Sir Alan HERBERT (1890-1971)

Alan Herbert
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The Written Word

Spelling out the writers and poets


Robert Boothby


Evelyn Laye

THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Sir Alan Patrick Herbert, novelist, playwright, poet and law reform activist, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews on-board the HMS President, the Headquarter ship of the London division of the Royal Naval Reserve, docked downstream from London’s Westminster Bridge.


After studying law at Oxford University he served in the Royal Navy during the First World War. His first literary success was The Secret Battle, a story of front-line warfare.


In 1924 Herbert joined Punch Magazine and two years later had his first theatrical success, with the play Riverside Nights. As a witty lyricist, he wrote many highly successful comic operas and musicals. He also published the novels The Water Gipsies, Holy Deadlock and What a Word.


Herbert became the Independent MP for Oxford University in 1935. As a campaigner for reform of the marriage and divorce laws, he played an important role in the introduction of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1937, which radically amended English divorce laws.

Alan Herbert

Surrounded by the Royal Navy Mine-Watching service Eamonn Andrews hands Sir Alan Herbert the book of his 'life'

programme details...

  • Edition No: 147
  • Subject No: 147
  • Broadcast live: Mon 16 Jan 1961
  • Broadcast time: 7.30-8.00pm
  • Venue: BBC Television Theatre
  • Series: 6
  • Edition: 18

on the guest list...

  • Carl Burgess
  • Brigadier B B Rackham CBE MC
  • Giles Playfair
  • Lord Boothby
  • Sid Callow
  • Rose Campbell
  • Cecil Campbell
  • Edward Elsbury
  • Vivian Ellis
  • Sir Gerald Barry
  • 50 members of the Royal Naval Mine-Watching service
  • Filmed tributes:
  • E V Knox
  • Evelyn Laye

external link...

production team...

  • Researcher: Shirley MacNab
  • Writer: Shirley MacNab
  • Director: Michael Goodwin
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
With very special thanks to Tony Bennett, whose grandmother Emma Bennett was a member of the Royal Navy Mine-Watching service, for his contribution to this page
Series 6 subjects: Leonard Cheshire > George Bennett > David Sheppard > Sybil Thorndike > Clarence Wolfe > Charles Coward > T E B Clarke > Helene Jeanty-Raven > Cyril Smith > Victor de Spiganovicz > Bill Hartley > Ellen Martha Field > Anthony Deane-Drummond > John Mills > Richard Bancroft > Freddie Mills > William Simpson > Alan Herbert > Madame Vacani > Elizabeth Ambridge > Robert Fawcus > Flora Robson > Edward Chad Varah > James Zarb > Maryan Rawicz and Walter Landauer > James Chipperfield > Anthony Kimmins > Thomas Cosmo Jones > Jessie Matthews > Helen Wilson > Charlie Chester > Brunel Cohen > Godfrey Winn > Billy Wright