Howard Marshall (broadcaster)
Howard Percival Marshall (22 August 1900 in Surrey – 27 October 1973) achieved distinction in several fields, but is best remembered as a pioneering commentator for live broadcasts of state occasions and sporting events — in particular cricket Test matches — for BBC radio during the 1930s.
He went to Oriel College, Oxford, winning a rugby union Blue. He captained the Harlequins rugby team. He trained as a journalist, and joined the BBC in 1927. Within ten years he had become the premier radio Outside Broadcast commentator, being chosen to describe the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937, as well as that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Live cricket broadcasting had begun in a limited fashion in 1927, but it was generally thought that ball-by-ball commentary would not work for a game as slow as cricket. However Seymour de Lotbiniere ('Lobby'), who was responsible for live sports coverage and who went on to become an outstanding head of outside broadcasts at the BBC, realised that ball-by-ball commentary could make compelling radio. In the mid-1930s he got Marshall to begin commentating on cricket, rather than only giving reports. Marshall was a great success, the poet Edmund Blunden writing: "And then on the air, Mr Howard Marshall makes every ball bowled, every shifting of a fieldsman so fertile with meaning that any wireless set may make a subtle cricket student of anybody."
He commentated on some of the "Victory Tests" in 1945, but he had moved on to higher things in the BBC when real Test cricket resumed the following year.
Nine of his cricket commentaries over the period 1934 to 1945 survive in the BBC archives, including his famous description of Len Hutton at The Oval in 1938 surpassing Don Bradman's record score of 334 in Anglo-Australian Tests.
During World War II he became the first Director of Public Relations at the Ministry of Food from 1940 to 1943, then Director of War Reporting and a war correspondent. He famously broadcast from a Normandy beach immediately after the D-Day landings. A snippet of the outside broadcast he made on the VE Day celebrations in London survives.
He married three times (including Nerina Shute and Jasmine Bligh, who was his widow) and found time to work as a Director of Personnel and Public Relations in the steel industry, to write several books on sport, housing and exploration, amongst other subjects, and to co-found the magazines Angling Times and Trout and Salmon.
His books included:
- Rugger Stories (editor), Putnam, 1932.
- Cricket Stories (editor), Putnam, 1933.
- Over to Tunis: The First Eyewitness Story of the Tunisian Campaign, Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1943.
- Oxford v Cambridge: The story of the university rugby match, Clarke & Cockeran, 1951.
- Coronation Day, 1953, Hutchinson, 1953.
- Reflections on a River, HF & G Witherby, 1967, ISBN 978-0-85493-000-5.
- Marshall commentating when Hutton beat Bradman's record score in Anglo-Australian Tests. Retrieved 31 July 2009.
- Radio archive, Item 204 - Marshall live outside broadcast on 8 May 1945 (VE Day) Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- Christopher Martin-Jenkins: Ball by Ball: The Story of Cricket Broadcasting, Grafton Books, 1990, ISBN 0-246-13568-9, pp45–6
- TMS Legends: Howard Marshall
- Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1974 edition obituary
- "Radio Reflections" by EW Swanton from Wisden Crickters' Almanack 1981 edition
- Review of "The Forgotten Broadcaster" (a Radio 4 programme about Marshall)