Lt Colonel Michael Picton ANSELL CBE, DSO (1905-1994)

Michael Ansell This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 129
  • Subject No: 129
  • Broadcast live: Mon 28 Mar 1960
  • Broadcast time: 7.30-8.00pm
  • Venue: BBC Television Theatre
  • Series: 5
  • Edition: 31

on the guest list...

  • Maj Gus Newport
  • William Peat
  • Col Jimmy Dallmeyer
  • Col Dan Corry
  • Maj Oswald Younger
  • Victoria - wife
  • Brig John Allen
  • Capt Jack Webber
  • Susan Church
  • Col Harry Llewellyn
  • Pat Smythe
  • Antony - son

production team...

  • Researchers: Ken Smith, Ronald Vivian, Liam Nolan, Peter Moore
  • Writers: Ken Smith, Ronald Vivian, Liam Nolan, Peter Moore
  • Director: unknown
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
  • with thanks to Nicholas Ansell for his contribution to this page
related page...

Equestrian Life

from racing to show jumping

Michael Ansell This Is Your Life Michael Ansell This Is Your Life Michael Ansell This Is Your Life Michael Ansell This Is Your Life

Photographs of Michael Ansell This Is Your Life

Michael Ansell autobiography

Michael Ansell recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in his autobiography, Soldier On...

Pillhead was seldom full now, with Antony serving in Cyprus, and Nicholas nearing the end of his time at Cambridge. Nicholas had done well at Magdalene, but like me had found time to hunt and race. He once rode in all five races at Cottenham, winning the first and going to hospital after the fifth!

He became Master of the Cambridge Drag, and in order to have sufficient money for this he spent the summer working on the construction of the M1. His gang, led by a Polish foreman, consisted mainly of Irishmen who, when they found Nicholas was fond of racing, promoted him to driving a 'dumper'. Hard work, a ten-hour day or longer, seven days a week.

In March of that year, 1960, I was 'conned' into appearing on a comparatively new television programme, 'This Is Your Life'. The BBC, having done much research, would lure the unsuspecting victim to the studio by some pretence, and before you knew where you were you were on the stage. In my case they'd asked Victoria, who was against it – after all, my life was our private affair. However, when they said that Antony would be given leave and flown home, she quickly changed her mind. A man arrived at Pillhead, and Victoria asked me to show him the garden. He asked many questions, and I was somewhat surprised by how little he knew, although he appeared to be interested in horticulture. After tea he left and I never gave it another thought, little realsing that all my scrapbooks had gone to Bideford, where Mr Lee, my old sergeant-major, was carefully combing through the lot.

About a fortnight later, Peter Dimmock asked me to go down to the BBC one evening with Bob Dean, to discuss a new television agreement. After a drink and settling our business, Peter explained that he would have to go. Everything had been carefully timed when, to Peter's horror, I asked where I might 'spend a penny'. This delay not only upset Peter but Eamonn Andrews, anxiously looking at his watch in the studio down the road. I wasn't best pleased, but all was forgiven when Antony appeared to say his piece. And great was Victoria's joy to have Antony home for a week, and at no cost.

Michael Ansell Article

Evening Dispatch 29 March 1960

Best laid plans of BBC personalities...


When Eamonn Andrews was waiting to tell the story in the last programme of the present series of This Is Your Life he had some anxious moments waiting for the victim to appear.

For a few minutes, or maybe it was seconds – it must have felt much longer to Andrews – the cameras focussed on the pavement outside the television theatre, but all that could be seen were a few passers-by in the heavy rain.

As Andrews himself remarked it was "one of these moments that really terrify." His exultant whoop as they appeared must have startled the viewers.

The "life" in question was that of war-hero and show jumping personality Lieut-Col. Mike Ansell, CBE, DSO.

Being an Irishman and a former commanding officer of the Lothians and Border Yeomanry, it was something of an Irish-Scottish reunion and among those who appeared on the screen to pay tribute was Major Oswald Younger, MC.

The blinded hero whose life was unfolded before the viewing multitudes was certainly not overawed by the occasion and kept slipping in quiet and humorous remarks about the others on the programme. It was a happy occasion with few of the tense and trying movements so often experienced in this series.

Michael Ansell Article

Daily Mail 29 March 1960



The BBC's present series of This Is Your Life ended by honouring Colonel Mike Ansell, the war-blinded cavalry officer who led the post-war revival in British show-jumping.

It was a very good edition, typical of the series' eye for the good story and for its tact in dealing with it.

When the camera caught Colonel Ansell reaching for the hand of his wife it jumped away at once. There was, and is, no intrusion into private happiness, beyond the essential intrusion of getting the subject on air at all.

I can understand hostility to the series, but I can't agree with it. Its basic purpose is to encourage an optimistic view of affairs and to hold up for admiration people who deserve it. It is not a bad or cheap purpose. Indeed, it has a certain originality; not many mass entertainments could claim as much.

Eamonn Andrews is a compere of unflappable resource and charm.

The narrow edge of the series is its greatest weakness. And it's difficult to cure. There is within the BBC a system of grading, I believe quite unconscious, by which human material is sorted into the compartments that are thought suitable for it.

Thus, Frank Foulkes is a Panorama interview, Lord Morrison goes to Face to Face, Monitor gets Orson Welles, afternoon television gets, let us say, Enid Blyton, Tonight gets the eloquent eccentrics and This Is Your Life gets the kind of person whose story is recognised as a good human one.

In reality all the material is interchangeable, and would derive increased interest by being presented out of its usual setting.

The notion that this programme must be serious, that one flippant, the other human, is regressive. Face to Face had the better idea when it brought John Freeman and Tony Hancock into collision.

Frank Foulkes would make a fascinating subject for This Is Your Life. Lord Morrison would delight the afternoon audience. I should much like to see John Freeman cross-questioning Enid Blyton.

I'd like to leave Andrews with some suggestions for when the series returns.

I suggest Lord Hailsham, Sir Ian Jacob, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Oswald Mosley, Shirley Bassey, Lady Docker, Nancy Mitford, Frank Norman, Aneurin Bevan, Gerald Nabarro, and Cliff Richard; a very representative list, balanced to a hair's breadth.

Michael Ansell Article

North Devon Journal 1 April 1960

'This is your life' choice

Choice of Lieut-Col M P ("Mike") Ansell, CBE, DSO, of Pillhead House, Bideford, as the subject of the BBC's This is your life TV programme on Monday evening – incidentally, the last in the present series – gave pleasure to a host of friends, including a wide circle locally where he has made his home since 1944, establishing a flower growing business. It would have given added pleasure had opportunity been found for some representatives of this district to share in the tributes to him, for Bideford is proud that such an outstanding personality chose to make his home here. However, the emphasis was, naturally, on his great work for British show jumping and among personalities honouring this were Miss Pat Smythe and Col Harry Llewellyn. An expert horseman before the last war, being a member of the British team, Col Ansell has since, despite blindness and other injuries sustained on active service, been the driving force behind British show jumping successes in the post-war era as chairman of the British Show Jumping Association and other capacities.

Son's surprise

His wife, whom he married in 1936, and who must have been in the secret to "capture" him unsuspectingly that evening as he came from a meeting accompanied by Mr Peter Dimmock, head of BBC outside broadcasts, joined him on the platform in the course of the programme. Big surprise to conclude was the arrival of their younger son, Lieut Anthony Ansell, serving in a cavalry regiment in Cyprus, who had been flown home specially for the occasion. Film of Col Ansell's garden at Bideford was included in the programme.

Michael Ansell Article

Empire News 3 April 1960

Eamonn Andrews

Round about this time of year I get that feeling I imagine the lumberjacks have when the ice begins to crack and the logs start swimming down the river to the sawmills. Spring in their case, summer in mine.

The cracks are when my television programmes end their runs and bits of free time start rolling down. In a month, they'll all be ended. Football will be over, and I'll be flying from the cricket season to the tall, concrete forests of New Amsterdam, more recently known as New York.

First programme to reach the end of its run was This Is Your Life, when last week we met that undefeatable character Colonel Mike Ansell, CBE, DSO. Here was the man who more than anyone else has brought the one-time "snob" sport of show jumping to its greatest popularity ever.

Of course, there was much more to it than that. Here was one of the most cheerful blind men I have ever met, and blind man at that who could always SEE the bright side, whether in a concentration camp in Germany or in his flowering garden in Bideford.


If you saw the programme you may have wondered about two points. One: What he said when I surprised him with "This is your life, Colonel Mike Ansell?"

Simple. This unaffected, unambiguous sportsman just missed the microphone with: "I've been b....y well had!"

Two: What was happening when he failed to arrive on time before our street cameras, and when he should have been leaving a meeting with Peter Dimmock? Again simple.

Everyone in on the secret had synchronised watches. The signal to end the meeting was arranged to the split second. Every step had been timed, every stairway counted. Nothing was left to chance. Or so we thought.

How were we to know that on the way out the Colonel would disappear into the cloakroom?

Michael Ansell Article

Unknown source and date


Col Mike Ansell in This is your life

Lieutenant Anthony Ansell, of Bideford, was flown from Cyprus to take part in the BBC television programme This Is Your Life on Monday.

He was granted leave by his regiment, the 12th Royal Lancers, to provide a surprise finale to the programme, the subject of which was his father, Lieut-Col Mike Ansell.

Col Ansell, internationally-known in the show-jumping world, and holder of the CBE and the DSO, had just left a meeting of show-jumping organisers and BBC outside broadcasting officials when the television programme came on the air.

In pouring rain he was escorted to the studio at Shepherd's Bush Green by the head of BBC outside broadcasts, Mr Peter Dimmock, and he was taken completely by surprise when the programme compere, Eamonn Andrews, met him and guided him down the aisle of the theatre to the stage.


There were more surprises, too, when Col Ansell, whose home is off the Old Barnstaple Road, just outside Bideford, reached the stage.

The first person he met was Major Gus Newport, who was Farrier Major in the Colonel's regiment in India, over 30 years ago.

And, as many notable events in his active service and civilian life were recalled, he was to meet more of the people who have shared parts of it with him.

First there was Mr William Peat, who was a groom at Army show-jumping events before the war. Then Mr Jimmy Dallmeyer, who was at his side on active service with the British Expeditionary Force in France.

It was in France that Col Ansell was wounded so seriously by enemy fire that it led eventually to his becoming totally blind.


There were tributes from Major Oswald Younger to Col Ansell's courage as a prisoner of war in France and Germany, and tributes to the way he conquered physical handicap, from Miss Susan Church, who worked at a rehabilitation centre for the blind.

Brig John Allen, and the Chief Steward of the British Show Jumping Association, Capt Jack Webber, explained why Col Ansell was the obvious choice for the chairmanship of the British Show Jumping Association, and they were supported by Col Harry Llewelyn, of Foxhunter fame, and by Britain's leading woman show jumper, Miss Pat Smythe.

And Mrs Victoria Ansell was present to hear her husband – former member of the British Show Jumping team, former youngest commander in the British Army, and now honorary colonel of the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards – described as the most fitting person to end the present series of This Is Your Life.

Series 5 subjects

Evelyn Laye | Donald Caskie | Eva Turner | Billy Butlin | James Slater | Edmund Arbuthnott | Louis Langford | O P Jones
Richard Hearne | Francoise Rigby | John Barclay | Thomas Drake | William Merrilees | John Lord | Russ Conway | Stanley Bishop
Leonard Stanmore | Arthur Askey | Robert Oldfield | Alicia Markova | Frederic Morena | Hilda Rowcliffe | Thomas Salmon
Harry Welchman | Harry Webb | Nat Gonella | David Barclay | Richard Todd | Thomas Bodkin | Gracie Fields | Michael Ansell