BBC correspondent Brian Hanrahan dies at 61

media captionHanrahan reported from all over the world for the BBC

Brian Hanrahan, one of the most famous BBC correspondents - best known for his coverage of the Falklands War - has died at the age of 61 after a short battle against cancer.

His reporting spanned the reshaping of Nato and the EU, as well as conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Middle East.

As the BBC's Far East, and then Moscow correspondent, he watched dramatic changes unfolding in China and Russia.

He covered Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

'Big character'

It was in the Falkands War in 1982 that he made his reputation, famously counting the returning Harrier jets to ensure he could report the story and get round MoD restrictions.

He said: "I'm not allowed to say how many planes joined the raid, but I counted them all out and I counted them all back. Their pilots were unhurt, cheerful and jubilant, giving thumbs-up signs."

Paying tribute to what he called "a big character", the BBC's world news editor Jon Williams said Mr Hanrahan "would always be remembered for an extraordinary story and an extraordinary turn of phrase".

He said it was his "longevity" and his "tone" that marked the reporter out.

"He could always be relied on to find the right word at the right moment... and he was loved by the audience," Mr Williams said.

He added that the correspondent had recently been scheduled to report on the last flight of the Harrier jets, which are being scrapped because of spending cuts.

media captionHanrahan: 'I counted them all out and I counted them all back'

"It's a mark of the man that even last week, as he lay in his hospital bed, he was texting colleagues to say how sorry he was that he wouldn't be able to cover the last flight of the Harrier.

"Last week, as the Harriers landed for the final time, the crews of RAF Cottesmore recorded a get-well message to Brian - they, like us, valued him as a friend," he said.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was "saddened" to hear of Mr Hanrahan's death and his "professionalism, dedication and unfailing good humour" had won him "great respect and many friends in British politics and throughout the British diplomatic service".

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev added his voice to the tributes, describing him as one of the "most capable correspondents" whose reports were distinguished by his "deep knowlege and objective stance".

BBC director general Mark Thompson said: "Brian was a journalist of unimpeachable integrity and outstanding judgement, but his personal kindness and humanity also came through. That is why audiences and everyone who knew him here will miss him very much."

'Seeking the truth'

Former war reporter Martin Bell paid tribute to a "quiet, decent man" who was "very thorough and very good at his job".

"I never heard an ill word said about Brian Hanrahan," he added.

Former BBC war correspondent Kate Adie described him as an "extremely dogged and factual and intelligent reporter who saw things in front of him and described them graphically".

"He was one of those voices you could rely on... a journalist who was seeking the truth," she said.

The Evening Standard's defence correspondent Robert Fox, who was a close friend, said he was "wonderfully understated, very witty... a terribly good colleague".

Mr Hanrahan covered Asia from Hong Kong in the 1980s, reporting on the reforms of Deng Xiaoping in China, and the assassination of Indira Gandhi in India.

He moved to Moscow when Mr Gorbachev became the Soviet leader, returning to Russia in 2009 to interview the former president.

In 1989 he was present in Tiananmen Square, in Poland for the installation of the first non-communist government in Eastern Europe, at the fall of the Berlin wall and the Romanian revolution.

He then became a diplomatic correspondent - interpreting international affairs from London and travelling the world, particularly during the Balkan wars and the Middle East peace process.

In recent years, the correspondent had covered ceremonial and state events such as the anniversaries of D-Day and the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother.

Following the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, Brian Hanrahan flew to New York to anchor special programmes.

Earlier this year he returned to Poland - from where he had reported on the rise of Solidarity - to cover the plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski.

He was a regular voice on BBC's Radio 4 as presenter of both The World at One and The World This Weekend programmes.

Mr Hanrahan was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and his condition deteriorated after he was admitted to hospital with an infection 10 days ago.

BBC News website readers have been sending in their tributes:

I went to school with Brian Hanrahan and coincidentally had a reunion lunch with some fellow Old Iganatian's only last Friday. We never did get together without his name coming up in conversation although we lost touch some years ago. Even as a boy of 12 Brian had a serious air about him that was to serve him well in later life. Mike Beattie, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Truly saddened by the news. Reporters and correspondents come and go but one or two have a way of reporting matters in an endearing way and we take them into our daily lives as trusted friends. Brian was one of them. I well remember his reports from Kosovo and the Falklands but there are many others that have his style stamped all over them. To his family and close friends, my sincere condolences. He will be missed. Dave, Cheshire

I saw Brian Hanrahan speak at the University of Essex when my brother received his Msc. The thing that stood out was his warmth and good humour. He was an excellent speaker and one really felt a sense of a good man standing before one. And as a child of a father who was in the army at the time of the Falklands, the words "I counted them all out, and I counted them all back" still send tingles down my spine. A figure who will be sadly missed. Debbie, Peterborough

During the Falklands War in 1982, all of us students sat listening to Brian Hanrahan's commentary over the radio when we weren't revising or sitting exams. I loved to follow his reporting over the years, and feel so sad to think of his passing. His words always seemed to get to the heart of both the facts and the human story behind the news. Susan McQuillan, Hertfordshire

During the years we lived in New York, we enjoyed the fact that NBC News used reports by Brian Hanrahan from around the world. Apart from the clarity of his pieces, it gave us a feeling of home to see him. When we returned to the UK, whenever we saw Mr Hanrahan's reports, the same warm feeling returned. We shall miss him and his work. Ernest H Simon, Merstham, Surrey

I remember listening to the famous Falklands RAF sortie report where Brian counted them all out and then all back, I remember as a child breathing a huge sigh of relief as soon as he finished the sentence. Simon Bolton, Manchester

Being an avid news viewer and listener, I considered Brian Hanrahan to be the consummate professional news reporter and analyst. His manner was always measured and informed and his reporting of such a variety of national and international events was delivered with a gentle, genuine and ear-catching turn of phrase. His dulcet tones were a delight and pleasure to listen to. Bill Caldwell, Dudley, West Midlands


A great loss. I've always admired Brian Hanrahan, and considered him to be the voice of the BBC. I well remember his reporting of the Falklands conflict, and how he made the dangers faced by our forces a reality to us all at home. He will be sadly missed. Paul Brett, Clementsport, Nova Scotia, Canada

Brian Hanrahan is what makes the BBC news service the reason why I, and many other avid listeners, believe in the integrity of the news reporting. Brian Hanrahan had an amazing talent of telling a story with the minimum of words but with such beautiful prose. He will be greatly missed. Brian Maxwell, Onsala, Sweden

I never met Brian, but I became a more ardent listener of the BBC as a teen through his reports of the Falklands War. May his soul rest in peace. Dele Ayanboye, Iwo, Nigeria

If someone asked me to think of the name of a TV reporter today Brian Hanrahan would undoubtedly come to mind. A man who epitomised that very British spirit, dedication to his trade and above all a striking personality. Rest in peace. John, Luxembourg