Norman Shelley

Norman Shelley

Norman Shelley (February 16, 1903August 22, 1980) was an English actor, best known for his work in radio, in particular for the BBC's Children's Hour. He also had a recurring role as Colonel Danby in the long-running radio soap opera The Archers.

Perhaps Shelley's single best-known role was as Winnie-the-Pooh in The Children's Hour adaptations of A. A. Milne's stories - for many people of the right age, his is the definitive voice of Pooh. Other roles for The Children's Hour included Dr. Watson (opposite Carleton Hobbs as Holmes) in a series of adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories; and the role of Dennis the Dachshund in the specially-written Toytown series. Shelley also played the parts of Gandalf and Tom Bombadil in the 1955-6 radio adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. In the 1973 BBC television series Jack the Ripper Shelley played Detective Constable Walter Dew.

A recurring rumour holds that some of Winston Churchill's most famous speeches to Parliament during World War II were subsequently recorded for radio broadcast (the House of Commons not being at the time set up for location recording) not by Churchill, but by Shelley impersonating Churchill. Although the rumour has been promoted by controversial revisionist WWII historic writer David Irving to support his unflattering view of Churchill, there is a lack of supporting evidence, and many of Irving's specific claims have been disproven by other researchers. Shelley did record a performance of Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches" speech, but that was several years after the speech was originally made, and there is no record of its having been broadcast as genuine Churchill (or, indeed, at all).

Former BBC producer Trevor Hill (BBC Northern Children's Hour, Sooty, Pinky and Perky etc.) was a close friend of Norman Shelley and actually worked with him during the war at the BBC when Norman was often persuaded to imitate Churchill while everyone in the room closed their eyes. According to Trevor it was impossible to tell the difference. He is also adamant that Shelley deputised for Churchill on wartime radio on at least three separate occasions (possibly more), when Churchill was either out of the country or indisposed ill in bed. It was a well kept secret, however, because the government did not want either the British public or the Nazis to know where Churchill was or what he was doing.

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