Bob Satchwell

Bob Satchwell

30th August 1948 - 2nd March 2021

On Thursday 9th September, 2021 at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of Bob Satchwell was held at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street.
Download Order of Service (pdf)


The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce delivered the opening:

A very warm welcome to St Bride’s. When I came here seven years ago, my very first service in this church, two days after I took over as Rector, was our annual Journalists’ Commemorative service. 

It was also the first time that I met Bob Satchwell.  He made a point of introducing himself, and he could not have been kinder, more welcoming, more encouraging and more helpful, both on that occasion and in all my subsequent dealings with him.  Bob meant a huge amount to us here at St Bride’s, and we were all profoundly affected by the news of his devastating stroke, and subsequent death.  He was much in our thoughts and prayers throughout the whole of that time, and we still feel his loss deeply.

Many of you will, of course, have known Bob far better, and for much longer, than we have – especially those of you who were closest to his heart: his family members, colleagues and his friends – you for whom his loss will have been most keenly felt. Despite the sadness of Bob’s death, which has touched us all, our task today is to look beyond that, to thanks for his life and for all that he has meant to us.  Today we commemorate with thanksgiving a man who was not only outstanding in his field, as is amply demonstrated by the tributes you will find within your order of service, but who was also an exceptional human being.

We begin now with an opening prayer by the priest and poet John Donne.

Let us pray:

Bring us, O Lord, at our last awakening
Into the house and gate of heaven,
To enter into that gate and dwell in that house
Where shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
No noise nor silence, but one equal music;
No fears nor hopes, but one equal possession:
No ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity
In the habitations of your glory and dominion,
World without end. Amen.


Sir Clive James

I first met Bob, inevitably in a bar, when we were freshly arrived undergraduates at the LSE in 1967.

It was love at first sight.

He walked up and said I understand you are Welsh and think you can play rugby. I have to tell you Wales is not a proper country, I have never liked Welshmen and you’ll turn out to be rubbish at rugby.

We were firm friends for the next fifty-three years.

Bob was many things: an award-winning investigative reporter, a brilliant editor, campaigner, journalistic leader, raconteur, devoted husband, doting father and the ultimate behind the scenes fixer.

It did not matter whether you were the royal family or a penniless student. If you had a problem the best person to seek out to solve it…. was Bob.

At the LSE, Bob was captain of the legendary third fifteen, the Strollers. I was captain of the first fifteen, but Bob’s was the party team that everyone wanted to play for.

You didn’t get hurt, had far more fun and the bar was always awash with beer after the game.

One of our key needle matches every year was against UCL.
Their ground was way out, beyond North London, near St Albans.

When we played them in 1968 my first team were offered seats in the UCL specially chartered team coach.

Bob’s Strollers were told they could take the train to St Albans and then get on a Green Line coach…. if they could find one.
Despite this huge discourtesy, Bob, unabashed, took his lads off to Kings Cross.
Our coach arrived at the UCL’s ground at Shenley and we were left waiting anxiously in the car park wondering whether the Strollers would also make it.

We did not have to wait long, within five minutes an enormous BRS lorry swept in and pulled up outside the clubhouse.
The driver leapt out, carefully lowered the tailgate of his enormous pantechnicon and Bob led out his Strollers team, fully changed and ready for the fray.

Apparently, they had missed the bus and Bob persuaded the BRS driver to give the whole team a lift as he did not want to be late for the three o’clock kick off.

A group of fourteen of us, who had played and, occasionally studied, with Bob at the LSE stayed close across the years after university. There were regular dinners, occasional lunches and odd meetings in dubious Fleet Street haunts, all orchestrated and organised by Bob.

It was he who kept us together. He was the glue, our constant friend and companion.

Bob, of course, left the LSE to enter the world of journalism.

He joined the Lancashire Post, rising from trainee to associate editor. Within seven years he was Journalist of the Year and Crime Reporter of the Year in the British Press Awards. An astonishing feat for a provincial journalist still in his twenties on a regional evening newspaper.

I was plying my trade on the other side of the Pennines on the Sheffield Telegraph and looking on in envy.

Before long he was in Fleet Street as Assistant Editor of the News of the World before returning to regional journalism as Editor of the Cambridge Evening News in 1984.

Fleet Street was always a tough place, which sometimes sat uneasily with gentle-hearted Bob. He once spent a week in a scruffy drinking den called the Zanzibar trying to rescue a very depressed, but talented News of the World crime correspondent, who drank himself insensible four nights in a row. Each night Bob arranged for one of the newspaper delivery drivers to get the sozzled reporter home. On the fifth night the driver refused.

Bob still felt responsible. So, he hailed a cab and took the crime man up to his home in Highgate and rang the bell.

A furious woman arrived and demanded why Bob kept delivering this drunk to her door.

Because he lives here replied an indignant Bob, while propping up his drunken employee.

No, he doesn’t, thundered the woman… he lives next door.

Bob quickly settled into Cambridge and turned the Evening News into one of the best and most admired newspapers in the UK.

Awards rolled in. It was twice newspaper of the year and despite growing competition Bob kept upping the circulation.

It was one of the happiest times of his life. He was at the top of his game and with his incredible wife Michelle at his side, he built a happy family life in Girton.

He was also a growing industry figure, a man of influence, always a man people could turn to, always the problem solver.

And it was no surprise when he became the founding director of the Society of Editors in 1999. A post he held with great distinction and honour until he suffered a terrible stroke in 2017.

There was no finer champion of a Free Press, he held the trust of every senior editor in the land.

He was always ready to defend them, but he was also always ready to hold them to account.
There was not an industry body he did not sit on or advise. Whether it was the Royal Family, a Government department with a Press dilemma, a major charity, a great cause or a man or woman in the street being harassed by a wayward member of the press, they all knew the man who could help and find a way through.

It was Bob.

Of course, he was also a complete and utter con-artist.

He rang me one day when he was on the Board of the National Council for the Training of Journalists.
The NCTJ needed an ombudsman and would I do it?
No, I said, I am chairing a couple of pension funds, two major charities and a university. I haven’t got the time.
Bob would not give up, of course.
There had been only one NCTJ case that had needed an ombudsman in thirty years and nothing for the past two decades.
I had to do it as there was nothing to do.

Foolishly I agreed, inevitably….. and much to Bob’s amusement…..I had to adjudicate on my first dispute within six months and they have kept rolling in ever since.

He was also the kindest of men and the most loyal of friends.

A few years back Bob was an active member in Cambridge of the Royal Society of the Arts. My wife Vikki was in the midst of her term as chairman of the RSA and had been booked to speak at the AGM of the Cambridge branch. Bob promised to greet, escort and take her for a drink afterwards. The night before he rang up with the exciting news that Michelle had suddenly been offered a transplant, he was ringing from outside the operating theatre. He was not going to make the AGM.

Yet when Vikki arrived in Cambridge. Who was there to meet her and make sure that everything was OK? It was the amazing Bob Satchwell, squeezing in something he had promised to do for a friend, before racing back to the hospital to be with the most important person in the world to him.

Tragically, and within weeks he had to endure the loss of Michelle. The transplant failed. His and our hearts were broken.

He soldiered on, still working endlessly, occasionally sailing, writing, speaking, commentating and debating.

He was not quite the same Bob…. some of the joy left with Michelle and would never return.

Then tragedy struck again four years ago when he suffered a terrible stroke from which he was never to fully recover.

Another of Bob’s great LSE friends Jim Richardson, his wife Lyndsay and I visited him in hospital and later in his care homes.

The old Bob had departed us, but he always greeted us with the broadest of smiles and joined enthusiastically, if somewhat haphazardly, in our conversations.
He spoke in tongues a bit after the stroke.

But I will always believe Bob understood every word of our last conversations.

Why?… Because on one of our final visits, when Jim announced he had to leave… a big grin swept on to Bob’s face.

Good of you to come he said , now bugger off and make sure you take that damn Welshman with you.

What a man, what a life, what a friend.

Anna Bridgman, Daughter

We have so many great memories of our father so I will share just a few.

He was more than just a father to Andrew, Matthew, Ellie and I, he was our greatest advisor and confidant.

He always made time for us whenever we needed it. He never wasted any words, and there is nobody we trusted more, even when we chose to ignore his advice, he would never make us feel foolish, we did however, later regret not taking it given the fact that he was ALWAYS right!  What we would give now, just to be able to go to our sounding board.

One of our fondest memories of dad when we were young, was him reading us our favourite bedtime story ‘Tortoise’s Dream’ so loved by Ellie and I that dad knew it off by heart and stopped picking up the very loved pieces of the book and we just listened.

On the days where the story wasn’t enough, he would have a count down from ten, we heard many fractions of 1 (1 and 3 10ths, 1 and 8 6ths) but never heard zero.

Sailing was a massive part of our lives, dad made sure of this, it was the only time he slowed down, apart from racing any boat that was on the water, even on his last sail in Hong Kong.

Dad’s love for sailing started as a young boy when on holiday in France with school friends who rented a house which had a mirror dinghy. He caught the bug and the hobby took off properly by crewing for his brother Chris.

After a short time and with great enthusiasm the brothers decided to get a bigger yacht together as families often do.  Then later in the early 90’s dad bought his own yacht named Viane.

We had many a family sailing holiday, in the UK and overseas, great memories were made, and any arguments were forgotten by the time we hit the shore!

It was with Viane that Dad set up the Girton Vineyard Yacht Club.  Its members were local friends and his brother Chris. The club house was the bar at the Old Crown Pub when at home, and when sailing any pub, restaurant, hotel or yacht club the crew visited in the Solent sailing area.

The annual Round the Island Race became the high point of the sailing year when much fun was had in company of the cruising sailors in the middle of the fleet.   Matthew and Andrew only found out after 5 or so races that St Catherine’s Point was the second mark of the course not the first.

The cruising weekends were great fun.  At the end of each sailing year an end of season dinner was held in the Old Crown. After dinner any misdemeanours during time on board Viane were reviewed at a Court Martial headed by dad.  There were many hilarious offences committed over each sailing season, but they all reflected dad and his crew’s love of fun and enjoyment.

Sundays were perfect family days at home, especially in the winter. Fire on, Rugby on.

Then to the pub for a quick pre-dinner pint!

From hosting the annual Christmas Eve Party to impromptu suppers and bbqs dad really was an incredible host, everyone was welcome.

I recall one particular time when my husband James had taken dad to the pub to ask him for my hand in marriage, they came back to the house and dad was so excited he spilled the beans and James had to rush me into the garden, get down on one knee, all in time for the family and friends to arrive for the impromptu engagement party!

Although we can no longer go to dad for the advice we so often need, there are many things he ingrained in us:

  • Listen to music often…more often than not the dam busters!
  • Never live further than 100 paces from a pub
  • Always travel with wine in your car boot, you never know when you might need it!

Kitchen dancing will never be the same, but we will continue the traditions and will always know that both dad and mum are watching over us, sailing the sky’s with a tipple in hand.

How lucky and proud we are to have had such an incredible father.


Moira Sleight read John 14: 1-6, 27

1 “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.

Charles Garside read Fleet Street from The London Book by Francis Marshall. First published in 1951.

Let us take a midnight stroll through the Street of Ink, which is a picturesque pseudonym to which Fleet Street is entitled, and note the sights and sounds of an area where work never stops.

First we notice the lights streaming from the offices, the steady trade of the snack bars open through the night, fast-moving cars driven by reporters and mail-vans roaring through the traffic. The vans bearing bundles of newspapers to the main-line railway termini move at an almost reckless speed, so it is well to be wary of them when crossing.

Then we are aware of the sounds of night in Fleet Street. Predominantly they are rumbling sounds from the mighty rotary presses beneath the pavements; but there are other sounds from the brightly-lit offices – typewriters, ticker-tapes, teleprinters, constantly ringing telephones.

Inside the news room of any of the big offices these sounds are almost deafening. In modern newspaper offices the news room is a vast one accommodating reporters, sub-editors, news-tasters, re-write men and other specialists. There is a span of telephone cubicles where reporters take down news messages from outlying districts (and from harassed dramatic critics phoning from a theatre in which they have just attended a first night), or from abroad over the long-distance wire.

There are other major sources of material, chiefly the ticker-tapes which tap out news sent in by the London offices of the biggest agencies – Reuters, Exchange, Telegraph, Associated Press – which, in turn, have gathered it from all over the world, and the Press Association, which deals in home news.

This news is transcribed and sent to the copy-tasters who hand it out to the sub-editors. After further processes of assessment and editing, the cream of it reaches the type printing operator. It is read carefully in proof form, put into pages by the make-up experts, and finally it reaches the mighty presses.

Tucked modestly away behind the Reuters building is one of the stateliest ruins of the Second World War – the blitzed shell of Wren’s beautiful church of St Bride’s. Happily his tallest spire still stands there. St Bride’s is the Journalists’ Church.

German bombs nearly wiped out Fleet Street; there would have been little of it left now had an incendiary bomb, which dangled precariously for a whole day on a telegraph wire outside the Express building, exploded. It was made harmless by a courageous squad of disposal men who thus preserved much of London’s history – for posterity.

Chris Satchwell read Sea Fever by John Masefield

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.


The choir & organist of St Bride’s performed the following anthems and songs:

Pie Jesu from Requiem – Gabriel Fauré

Ave Maria – Franz Schubert

Bring us, O Lord God – William Harris

Sailing – Gavin Sutherland arr. Andrew Gant

Brindisi from La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi

The Dam Busters march – Eric Coates


Dear Lord and Father of mankind

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven


congregation sitting for service


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