Tributes to Hampstead born creator of The Thunderbirds Gerry Anderson who died on Boxing Day

PUBLISHED: 11:42 28 December 2012 | UPDATED: 11:59 28 December 2012

Gerry Anderson has died at the age of 83 Picture: PA/Yui Mok

Gerry Anderson has died at the age of 83 Picture: PA/Yui Mok

PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Hampstead-born creator one of the most iconic children’s television series of all time has died aged 83.

Gerry Anderson was born in Hampstead. Picture: PA/Haydn WestGerry Anderson was born in Hampstead. Picture: PA/Haydn West

Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson died peacefully at an Oxfordshire care home on Boxing Day, two years after he was diagnosed with mixed dementia, his son Jamie Anderson said.

Mr Anderson was born in Hampstead in 1929, the second son of Deborah (née Leonoff) and Joseph Abrahams. They later changed their name to Anderson.

He attended Kingsgate Primary School in Kingsgate Road, West Hampstead, before attending Braintcroft Junior School in Neasden. He then won a scholarship to Willesden County Grammar School, where it is thought he went onto become a prefect.

An initial foray into the building trade after school was short lived, as Mr Anderson discovered he was allergic to plaster. Instead, he began work in a photographic studio - a job which would lead him into the world of film.

Mr Anderson’s first job in the industry was as a trainee at the Colonial Film Unit, a branch of the Ministry of Information. Soon afterwards, he moved onto Gainsborough Pictures.

In the 1950s, he would go onto establish the production company which would eventually be behind hits like Joe 90, Stingray and Captain Scarlett.

But he will be best remembered for the 1960s series Thunderbirds, which followed the adventures of International Rescue and the Tracey family.

Mr Anderson - who also helped pioneer “supermarionation”, a puppetry technique using thin wires to control marionettes used in the show - took inspiration for the programmes name from Thunderbird Field, the strip near Arizona where his older brother Lionel trained with the RAF during the war. Sadly, Lionel had been killed in action in 1944.

But while Thunderbirds was his biggest success - even enjoying a resurgence in popularity in the 1990s - Mr Anderson kept working as a producer for many more years, his name appearing on the credits of 2005’s New Captain Scarlet. Most recently, he worked as a consultant on a Hollywood remake of his 1969 series UFO.

Mr Anderson’s passion for his career continued right up until the end of his life, it seems.

Speaking at the launch of the Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk - a charity he got involved with as a campaigner after his diagnosis - he said not being able to drive was “the bitterest blow”, adding: “That virtually took away my freedom.

“It meant that I couldn’t go to Pinewood Studios where I worked, and this depressed me enormously because my film work was my life.

“Suddenly my life was cut off.”

Last week, people queued up to pay tribute to Mr Anderson, who was awarded an MBE in 2001.

Nick Williams, chairman of Fanderson, the Gerry Anderson appreciation society, said the producer “continues to bring so much joy to so many millions of people around the world”.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said he had been an “outstanding” supporter and campaigner on behalf of people with dementia.

“Gerry Anderson will be missed not only by the worldwide fans of his TV shows, but by all of us at Alzheimer’s Society who he has inspired to continue in our work to ultimately defeat dementia,” he said.

Back in Hampstead, there were calls for a plaque in his memory to be placed on the wall of Kingsgate Primary School from local historian Ed Fordham.

Mr Anderson is survived by three children from his two former marriages, Joy, Linda and Gerry Junior, and his widow Mary and their son Jamie.

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