Christopher Serpell was born in Leeds in 1910, the son of the senior master of Leeds Grammar School.
After school he went to Merton College Oxford where he studied Classics. His first job was as a cub reporter with the Yorkshire Post, after which he moved to the London Times sometime in the 1930s where he remained as a reporter until the outbreak of war. In April 1939 he married Jean Crichton, his wife and companion for the next 46 years. Too short-sighted for military service during the War, he served in naval intelligence where his first boss was Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame). After the war he joined the BBC and served as its Rome Correspondent for seven years. In 1953 he was promoted to Washington Correspondent where he covered, among other events, Nikita Khrushchev’s state visit to the USA, the McCarthy era anti-communist ‘witch hunts,’ and the Cuban Revolution. In 1960 he, Jean and their four children moved back to Britain where he was appointed Foreign News Editor at Alexandra Palace in North London. Unsuited to desk work, however, he soon resumed the peripatetic life as the BBC’s Diplomatic Correspondent and remained in this post until his retirement in 1975. He continued, nevertheless, to feature regularly on the BBC World Service long after this, and remained a frequent contributor to The Listener and other current affairs journals. His family and friends remember him best as a brilliant raconteur and story-teller with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of extraordinary and usually hilarious anecdotes from his long career as a foreign correspondent. He died peacefully at home in Barnes, South London, in 1991.