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John Simpson (journalist)

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Title: John Simpson (journalist)  
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Collection: 1944 Births, Alumni of Magdalene College, Cambridge, Bafta Winners (People), Bbc Newsreaders and Journalists, British Male Writers, British Non-Fiction Writers, British War Correspondents, Commanders of the Order of the British Empire, Emmy Award Winners, English Anglicans, Living People, Naturalised Citizens of Ireland, People Associated with the University of Roehampton, People Educated at St Paul's School, London, People from Suffolk Coastal (District), People from Thornton-Cleveleys
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John Simpson (journalist)

John Simpson
Simpson at Chatham House, April 2015
Born John Cody Fidler-Simpson
(1944-08-09) 9 August 1944
London, England
Ethnicity British
Occupation Journalist
Notable credit(s) BBC News
"BBC News: The Editors"
Spouse(s) Diane Jean Petteys (1965-1995)
Adele Kruger (1996-present)
Children 3
from the BBC programme From Our Own Correspondent, 12 July 2013.[1]

John Cody Fidler-Simpson[2] CBE (born 9 August 1944) is an English foreign correspondent. He is world affairs editor of BBC News.[3] He has spent all his working life at the BBC. He has reported from more than 120 countries, including thirty war zones, and has interviewed many world leaders.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Awards 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Bibliography 5
    • Novels 5.1
    • Non-fiction 5.2
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life and education

Simpson was born in London and says in his autobiography that his father was an anarchist.[4] He was educated at Dulwich College Preparatory School and St Paul's School, followed by Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read English and was editor of Granta magazine. In 1965 he was a member of the Magdalene University Challenge team. A year later Simpson started as a trainee sub-editor at BBC radio news.


Simpson became a BBC reporter in 1970. On his very first day, the then-prime minister Harold Wilson, angered by what he saw as the sudden and impudent appearance of the novice's microphone, punched him in the stomach.[5]

Simpson was the BBC's political editor from 1980 until 1981. He presented the Nine O'Clock News from 1981 until 1982 and became diplomatic editor in 1982. He had also served as a correspondent in South Africa, Brussels and Dublin. He became BBC world affairs editor in 1988. Simpson also presents the occasional current affairs programme Simpson's World.

Simpson's reporting career includes the following episodes:

  • In November 1969 he interviewed the exiled King of Buganda, Mutesa II, hours before death in his London flat from alcohol poisoning. The official cause was suicide but some suspected assassination. Simpson told the police the following day that the king, a fellow-graduate of Magdalene College, Cambridge, had been sober and in good spirits, but this line of enquiry was not pursued.
  • He travelled back from Paris to Tehran with the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini on 1 February 1979, a return that heralded the Iranian Revolution, as millions lined the streets of the capital.
  • He spent the early part of the 1991 Gulf War in Baghdad, before being expelled by the authorities.
  • Simpson reported from Belgrade during the Kosovo War of 1999, where he was one of a handful of journalists to remain in the Yugoslav capital after the authorities, at the start of the conflict, expelled those from NATO countries.
  • Two years later, he was one of the first reporters to enter Afghanistan in 2001, famously disguising himself by wearing a burqa, and subsequently Kabul in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.[6]
  • In 2002 he had an interview with the Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn just four days before his assassination. Fortuyn was not happy with Simpson and his questions and so sent him away just five minutes after the start of the interview.
  • He was the first BBC journalist to answer questions in a war zone from internet users via BBC News Online.
  • While reporting on a non-embedded basis from Northern Iraq in the 2003 Iraq war, Simpson was injured in a friendly fire incident when a U.S. warplane bombed the convoy of American and Kurdish forces he was with. The attack was caught on film: a member of Simpson's crew was killed and he himself was left deaf in one ear.[7]
Simpson being questioned about his career by fellow-journalists at London's Frontline Club, October 2007

Simpson has freely admitted to using hallucinogenic drugs offered to him by locals in various jungles of the world. This prompted jibes from other panellists when Simpson appeared on BBC Television's topical quiz show Have I Got News For You. On his first appearance, Simpson revealed that one hallucination involved a six-foot goldfish putting its flipper round his shoulders while wearing dark glasses and a straw hat.

In 2008 and 2009, Simpson took part in a BBC programme called Top Dogs: Adventures in War, Sea and Ice. It saw Simpson unite with fellow Britons Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the adventurer, and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the round-the-world yachtsman. The team went on three trips, each experiencing each other's adventure field. The first episode, aired on 27 March 2009, saw Simpson, Fiennes and Knox-Johnston go on a news-gathering trip to Afghanistan. The team reported from the legendary Khyber Pass and infamous Tora Bora mountain complex. The three also undertook a voyage around Cape Horn and an expedition hauling sledges across the deep-frozen Frobisher Bay in the far north of Canada.

During the 2011 Libyan civil war, Simpson travelled with the rebels during their westward offensive, reporting on the war from the front lines and coming under fire on several occasions.[8]


Simpson has received various awards, including a CBE in the Gulf War honours list in 1991, an International Emmy for his report for the BBC Ten O'Clock News on the fall of Kabul, the Golden Nymph at the Cannes Film Festival, a Peabody award in the US, and three Baftas.[9] He was appointed an honorary fellow of his old college at Cambridge, Magdalene, in 2000, and became the first Chancellor of Roehampton University in 2005. Various universities have awarded him honorary doctorates: De Montfort, Suffolk College at the University of East Anglia, Nottingham, Dundee, Southampton, Sussex,[10] St Andrews, and Leeds. He has received the Ischia International Journalism Award and the Bayeux-Calvados Award for war correspondents. In June 2011 he was made a Freeman of the City of London. John Simpson was honoured by the City of Westminster at a Marylebone tree planting ceremony in May 2012.[11][12]

Personal life

Simpson has two daughters, Julia and Eleanor, by his first marriage to American Diane Petteys.

He married Dee (Adele) Kruger, a South African television producer, in 1996. They had a son in January 2006.[13]

Simpson, whose grandmother was born in Ireland, holds British and Irish citizenship; he moved back to London in 2005 after living in Ireland for several years.[14]

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Simpson admitted to using a legal tax avoidance scheme to purchase his London home in 2004, but stated that he would abandon the scheme and pay all applicable domestic taxes on its sale.[15]

He is an Anglican and worships at Chelsea Old Church.[16][17]

In 2015, he was named one of GQ's 50 best dressed British men.[18]



  • Moscow Requiem (1981);
  • A Fine and Private Place (1983).


  • The Disappeared: Voices from a Secret War, with Jana Bennett, (1985);[19]
  • Behind Iranian Lines (1988);
  • Despatches from the Barricades (1990);
  • Strange Places, Questionable People (1998);
  • A Mad World, My Masters (2000);
  • News From No Man's Land (2002);
  • The Wars Against Saddam: Taking the Hard Road to Baghdad (2004);
  • Days from a Different World: A Memoir of Childhood (2005);
  • Not Quite World's End: A Traveller's Tales (2007);
  • Twenty Tales From The War Zone (2007);
  • Unreliable Sources (2010).


  1. ^ "John Simpson".  
  2. ^ "John Simpson" (1944-), Broadcaster and journalist; World Affairs Editor at BBC and presenter of the monthly "BBC News: The Editors",, National Portrait Gallery
  3. ^ "'"John Simpson: 'The Iraq memories I can't rid myself of.  
  4. ^ Strange Places, Questionable People, Pan, London, 1999, p35
  5. ^ BBC. "Correspondents;On This Day". BBC. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "The journalist - John Simpson, the BBC's world affairs editor, recently disguised himself as a Pathan woman to get round the Taliban's refusal to allow foreign journalists into Afghanistan"
  7. ^ "'This is just a scene from hell'". BBC (London). 6 April 2003. Retrieved 6 April 2003. 
  8. ^ "Bin Jawad: First real test in Libya's fighting". BBC News. 7 March 2011. 
  9. ^ BBC NewsWatch (1 December 2003). "Profile - John Simpson". BBC News. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  10. ^ "Sussex honours John Simpson for hard-hitting global news coverage". University of Sussex. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  11. ^ Veteran BBC reporter plants 500th tree of Marylebone ecology project, Ham&High available on accessed 29 May 2012
  12. ^ John Simpson plants Initiative’s 500th tree in Marylebone accessed 7 July 2012 on YouTube
  13. ^ "Simpson becomes a father aged 61". BBC (London). 16 January 2006. Retrieved 16 January 2006. 
  14. ^ Barber, Lynn (24 February 2002). "Travels with Auntie". The Observer (London). Retrieved 24 February 2002. 
  15. ^ Furness, Hannah (3 July 2012). "BBC broadcaster John Simpson admits tax avoidance". Irish Independent (Dublin). Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "50 Best Dressed Men in Britain 2015". GQ. 5 Jan 2015. 
  19. ^ Arthur Gavshon (19 September 1985). "Britain's Juntas". London Review of Books. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 

External links

  • Simpson answers questions from fellow-journalists at London's Frontline Club, October 2007
  • When suffering gets personal
  • Simpson reports on the 100th anniversary of his great grandfather making the first powered flight in Britain
Media offices
Preceded by
David Holmes
Political Editor: BBC News
1980 - 1981
Succeeded by
John Cole
Preceded by
New Position
World Affairs Editor: BBC News
Succeeded by
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