Robert Kee, CBE (5 October 1919 – 11 January 2013)was a British broadcaster, journalist and writer, known for his historical works on World War II and Ireland.
He was educated at Stowe School, Buckingham, and read history at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was a pupil, then a friend, of the historian A.J.P. Taylor.
During World War II he served in the Royal Air Force as a bomber pilot. His Hampden was shot down by flak one night while on a mine-laying operation off the coast of German-occupied Holland. He was imprisoned and spent three years in a German POW camp. This gave him material for his first book A Crowd Is Not Company. It was first published as a novel in 1947 but was later revealed to be an autobiography. It recounts his experiences as a prisoner of war and his various escapes from the Nazi camp. The Times describes it as “arguably the best POW book ever written.”
His career in journalism began immediately after the Second World War. He worked for the Picture Post, then later became a special correspondent for The Sunday Times and The Observer. He was also literary editor of The Spectator. In 1949 Kee was a witness at the marriage of his friend George Orwell to Sonia Brownell.
In 1958 he moved to television. He appeared for many years on both the BBC and ITV as reporter, interviewer and presenter. He presented many current affairs programmes including Panorama, ITN’s First Report and Channel 4’s Seven Days. He was awarded the BAFTA Richard Dimbleby Award in 1976.
Kee wrote and presented the documentary series Ireland – A Television History in 1980. The work was widely shown both in the United Kingdom and the United States and received great critical acclaim, winning the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize. Following the series’ transmission on RTÉ, the Irish national broadcaster, Kee won a Jacob’s Award for his script and presentation.
He was involved in the launch of TV-am in 1983 as one of the “Famous Five”, along with David Frost, Anna Ford, Michael Parkinson and Angela Rippon. He was also amongst those who successfully campaigned for the release of the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven and the Birmingham Six.