Noel Bernard early 1960s
This is Noel Bernard, a good friend and boss during some of my more productive and exciting times in London of the early to middle 1960s.
Noel ran Radio Press International's London bureau. It was a radio news service owned by a radio station in New York City, WMCA. RPI was a two-man operation not far from Piccadilly Circus. We sent and received audio reports by telephone and used the news teletype in the lobby of a nearby hotel until the hotel threw Noel out. Our reports were sent to New York for relay to RPI's clients in the US.
I was working for RPI when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in Iceland that day (November 27, 1963) on my way to Canada. (I did not learn about the shooting until the following day because of the language barrier.) On my way back to London I visited the New York office of WMCA. I remember the New York taxi driver crying as we listened to the radio broadcast of Kennedy's funeral.
Others who worked for Noel were Charles Taylor, the son of Canadian industrialist E.P. Taylor and Globe and Mail writer, Bruce Morton who went on to be a senior correspondent for CBS News in Washington and author Norman Moss. A regular freelancer in Paris was Stephen Laird, a former Time Magazine and CBS News correspondent and Hollywood producer and unknown to us at the time an apparent Russian agent (See Laird file).
Noel sent me on several interesting assignments for RPI. Among them were the student uprising in Paris, the end of the Algerian War (I was in Algiers the day France ceded power to the FLN), the Vietnam war peace talks in Paris, a press conference in London by former President Eisenhower, a blood-splattered front row seat at a World Middleweight boxing match in London, the wedding of the King of the Belgians ( I got there too late to actually see the wedding and had to fake it), the student riots in Paris and the general strike in Belgum.
The Paris and Belgian disturbances, as did so many public protests in those days, provided us radio reporters with great sounds (see letter from RPI's New York boss below), for me beginning with the first Campaign For Nuclear march to London's Trafalgar Square led by Bertrand Russell.
I remember marching along with protesters in the business district of Brussels and recording them breaking windows with impunity and singing the French national anthem, La Marseillaises I remember them allowing a BBC reporter and myself to get up close to a window before throwing a rock threw it. By adjusting our sound levels we were able to get the best quality recording.
The demonstrators were doused by water canon and beaten by police on horseback. I remember a clump of huge horses, their riders armored in black uniforms and wielding sabers charge out of a side street and attack the crowd. The rioters taunted the police with the most bone-chilling chant I had heard. It was a rhythmic shout of "Gestapo, Gestapo".
Not until the Gay uprising in Toronto many years later when I was back in the CBC National Radio Room did I hear a similarly powerful chant ("Fuck You 52") being hurled at 52 Division of the Toronto Metropolitan Police Force.
Noel, a Romanian by birth, left RPI to head the Romanian service of Radio Free Europe , a US propaganda radio service funded by the CIA and based in Munich, Germany. He broadcast a regularly to Romania and was listened to secretly by many thousands of Romanians.
Nicolae Ceaușescu, the country's dictator , had a personal hatred for Noel and is reported to have ordered his assassination. Romanian agents apparently used a cancer creating agent to kill him. He died in 1981.
Noel (center)at Radio Free Europe office in New York City
In New York City
Listen to an interview Noel on this Romanian-language web page of Radio Free Europe.
Noel liked women. He was married three times. His first wife, Yva, was a good friend of ours and still lives in London.
letter of congratulations from WMCA in New York City