“Buckeridge was born in Hendon in Middlesex, the son of Ernest George Buckeridge and his wife, Gertrude Alice (formerly Smith), but, following the death of his bank secretary father in World War I, he moved with his mother to Ross-on-Wye to live with his grandparents. Following the end of the war they returned to London where the young Buckeridge developed a taste for theatre and writing. A scholarship from the Bank Clerks’ Orphanage fund permitted his mother to send him to Seaford College boarding school which, at the time, was located at Corsica Hall (see next post) in Seaford, East Sussex. His experiences as a schoolboy there were instrumental in his later work.
Following the death of Buckeridge’s maternal grandfather, the family moved to Welwyn Garden City where his mother worked in promoting the new suburban utopia to Londoners. In 1930 Buckeridge began work at his late father’s bank but soon tired of it. Instead he took to acting including an uncredited part in Anthony Asquith’s 1931 film Tell England.
After marrying his first wife, Sylvia Brown, he enrolled at University College London where he involved himself in Socialist and anti-war groups (he later became an active member of CND) but did not take a degree after failing Latin. With a young family to support, Buckeridge found himself teaching in Suffolk and Northamptonshire which provided further experiences to inform his later work. During World War II Buckeridge was called up as a fireman and wrote several plays for the stage before returning to teaching at St Lawrence College, Ramsgate.
He used to tell his pupils stories about the fictional Jennings (based however, on an old schoolfellow Diarmid Jennings), a prep schoolboy boarding at Linbury Court Preparatory School, under headmaster Mr Pemberton-Oakes.
In 1962, he met his second wife, Eileen Selby. They settled near Lewes where Buckeridge continued to write and also appeared in small (non-singing) roles at Glyndebourne.
Buckeridge died on 28 June 2004 after a spell of ill health. He is survived by his second wife Eileen and three children, two from his first marriage.
After World War II Buckeridge wrote a series of radio plays for the BBC’s Children’s Hour chronicling the exploits of Jennings and his rather more staid friend, Darbishire; the first, Jennings Learns the Ropes, was first broadcast on 16 October 1948. In 1950, the first of more than twenty novels, Jennings Goes to School, appeared. The tales make liberal use of Buckeridge’s inventive schoolboy slang (“fossilised fish hooks!”, “crystallised cheesecakes!”, and others). These books, as well known as Frank Richards’ Billy Bunter books in their day, were translated into a number of other languages. The stories of middle class English schoolboys were especially popular in Norway where several were filmed.
The Norwegian books and films were rewritten completely for a Norwegian setting with Norwegian names; Jennings is called “Stompa” in the Norwegian books.
More recently, the first four books were published in an omnibus edition by Prion, The Best of Jennings: Four Utterly Wizard Adventures All Jolly Well Complete and Unabridged (2010). In 2011, six titles were produced as unabridged audio books.
Buckeridge made no small contribution to postwar British humour, a fact acknowledged by such comedians as Stephen Fry. The deftly worded farce and delightful understatement of his narratives has been compared to the work of P. G. Wodehouse, Ben Hecht and Ben Travers.”