The Holmes Service 1940-1949

This is the second instalment of a new series of articles tracing programmes about Holmes from the early days of radio broadcasting by the BBC through to when Holmes first appeared on BBC television to the latest Sherlock series.

The first instalment can be found here.


There is only one programme that I can find broadcast by the BBC Home Service in 1940. That was another “For The Schools” programme on October 7th. At 2.40pm there was an item for “Senior English”, planned and presented by Douglas R Allan about detective stories, with illustrations from Sherlock Holmes, Sexton Blake, etc.


Yet another biography of myself, entitled “My Dear Watson” was broadcast on the BBC Home Service at 7.30pm on February 2nd, 1941.

00004725This appears to have been based on the facts recorded in the Adventures, Memoirs, Return, His Last Bow and Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes and also uses the “scholarship of S C Roberts and H W Bell”. In this programme, I am played by Cecil Trouncer and Holmes by Felix Aylmer.

Sidney Castle Roberts (S C Roberts) was an author, publisher and biographer and a noted Sherlockian, and was president of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. In 1953 he published “Holmes and Watson A Miscellany”, a very amusing book that I am proud to have in my collection.

Harold Wilmerding Bell (H W Bell) was another writer who published a number or articles and books about us. These include  “Baker Street Studies” published in 1934 which I would like to have in my collection.


Nothing relating to Holmes was broadcast in 1942 but “My Dear Watson” was repeated a couple of years after its original broadcast at 9.40pm on July 30th, 1943.


Arthur Wontner

Earlier that same month on July 3rd at 9.35pm began the long association that Carleton Hobbs was to have with Sherlock Holmes though on this occasion he played myself alongside Arthur Wontner as Holmes. This was “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” adapted for the BBC Home Service by Ashley Sampson.

Later that year, Douglas Allan, in another “For The Schools” programme on the BBC Home Service at 2.40pm on December 10th, asked “Do you know Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson?” and introduced the “famous detective and his assistant“!


Nothing appears to have been broadcast in 1944 but on May 17th, 1945 at 10.45 pm the BBC Home Service broadcast an adaptation of  “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” with Holmes played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Finlay Currie playing me. The adaptation was by John Dickson Carr.

On August 9th, 1945 at 9.30pm, the BBC Home Service presented the first of a series of weekly dramas. Entitled “Corner In Crime”, the first of these was “Silver Blaze” with Laidman Browne as Holmes and Norman Shelley playing me as he would later when Carleton Hobbs appeared as Holmes.


Nothing the following year (1946) then on February 7th, 1947, Douglas Allan introduced Holmes again as part of a “For The Schools” programme at 2.40pm on the BBC Home Service.

On April 23rd that year at 6.15pm on the BBC Light Programme, Books and Authors presented a recent book that provided “an unusual study of Sherlock Holmes”. Any ideas what that might have been?


On December 27th the BBC Home Service re-broadcast “The Speckled Band” previously aired in 1945 with Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Finlay Currie.


Nothing in 1948 but on January 8th, 1949 the BBC Light Programme at 2pm in “New Books and Old Books” looked at the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Laidman Browne  The Dam Busters (1954)

Laidman Browne

From August 8th, 1949, the BBC Light Programme at 11pm on successive nights, presented “A Book At Bedtime”, in which Laidman Browne read three of my stories each one presented in five episodes. “The Speckled Band” from 8th to 12th, “The Norwood Builder” from 15th to 19th and “The Bruce-Partington Plans” from 22nd to 26th.

Laidman Browne would play Holmes again on the BBC in the 1950s and he appeared in the 1955 film The Dambusters that also included Nigel Stock who would later play me alongside Douglas Wilmer (and later Peter Cushing) as Holmes on BBC Television.

That was it for the 1940s apart from another “For The Schools” programme at 2.25pm on October 3rd, 1949 when the BBC Home Service had a reading of “The Speckled Band”.

These schools programmes will become significant in the next decade when then begin the Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley pairing as Holmes and Watson. Tune in again soon for The Holmes Service 1950-1959 when Holmes and I first appear on BBC Television!

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