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Francis George ‘Frank’ GILLARD CBE (1Dec08-20Oct98) the veteran BBC broadcaster, war reporter and BBC executive represents the important roles of both war correspondents and the BBC in WW2.
He died six weeks before his 90th birthday but still looked much younger and remained sprightly, fluent and lucid until he died. He was born in Tiverton and As an overseas BBC war correspondent he would cover the campaigns in North Africa, Italy, Normandy and up to Berlin between 1941and 1945.
Frank Gillard was educated at Wellington School, Somerset, and St Luke’s College, Exeter, there gaining a London University BSc and was a pre-war teacher and made some broadcast talks. In October 1941 he joined the BBC staff at Bristol, first as a talks assistant and then became a war correspondent with the Army’s Southern Command. He was the only BBC correspondent to cover the Dieppe Raid.
When he went out to the Middle East as one of the successors to the BBC’s first war correspondent, Richard Dimbleby, he was able to report the successes beyond El Alamein from further forward and by his reporting gained the trust of the front line soldiers, staff and General Montgomery.
Frank Gillard remained with the Eighth Army to cover the later landings in Sicily and Italy up to Salerno, before returning to UK. Shortly afterwards he became the senior BBC reporter in and beyond Normandy, right up to the linking up of US and Soviet forces on the Elbe.
Post-war he was head of BBC West Regional Programmes 1945-55, Controller, West Region 1956-63, Director and later Managing Director, Radio 1963-70.
After retirement from the BBC in late 1969 as Managing Director Radio, for some years he helped contribute to both American and Australian public service broadcasting. In 1971, he helped to ensure an oral history archive for the future was undertaken to cover the candid memories of early BBC broadcasters and later a similar operation for a filmed record.