Percy Herbert (actor)

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Percy Herbert
Percy Herbert 1967.JPG
Herbert in 1967
Born(1920-07-31)31 July 1920
London, England
Died6 December 1992(1992-12-06) (aged 72)
Kent, England
EducationRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
Years active1951–1987
SpouseAmy Lindsay (m. 1947)

Percy Herbert (31 July 1920 – 6 December 1992)[1] was an English actor. He worked predominantly from the 1950s into the 1970s and became one of the most recognisable faces in post-war British cinema.


He served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps during the Second World War and spent four years in the Japanese prisoner of war camp Changi. After the war, he was helped by Dame Sybil Thorndike[2] to secure an interview with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he won a scholarship.[3] His acting career began in the theatre, which included working at John Gielgud's Old Vic Company.[4]

Beginning in 1954, he went on to make nearly seventy films, often playing soldiers, most notably in The Cockleshell Heroes, The Bridge on the River Kwai (for which he also worked as consultant as well as suggesting the use of the well-known "Colonel Bogey March" which the prisoners whistled in the film), Sea of Sand, Tunes of Glory, The Guns of Navarone, Guns at Batasi, Tobruk and The Wild Geese.[5] However, he was equally at home in comedies (Barnacle Bill, Casino Royale, two Carry On films), fantasy (One Million Years B.C., Mysterious Island), drama (Becket, Bunny Lake is Missing), and science fiction (Quatermass 2, Night of the Big Heat).[1]

He also acted on television; he was a regular on the short-lived American series Cimarron Strip, during a brief foray to Hollywood. Other television work includes Danger Man, The Saint, Z-Cars, Dixon of Dock Green and Worzel Gummidge.[5][6]

Herbert was born in East London, and spent his youth learning to become a boxer at the Repton Boxing club. One of three siblings, he was the middle child. His father left home when he was a young boy and he was brought up by his mother Ann Herbert along with his brother Lawrence and his sister Maisie. During World War II he joined the British Army as a young man and was sent to Singapore via ship to fight in the Pacific. The British ship miscalculated the timing of its entry into harbour, and sailed into Singapore Harbour in broad daylight. The British were immediately bombed by Japanese aircraft and Herbert jumped ship and swam to shore with a broken collar bone. He was picked up by British soldiers and taken to the Alexandria Hospital, where Herbert survived what was to be the massacre of doctors and patients of the Alexandria Hospital in Singapore. He was among 11 soldiers who survived and ultimately captured and sent to the notorious Japanese Prison Camp at Changi, where he remained as a POW for the duration of the war. He was assigned to work on the Burma Railway and was released from Changi at the end of the war by American troops, after which he returned to London. One of the first films he was cast in was Bridge on the River Kwai which was based on the experiences in Changi prison camp. David Lean, the producer of the classic film, paid Herbert a stipend to be a consultant on the film as he had been a POW there and was also cast in the role of Grogan, one of the first roles in which he was cast during his long and varied acting career. Herbert died of a heart attack, aged 72, on the 6th of December 1992 in Broadstairs, Kent, which is on the south coast of England. He was survived by his childhood sweetheart and wife Amy and his two daughters Vanessa and Katrina .[7]

Complete filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Herbert, Percy". Film & TV Database. BFI. Archived from the original on 5 May 2009. Retrieved 24 May 2009.
  2. ^ "Percy Herbert Biography". Allmovie ( Retrieved 13 December 2007.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Percy Herbert – RADA".
  4. ^ "Percy Herbert | Theatricalia".
  5. ^ a b "Percy Herbert | Movies and Filmography". AllMovie.
  6. ^ "Percy Herbert".
  7. ^ "Percy Herbert". Variety. 9 December 1992.

External links[edit]