Charles Hill - 'The Radio Doctor' - 1904-1989

Photo:Charles Hill

Charles Hill

MP and Baron Hill of Luton

By Andrew Gregory

Charles Hill (1904-1989) studied medicine at Cambridge and London, gaining the degree of MD.  He was Deputy Medical Officer of Oxford in 1930 and later Secretary of the British Medical Association from 1944 to 1950.

During the second world war the Ministry of Health wanted to broadcast messages in the most effective way possible, and Charles Hill became the “Radio Doctor’, part of the radio programme ‘Kitchen Front’ broadcast every morning.  He broadcast advice, using clear everyday language, on wartime diet and on how to stay healthy, and became a household name.

He was still BMA Secretary when the National Health Service was introduced in 1948, and he negotiated with Aneurin Bevan to ensure a more independent role for GPs.

He became MP for Luton in 1950 as a Conservative and National Liberal, and held the seat until 1963.  He moved to Harpenden at this time, living in Milton Road.

He became Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food in 1951, Postmaster-General in 1955 and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 1957-1961.

He was appointed Chairman of the Independent Television Authority in 1963 and was also created a life peer as ‘Baron Hill of Luton’.

Although he had been hostile to the BBC during his time as Chairman of ITV, he was surprisingly appointed by Harold Wilson to be Chairman of the BBC Governors.  He retired from the BBC in 1972.

He married Marion Spencer Wallace and had two sons and three daughters.

Selected Publications:

C. Hill. (1964).  Both Sides of the Hill.  London: Heinemann.  (Speeches and broadcasts)

C. Hill (1974).  Behind the Screen. The Broadcasting Memoirs of Lord Hill.  London: Sidgwick & Jackson.  (Work at ITA and BBC)

This page was added by Andrew Gregory on 01/05/2012.
Comments about this page

Lord Hill spent much of his retirement in an apartment in 'Borodale' on the site of the former doctors group surgery in Kirkwick Avenue, Harpenden, but by then - as now - a well-appointed apartment block.

By Alan Bunting
On 17/06/2012

I remember Charles Hill very well. He was for many years a Vice President of Bamville Cricket Club and at the time he lived in bungalow on East Common, almost opposite the club. He often used to wander over to watch the game on a Sunday afternoon. I was secretary of the club at that time and used to take him the fixture card and newsletter at the start of each new season. I was always invited in and sat and discussed the previous season with him for some considerable time. Lady Hill always used to serve us with tea.

By John Olley
On 17/07/2012

Phil Goodwin, an engineer with the GPO (General Post Office) answered an emergency call on a dark night in November 1956 - this is his account of meeting Charles Hill, which we have found in the local history archives:

It was in 1956 on a dark wet November evening at about 11.00 pm when I was called out to go to Harpenden, to the home of  Dr Charles Hill who was the Postmaster General at the time with cabinet responsibility for both Posts and the Telephone service. To me he was the great boss at the top. Every evening a test call was made to all Cabinet ministers to check their scrambler telephone in case of national emergency. His scrambler was not working, so I was called to attend.

At the time I was technical officer for UAX’s and special faults and on emergency call-out at home. Fortunately I had not gone to bed, so I went to the garage and started my old Morris Z van – no heater, poor lights, but boasting a large fog lamp of which I was very proud as an emergency call-out man.

The journey to Harpenden, about 8 miles across country, was not  very pleasant. I found the house [26 Milton Road] and was met by Mrs Hill who was surprised that anyone would attend that night. I was very apprehensive as if there was a fault on the scrambler unit, I would have to arrange a replacement which meant a 30 mile journey to Whitehall exchange in London to collect it and return to Harpenden to install and test, all in the middle of a winter night.

In fact Dr Hill was in bed with flu and the scrambler unit was under the head of the bed. He greeted me warmly and thanked me for turning out. On hands and knees I found the scrambler unit and to my great relief, spotted the mains plug had come out of the unit. Hoping this was the cause I plugged it in and made the required test call to scrambler control in Whitehall. All was well, and he insisted I had a large whisky before leaving. I was not used to such drink but could hardly refuse – after all he was my boss!

I don’t think I remember driving home but there was no traffic about, but even if I had been stopped I knew, and was known by, all the local coppers as I maintained all the Police switchboards!

Some emergency call-outs had their compensations over and above the minimum 2 hours overtime.

By Rosemary Ross
On 01/02/2019

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