Dick Barton, Special Agent

Dick Barton was an essential part of my childhood. It was a BBC radio serial that aired at 6.45 pm every weekday. I was addicted to it, as were all children I knew. Between the ages of 6 and 10 it was a nightly ritual. Each episode was only 15 minutes long, and was introduced by the thundering music of a tune called "Devil's Gallop."

Dick, accompanied by his mates Snowy and Jock, was involved in all kinds of scrapes, fighting enemy agents, crooks and subversives. Despite hair-raising situations every night, he always managed to extricate himself and his chums, and to thwart the evils he confronted daily. He saved Britain from disaster on a regular basis. It was harmless fantasy, and provided the material for schoolyard games as we re-enacted his adventures.

When the series stopped, in the spring of 1951, it left a huge hole in our lives, though the 6.45 slot was later filled by "The Archers, an everyday story of country folk," that still runs today. Dick Barton was featured in three Hammer movies, but they never achieved the cult status of the radio serial that at one time had a peak audience of 15 million. Somehow, seeing it on screen in black and white was not nearly as vivid and exciting as the sound-only radio version whose worlds and characters were conjured up by the imagination of the listeners.