Tony Hancock/

I don't know whether it's possible to be nostalgic for a time that didn't exist, but I think I am

In the 1950s and 1960s, Tony Hancock was regarded as one of the funniest men in Britain. He was the glum-faced star of Hancock’s Half Hour, a sitcom which had transferred from radio to TV and which was the perfect vehicle for his talents.

In one episode he’d play a soap opera actor in a long-running radio drama The Bowmans. In another, The Missing Page, he was driven to distraction when he realised the end of the thriller he was reading was missing. Most famous of all was The Blood Donor. “A pint?” Tony exclaimed, on hearing how much blood is expected, of him. “That's very nearly an armful!”

Tony worked with Carry On film star Sid James and top writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (who later wrote Steptoe and Son), before breaking into films in comedies The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man.

Tony was born in Birmingham, but moved to Dorset when his father died and his mother remarried. The war had broken out when he was still a teenager and after leaving school, Tony joined the Royal Air Force as ground crew.

While in service, he performed in RAF shows, taking up residency as a comedian at a London theatre when he was demobbed. He went on to make guest appearances on a number of radio comedies, before being given his own now-famous series.

A self-critical man full of anxieties, Hancock developed a dependence on alcohol and drugs. This could make him difficult to work with, and very different from the kind, gentle and thoughtful man his widow Freda loved, when he was sober.

Hancock was making a new TV series in Australia when he took his own life. He’s been remembered ever since as one of the UK’s most influential and best-loved comedians.