Who we are

Motivated by the need to improve cancer care

Dimbleby Cancer Care exists to offer care and support to people affected by cancer – the patients, their families and carers. Dimbleby Cancer Care (formerly the Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund) was founded as a result of the public’s generosity following the death of his father, Richard Dimbleby.

The charity was set up in 1966 following the untimely death at 52, from cancer, of Richard Dimbleby, one of Britain’s best loved broadcasters. Richard contracted cancer at a time when its mere mention was a taboo. His decision to go public did a huge amount to challenge and overcome that taboo. Richard’s early death shocked the nation. They wanted to mark their respect in some way, so Richard’s widow, Dilys, suggested they should send donations with which to set up a charity to support people with cancer. The response was huge, and thus the Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund was established (it’s name was changed to Dimbleby Cancer Care in 2005).

One of the charity’s first acts was to endow a chair in cancer research at King’s College London. the current incumbent, Professor Tony Ng, leads a research team which is one of only a few in the world which is using advanced tissue imaging techniques to develop methods of pinpointing the most effective drug treatments for each individual cancer patient.

However, the main focus of Dimbleby Cancer Care is the care and support needs of people with cancer, and those of their families and carers. Over decades it has worked closely with staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals in London and through that work has evolved the Dimbleby Cancer Care Support and Information Services. These offer practical and psychological support as well as complementary therapies. In the same vein, since 2005, the Dimbleby Cancer Care Research Fund has provided up to £500,000 a year for national research into the care needs of cancer patients and their families, and how best these needs can be met.

Richard Dimbleby

Known as the ‘Voice of the Nation’, Richard was a unique broadcaster. At a time when television was new and novel, he brought it alive for millions. His death of cancer at only 52 shocked millions and the response to it demonstrated the need for more to be done for those living with cancer. Read about his life and work – and see the world famous “spaghetti tree hoax” that fooled millions.

Early Career

Richard Dimbleby began his career at The Richmond and Twickenham Times in 1931. He joined the BBC as the corporation’s first reporter and later first war correspondent. He reported from many fronts and flew some 20 missions with Bomber Command, including to Berlin, recording his reports for broadcast the following day.

In 1945, he broadcast the first report from Belsen concentration camp. He also was one of the first journalists to experiment with unconventional outside broadcasts.

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His Work after the War

After the war Richard switched to television, soon becoming the BBC’s leading commentator at major public events. These included the coronation of Elizabeth II in and the funerals of George VI, John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill. He wrote a book about the coronation, Elizabeth Our Queen, which was given free to many schoolchildren.

He took part in the first Eurovision television relay in 1951 and appeared in the first live television broadcast from the Soviet Union in 1961. He also introduced a special programme in July 1962 showing the first live television signal from the United States via the Telstar satellite. His commentary: “There is a face… it’s a man’s face! I can see a man’s face!” became iconic. In addition to heavyweight journalism, he hosted lighter programmes such as Down Your Way and was a panelist on Twenty Questions.

He was the anchor of the flagship current affairs series Panorama. He was able to maintain his reporting talents by visiting places like Berlin, standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate a week before the Berlin Wall was erected.

Richard Dimbleby’s reputation was built upon his ability to describe events clearly yet with a sense of the drama and poetry of the many state occasions he covered. Examples included the Lying-in-State of George VI in Westminster Hall where he depicted the stillness of the guardsmen standing like statues at the four corners of the catafalque, or the description of the drums at Kennedy’s funeral which, he said, “beat as the pulse of a man’s heart.” His commentary for the funeral of Churchill in January 1965 was the last state event he commentated upon. He was appointed an OBE in 1945 and advanced to CBE in 1959.

His death

Richard Dimbleby died from cancer in St Thomas’ Hospital, London, at the age of 52. Richard decided to admit he was ill with cancer, which, in those days, was a taboo subject. It was helpful in building public consciousness of the disease and investing more resources in finding a cure. The Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund (now Dimbleby Cancer Care) was founded in his memory.

Richard Dimbleby lecture

The Richard Dimbleby Lecture was founded in his memory and is delivered every year by an influential public figure. The 2001 lecture was deliverred by Bill Clinton; the 2004 by vacuum cleaner tycoon, James Dyson; in 2005 by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair; by General Sir Mike Jackson in 2006 and by genetics pioneer Dr J Craig Venter in 2007.

Richard Dimbleby BAFTA

The British Academy of Film & Television Arts presents a Richard Dimbleby BAFTA which has been won by a number of Britain’s top broadcasters including Alastair Burnet, David Bellamy and Alan Whicker.

1st April 1957: Richard Dimbleby fools the nation

View the footage on youtube

The hoax Panorama programme, narrated by Richard Dimbleby, featured a family from Ticino in Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest. It showed women carefully plucking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry.

This was believed to be the first time television has been used to stage an April Fools Day hoax.

Who’s who

The Dimbleby Cancer Care charity is run by a Board of Trustees and a current staff of four – one full-time and three part-time employees. The Dimbleby Cancer Care Information and Support Services at Guy’s Cancer Centre are staffed by a wide group of experienced health care professionals who work in tandem with our complementary therapists. The charity is very fortunate in having the generous help of an Advisory Board made up of leading cancer care specialists from throughout the UK.