Web Page No 2464
9th April 2018
First Picture: Raymond Baxter Fighter pilot
Second Picture: Raymond Baxter Motor Racer
Third Picture: Raymond Baxter OBE
It seemed for a time in the 1960s that every time we turned on the television there was Raymond Baxter with his extrovert polish and buoyant optimism, in fact he did possibly more than any other broadcaster to popularise science and bring new British inventions into the public eye. In 1965, he became the first presenter of TV's Tomorrow's World. He broadcast from Concorde, in its early stages; he introduced the pocket calculator, microwave, and the barcode- and also less likely hopefuls such as a wheelbarrow designed with a ball instead of a wheel. He remained at Tomorrow's World, which attracted audiences of up to 10 million, until, in 1977, when a new editor, Michael Blakstad, ushered in an era of more "investigative" reporting.
Glyn Jones, the first editor of Tomorrow's World, had given Raymond Baxter the job because of his outside broadcast experience and a capacity to deal with the unexpected, was rare in live studio broadcasting. Colleagues found him the archetypal, unruffled frontman, brilliant at delivering words written by others, although they were not so praising about his editorial judgment. A further complication was that Glynn Jones had come from the Daily Mirror, which was far from being the newspaper Raymond Baxter most favoured. However, with the onset of Michael Blakstad’s regime, Raymond, at 55, had allegedly become a "dinosaur", who vulgarised science by talking about it in a tone that suggested - to one newspaper critic - that he was addressing half-witted foreigners.
His background suggested little formal connection with science, except that his father was a science teacher. His schooldays at Ilford County High school ended early when the second world war broke out. He became a qualified Spitfire pilot by the time he was 18 and served with 65, 93, and 602 squadrons in Britain and abroad, instructed fighter pilots, and made dive bomber raids on German V2 rocket bases in the last year of the war.
After the war, he auditioned for British Forces Broadcasting in Cairo, and returned to Britain a year later in an attempt to join the BBC, but was referred back to Forces radio for more training. This he did in Germany, finally becoming civilian deputy director of the then British Forces Network. Facilities in Germany were basic and he had to be a jack-of-all-trades. But when he had another crack at the BBC two years later, he was a master of his craft. At least, he thought so, though the BBC insisted he got regional experience as well in Bristol.
He loved motor racing, and competed in the Monte Carlo, the Alpine, Tulip and RAC rallies; he also took part, as a crew member, in the New Zealand Air Race of 1953. As an outside broadcasts reporter, he was a natural to cover air shows and boat races, while his manner also made him suitable for state funerals and the 1953 coronation.
He staked his claim as a science populariser in 1958 with a television series called ‘Eye On Research’. It showed the possibilities, and some said, the limitations, of using a keen-eyed and enthusiastic layman to present complicated science. Three years after the launch of Tomorrow's World he left the BBC staff to go freelance - though continuing with the programme - so that he could become director of motoring publicity for the ailing British Motor Corporation. He was not a natural company man and the arrangement lasted only a year.
A few months before his departure from Tomorrow's World, the gardener on his estate at Denham, Buckinghamshire, took him to an industrial tribunal amid much publicity after being sacked for incompetence. Raymond Baxter won the case, but not without cost: he uncharacteristically broke down in tears during the hearing. A year later he sold the estate a moved to Henley.
His own departure from the BBC had, he admitted, also been bitter. He did not include Tomorrow's World in his Who's Who entry, except for the mention of the books he wrote on it with James Burke and Michael Latham. However, he carried on working occasionally for the BBC, covering the Farnborough Air Show many times, and was heard in the BBC's programmes in commemoration of D-Day.
He sailed a lot and enjoyed his honours, including an OBE awarded in 2003 and being made a freeman of the City of London.
Raymond Frederic Baxter was born on 25th January 1922 and died on 15th September 2006 at the age of 84. His American wife, Sylvia, whom he married in 1945, died in 1996. Their children, Graham and Jenny, survive him.
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News and Views:
On this day 9th April 1960-1965.
On 09/04/1960 the number one single was My Old Man's a Dustman - Lonnie Donegan and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was The Budget (All Channels) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 09/04/1961 the number one single was Wooden Heart - Elvis Presley and the number one album was GI Blues - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Labour Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmatians. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 09/04/1962 the number one single was Wonderful Land - The Shadows and the number one album was Blue Hawaii - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was The Budget (All Channels) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Film director Michael Curtiz and ex Beatle Stu Sutcliffe die.
On 09/04/1963 the number one single was Summer Holiday - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was Summer Holiday - Cliff Richard & the Shadows. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Atomic US submarine sinks killing 129.
On 09/04/1964 the number one single was Can't Buy Me Love - The Beatles and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Labour Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Beatles have 13 records in US chart.
On 09/04/1965 the number one single was Concrete & Clay - Unit 4 Plus 2 and the number one album was Rolling Stones Number 2 - The Rolling Stones. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.