Frank Gardner OBE


According to Wikipedia Frank Gardner fell in love with Arabia after meeting the explorer Wilfred Thesiger on a bus. According to his own (more reliable) website, he is the BBC’s fulltime Security Correspondent and reports on events from the fighting in Afghanistan to piracy off the Somali coast.

He has served in the Territorial Army, has worked as an investment banker and enjoys skiing. He was shot 6 times at close range while on assignment in Saudi Arabia in 2004, was left severely wounded and is now dependent on a wheelchair. He was awarded an OBE by HM The Queen in 2005.

What kind of pupil were you like at school?
Mixed. I left prep school in Kent at 13 as Headprefect, Captain of Shooting and with an Exhibition (a minor scholarship) to Marlborough. 5 years later I left there with a C and two Ds at A level (I just had too good a time). I did later get my French up to an A but only after cramming.

What was your favourite subject?
Probably English as we had a highly inspirational teacher from Scotland who, as well as introducing us to poetry, got us building a campsite with logs from the nearby Kent forest, where we would sit out under the stars and cook dough dampers on sticks in the camp fire. For us 10 year olds this was brilliant.

What's the best school lesson you remember being in and why was it good?
Probably the weekly optional ‘minor subject’ I took at Marlborough on Islam and the Middle East. Our teacher had spent a lot of time in Iran and his love of its architecture and culture was infectious. He’s still leading cultural tours there now.

Is there anything you wish you'd done differently in your time at school?
Yes. I should never have studied History, at least not 18th century Georgian politics. I wasn’t interested in it and I definitely wasn’t good at it. 

What was it about your meeting with Wilfred Thesiger that inspired you/ made you fall in love with Arabia?
Probably his stunning black and white photos of the Empty Quarter on the wall, along with the curved daggers and battered old water gourds and camel saddles.

Are you still in love with Arabia?
I don’t think I’ve ever been exactly ‘in love’ with Arabia. I’ve always found it a fascinating and hospitable part of the world and I still do, going there several times a year.

What was the best thing about University?
The freedom after all those school rules, plus the independence of driving in to lectures on my motorbike from a little Devon cottage we all shared. The course was good too: Arabic & Islamic Studies.

What did you learn from being in the Territorial Army?
To cope better with adverse conditions and unpleasant situations; to motivate people to keep going when you’re all equally cold and exhausted; to keep your luggage to a minimum and to know how to prioritise.

What is the most important lesson you've learned since leaving school?
To never lose your temper in an email. Friends have done it and it’s come back to bite them.

If you could give one piece of advice to your sixteen-year old self what would it be?
Spend more time in the company of girls (in those days we only had girls in the Sixth Form and life got a lot better with them around).

Which is better, banking or journalism and why?
Each to his own. There are greedy bankers and honest bankers. There are brave journalists and unscrupulous journos who can twist stories to suit their personal agenda.

What is your greatest regret?
Not going exploring in Papua New Guinea before I lost the use of my legs.

If you had a catchphrase what would it be?
Let’s do this.

Do you have any ambitions left to achieve? If so, what would they be?
I do, but I’ll keep those to myself for now!

What question should we have asked you that we haven't?
What’s the best advice you would give someone looking for a job in News Journalism?

We’re hoping that Mr Gardner will be able to come into the sixth form to answer that and other questions during the 2014/15 academic year.