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Harry Secombe
Sir Harry Donald Secombe, CBE (8 September 192111 April 2001) was a Welsh entertainer with a noted fine tenor singing voice and a talent for comedy.

Born at St. Thomas, Swansea, he served in the Royal Artillery British Army (he referred to his unit as 'The Five-Mile Snipers") during World War II in North Africa. This was where he first met Spike Milligan in Tunisia. Milligan's artillery battery had a larger caliber cannon that was too big for the gun pits Secombe's unit's cannon had used. The rest of Secombe's battery had alread moved and he was with the last element in some tents at the foot of a cliff below their former position. The officers in Milligan's battery didn't bother to enlarge the pits. When Spike's cannon fired its first shell, the recoil drove the gun up out of the pit and over the cliff. Secombe recalled that when the weapon fell outside the tent, he and his mates thought, "My God! They're throwing cannons at us!" A moment later, the flap of the tent opened and Spike poked his head in and said in his Eccles' voice, "Has anyone seen a gun?"

His first comedy act was a routine about how people shaved. Secombe always claimed that his ability to sing could always be counted to save him when he bombed. Both Milligan and Sellers credited him with keeping them on the bill when club owners wanted to sack him.

In the early 1950s, he joined with Milligan, Michael Bentine and Peter Sellers in the BBC radio comedy The Goon Show. Secombe was notable playing Neddie Seagoon, the focus of many of the show's absurd plots. He also shared his birthday, 8 September, with Peter Sellers.

Secombe appeared in many stage musicals, including Pickwick (1963, based on Dickens's The Pickwick Papers) and The Four Musketeers (1967), and had several chart successes, the song most associated with him being "If I Ruled the World" (from Pickwick). He also appeared as Mr. Bumble in Carol Reed's film of Lionel Bart's Oliver! (1968), and in the Envy segment of The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins.

Later in life, Secombe (whose brother Fred Secombe was a vicar) attracted new audiences as a presenter of religious programmes, such as the BBC's Songs of Praise and ITV's Highway. He was also a special programming consultant to Harlech Television.

He was knighted in 1981, and jokingly referred to himself as Sir Cumference (in recognition of his rotund figure). Comedian Vic Reeves mentioned Secombe in his 1991 song "Meals On Wheels" ("Harry Secombe wants his pie and peas").

Secombe suffered a stroke in 1997, from which he made a slow recovery, only to be diagnosed with prostate cancer the following September. After suffering a second stroke in 1999, he was forced to abandon his television career, but made a documentary about his condition in the hope of giving encouragement to other sufferers.

Secombe and his wife, Myra Atherton, had four children.

He died at the age of 79, from prostate cancer, at his home in Shamley Green, Surrey, England.
 


 

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