As a young child Whicker moved from Egypt to Richmond, London upon the death of his father. Brought up by his mother, he attended Haberdashers' Aske's School and upon leaving school during the Second World War he was commissioned as an officer in the Devonshire Regiment of the British Army, reaching the rank of captain by 1943. He then joined the (British) Army Film and Photo Unit in Italy in 1943, filming at Anzio, and meeting such influential figures as Bernard Montgomery. He was also responsible for taking into custody the notorious British traitor John Amery.
In 2004, Whicker appeared in a successful television series on this topic, titled Whicker's War. In this series he reveals that he was one of the first of the Allied forces to enter Milan and that he took into custody an SS general and troopers who were looking after the SS vault of money. Whicker also shot footage of the body of Mussolini.
After the Second World War, Whicker became a journalist and broadcaster, acting as a newspaper correspondent during the Korean War (during which time his death was mistakenly reported), and after joining the BBC in 1957, was a reporter for the famous Tonight programme. Whicker later went on to present a television programme for which he's best known, the long-running television series Whicker's World. Whicker continued to present this for more than 30 years (from 1959 until 1990) and was also instrumental in launching Yorkshire Television, producing television programmes for them from 1969 until 1992.
Particularly whilst presenting Whicker's World, Whicker was well known for his particularly subtle brand of satire, and makes an excellent social commentator, a fact attested to by the longevity both of Whicker's World itself, and also by the appeal it holds for those who enjoy it. Whicker's World was lampooned in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch featuring a tropical island where all the inhabitants dress and act like Alan Whicker. Benny Hill, towards the end of his run with the BBC in 1968, impersonated Whicker in a parody called "Knicker's World."
In the New Year's Honours List published 31 December 2004 he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to Broadcasting.
In 1981, a music group called The Evasions released a novelty song recording titled "Wikka Wrap", which featured a Whicker impersonator. Parts of the song was later sampled by Coolio for his song, "1,2,3,4 (Sumpin' New)".
Alan Whicker revealed that while in America one time he heard an "Alan Whicker" impersonation contest on a local radio show (possibly influenced by the Monty Python sketch). He rang up and entered as a contestant and came third.
For many New Zealanders, Alan Whicker is associated with the Mount Erebus disaster, just prior to which he featured in a high profile advertising campaign for Air New Zealand with the slogan "Nobody does it better". The campaign, which ended abruptly with the disaster, was alluded to briefly in the television miniseries Erebus: The Aftermath, where Air New Zealand executives look on despairingly as an Alan Whicker billboard is taken down.
Much confusion over his birth year was investigated by the Daily Mail newspaper several years ago. They published his birth certificate from Egypt showing that his actual birth year was 1921.
He currently lives on Jersey with his partner of more than 30 years, Valerie Kleeman.