Chris – a former actor – was born in Hambledon, Surrey. After working as a farm labourer, he joined the British Army and trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and in 1953 received a commission in the Royal Regiment of Artillery of the British Army. He was promoted to lieutenant in February 1955, but resigned his commission in September 1956. He had a relatively undistinguished acting career – his greatest screen role being Charlton Heston’s body double in Ben-Hur (1959). He later appeared as an interviewer in Ask Mr Pastry (1961) and as himself in Mr Pastry’s Pet Shop (1962).
At the age of 25, Trace became the first male presenter of Blue Peter. He was there from its first programme, broadcast on 16th October 1958 and stayed until 24th July 1967. According to the BBC, he secured the job as presenter because he bonded with producer John Hunter Blair over their shared love of model railways. During his time hosting Blue Peter, he was also a regular presenter on the BBC Schools programme Signpost (1961 – 1965). After a season of bi-weekly programmes, Trace pointed out in his usual forceful way that he was “bloody knackered” and that if they didn’t get a third presenter to share the load, he would leave. So John Noakes became the third member of the team in 1966. By 1967, the Blue Peter production team was beginning to find Trace hard to deal with and were looking to replace him on the show, particularly when his wife divorced him for sleeping with another woman during a 1965 Blue Peter summer expedition to Norway. The couple had two children. Trace often threatened to resign and once the production team was happy that viewers had accepted John Noakes as a new member of the team, Trace’s next resignation was accepted.
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography credits Trace with coining two phrases that have become prominent in British popular culture: the line “And now for something completely different”, later taken up by, and usually attributed to, Monty Python and “Here’s one I made earlier”, since adopted by nearly all subsequent presenters on Blue Peter.
He resumed his career, first on local television in East Anglia as a presenter on BBC TV’s early evening news programme Look East (1967 – c. 1974) and then on the network TV programme Nationwide. In the 1970s, he also worked as a presenter on BBC East’s daily morning radio programme Roundabout East Anglia, a regional opt-out from the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. He became a writer and production manager for a film company named Spectator which failed after two years and lost him his life savings. He was declared bankrupt in 1973.
By the mid-1970s, Chris had retired from the media and briefly worked behind the bar of a pub near Norwich before becoming general manager of an engineering factory in Hemel Hempstead, where he lost two toes in an accident. On Blue Peter’s 20th anniversary in 1978 he appeared on the show and the factory shut for the day, so that the workforce could watch his appearance. On the show, without warning anyone in advance, he announced that he wanted to give an outstanding endeavour award, which was awarded annually for a few years. In the 1980s, he worked in the press office of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) and in the 1990s, he briefly returned to the BBC to guest on and later host the BBC Radio 2 nostalgia series Are You Sitting Comfortably? He also organised a highly successful reunion of the TV Travellers, the showbiz cricket team that raised money for charity.
Trace died from cancer of the oesophagus while living in Walthamstow. Former Blue Peter colleague Valerie Singleton and former producer/editor Biddy Baxter visited him in hospital just days before his death.
Video Clips on the Internet
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PICTURED: Christopher Trace. SUPPLIED BY: Online. COPYRIGHT: Unknown.