Sir Harry Secombe

Sir Harry Secombe

Sir Harry Secombe

Last updated: 20 November 2008

One of the UK's best-loved entertainers, with skills in acting, singing and comedy.

He was born Harry Donald Secombe on 8 September 1921, in St Thomas, Swansea. He served during the Second World War in North Africa, meeting Spike Milligan while on service. Perhaps apochryphally, the pair came together when Milligan accidentally allowed a howitzer cannon to fall down a cliff, under which Secombe was sitting.

"Suddenly there was a terrible noise as some monstrous object fell from the sky quite close to us. There was considerable confusion, and in the middle of it all the flap of the truck was pushed open and a young, helmeted idiot asked 'Anybody see a gun?' It was Milligan..." said Secombe.

After the war finished, the pair hooked up to work on BBC Radio's The Goon Show with Peter Sellers and others. This anarchic, absurdist programme became one of the most influential comedies of the 20th century.

During its nine years of broadcasting, it was syndicated in America by NBC, and developed a raft of catchphrases, famous sketches and songs. Secombe's own contribution to the show extended to a small number of minor characters and the main character of Neddie Pugh Seagoon, about which Sellers and Milligan spun their sketches.

He was one of the first big-name performers to work on the new ITV network in 1955. It was scripted by Eric Sykes and Secombe starred as Fred Nerk.

After the end of the The Goons, Secombe concentrated on semi-comedic appearances in stage musicals then moved to presenting in his latter years. His musical career ran alongside his comedy and acting careers until 1978.

He was knighted in 1981 (quipping that he was "Sir Cumference" in reference to his girth) and died of prostate cancer, aged 79, on 11 April 2001.

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