exeter
Occupation Journalist
Notable credit(s) BBC Six O'Clock News
Spouse(s) Amanda Jane Pearson (m. 1997)
Children 2
Military career
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1984-present
Rank Major
Service number 519796
Awards Volunteer Reserves Service Medal (VRSM)

Francis Rolleston Gardner OBE TD VR FRGS (born 31 July 1961) is a British journalist, correspondent and Army Reserve officer. He is currently the BBC's Security Correspondent.

Early life[edit]

Gardner's father and mother, Robert Neil Gardner and Evelyn Grace Rolleston, were both diplomats[1] and when he was six he moved from the UK to the Hague in the Netherlands. The excitement of travel to a foreign country left a lasting impression. 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.[2]

When he was 16, Gardner and his mother had met the Arabian explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger (whom his mother had previously known) on a bus. Invited to the explorer's home in Chelsea, the initially reluctant Gardner fell in love with Arabia. Partly as a result – and partly reasoning that knowing the Arabic language would make him recruitable in 22 countries many of which had oil – he determined to study the Arabic language.[2]

In his gap year Gardner went backpacking to Greece where, when working at a restaurant, he spotted an advertisement for a £100 one-way ticket to Manila in the Philippines. Once there, he spent time with the tribal people.[2]

He returned to study at the University of Exeter,[2][3] graduating in 1984 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA Hons) in Arabic and Islamic Studies.[4]


Military service[edit]

Gardner is an officer in the Army Reserve.[5] He was commissioned on 23 May 1984 as a second lieutenant (on probation).[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] He was promoted to captain on 1 October 1990, with seniority 1 February 1989.[9]

On 11 November 1993, Gardner was appointed a captain in the Regular Army Reserve.[10] He returned to the Territorial Army on 24 April 1997, serving in the Educational and Training Services Branch of the Adjutant General's Corps.[11] He was promoted to major on 1 July 2006.[12]


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 was a director of Robert Fleming Bank from 1990 to 1995.[4] After a nine-year career in banking as an investment banker, he left banking and started working in journalism for BBC World.[13]


In 1995 he joined BBC World as a producer and reporter, and became the BBC's first full-time Gulf correspondent in 1998, setting up an office in Dubai. In 2000 Gardner was appointed BBC Middle East correspondent in charge of the bureau in Cairo, but travelled throughout the region. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York, from 2002 Gardner specialised solely in covering stories related to the War on Terror. His friend of 25 years Anthony Campanale told the BBC:[13]

He was always cut out for journalism. When Kuwait was liberated, he was there with his camera, doing a piece like a reporter. He's a good communicator, incredibly good at thinking on his feet, knows how to handle situations spontaneously and comes across really well. I met him studying Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University and described him as incredibly widely-travelled, especially in the Middle East. In one year, he travelled to 28 countries. He's the sort of guy who will get through a passport because he runs out of room

On 6 June 2004, while reporting from Al-Suwaidi,[14] a district of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Gardner was shot six times and seriously injured in an attack by al-Qaeda sympathisers.[15] 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) most missed his major organs but one hit his spinal nerves and he was left partly paralysed in the legs and since then has used a wheelchair. The Saudi Arabian government had forced Gardner to use official minders, who ran away once the firing started. The Saudi government promised compensation but they have never paid.[2]

After 14 operations, seven months in hospital and months of rehabilitation, he returned to reporting for the BBC in mid-2005, using a wheelchair or a frame.[16] Despite his injury, he still occasionally reports from the field including places like Afghanistan[17] and Colombia[18] but usually comments on top stories from a BBC studio.

The gunman who shot Gardner and Cumbers, Adel al-Dhubaiti, was later captured and executed by Saudi authorities in January 2016.[19]

Other media work[edit]

In 2011, Gardner presented Tintin's Adventure with Frank Gardner for the BBC, a documentary in which he travelled through Northern Europe following Tintin on his first ever adventure – Tintin in the Land of the Soviets.

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. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) had complained to the BBC about Gardner's role in hosting what it described as an "arms dealers' dinner".[20]

In September 2012, he revealed that Queen Elizabeth II had been upset some years earlier that Abu Hamza al-Masri could not be arrested.[21] The BBC apologised later that day for the revelation.[21]

Gardner appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? on 24 September 2015, and discovered that he is a direct descendant of Sir Michael Stanhope, the Groom of the Stool of King Edward VI, and is 24th in direct line from King Edward I (and thus 31st from William the Conqueror and 42nd from Charlemagne); he already knew about being descended from George Rolleston (his mother's paternal grandfather), this being the source of his middle name.[22]

Since 2014, Gardner has appeared on Channel 4's coverage of the Paralympic Games.

Gardner joined 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 February and 10 February 2017.[23][24]

On Friday 11th August 2017 Gardner co-presented the Today programme on Radio 4 with John Humphrys.[citation needed] On 6th January 2018 he again co-presented Today, this time with Nick Robinson.[citation needed]

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.[25] As a Territorial Army officer, he was awarded the Efficiency Decoration (TD) on 29 January 2008 and its replacement, the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal (VRSM), on 8 March 2011.[26][27] 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).


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 first novel, Crisis, was published in June 2016.[28] [29]


Gardner is a keen skier. After his spinal injury and having attended a British Army training course for disabled skiers, he resumed skiing using a bobski (also called a sit-ski), 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.

He is a birdwatcher[30] and presented a September 2009 BBC Archive Hour programme on Sir Peter Scott.[30]


  1. ^ "Frank Gardner featured article: TheGenealogist". TheGenealogist. Retrieved 23 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Excess Baggage, BBC Radio 4, 9 May 2009.
  3. ^ Gardner, Frank (31 August 2003). "Memories of a veteran explorer". BBC News. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "GARDNER, Francis Rolleston". Who's Who 2014. A & C Black. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  5. ^ "Tributes and concern for BBC men". BBC News. 7 June 2004. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "No. 49837". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 August 1984. p. 11065. 
  7. ^ "No. 49987". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 January 1985. p. 198. 
  8. ^ "No. 50965". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1987. p. 7676. 
  9. ^ "No. 52465". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 March 1991. p. 3469. 
  10. ^ "No. 53620". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 March 1994. p. 4384. 
  11. ^ "No. 54820". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 June 1997. p. 7555. 
  12. ^ "No. 58132". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 October 2006. p. 14542. 
  13. ^ a b "Profile: Frank Gardner". BBC News. 7 June 2004. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  14. ^ Bradley, John R. (2005). "Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis". Palgrave Macmillan. p. 147. 
  15. ^ "The Times & The Sunday Times". 
  16. ^ Frank Gardner (9 July 2005). "Honourable Mention". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  17. ^ "Muslim troops help win Afghan minds". BBC News. 28 March 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  18. ^ "From Our Own Correspondent". BBC News. 18 December 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2011. 
  19. ^ Saudi Arabia execute inmate who shot BBC journalist Frank Gardner and killed cameraman Simon Cumbers The Independent, 4 January 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  20. ^ Sherwin, Adam (10 March 2012). "BBC star quits 'awards dinner for arms dealers'". The Independent. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  21. ^ a b "BBC apology to Queen over Abu Hamza disclosure". BBC News. 25 September 2012. 
  22. ^ "Frank Gardner". Who Do You Think You Are?. Season 12. Episode 7. 24 September 2015. BBC. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  23. ^ "Birds of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest - BBC Two". 
  24. ^ "BBC - Birds Of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest - Media Centre". 
  25. ^ "No. 57665". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2005. pp. 9–10. 
  26. ^ "No. 58594". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 January 2008. p. 1280. 
  27. ^ "No. 59720". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 March 2011. p. 4239. 
  28. ^ London: Bantam. ISBN 978-0-593-07578-4
  29. ^ "Crisis by Frank Gardner - review". 30 June 2016. 
  30. ^ a b Anderson, Jane (19 September 2009). "The Archive Hour - Scott of Slimbridge". Radio Times. 

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