Desmond Hawkins was appointed to the BBC by Frank Gillard in 1945 to concentrate on making natural history based programming. Already an established author and broadcaster, his first Radio Times credit dates from 1936. Desmond produced the very first natural history programme from BBC Bristol, The Naturalist, which was aired on the 3rd January 1946. As Head of Programmes in 1955, Desmond planned the highly successful and long-running Look series with the help of Peter Scott. In 1957, whilst setting up the BBC Natural History Unit, and looking to create a children’s programme, Desmond discovered Johnny Morris telling stories to customers in a pub and recruited him as the anchor-man for Animal Magic.
Desmond Hawkins retired in 1970, after 13 years as Head of the South West Region, but his career was far from over. He wrote several books, wrote and presented a number of television films and contributed articles to the New Scientist, Country Life and other publications. As a means of funding his desire to travel, and see the subjects he had previously sent others to film during his time at the BBC, Hawkins lectured on Thomas Hardy, a subject on which he became a renowned scholar.
His contribution to broadcasting has been recognised through numerous awards and honors, including the Silver Medal of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 1959, OBE in 1963, an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Bristol University in 1974, and a Fellowship from the Royal Society of Literature in 1977.
Desmond Hawkins died on the 6th May 1999 at the age of 91.