When he was 14, Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Bedford was given a copy of The First Men in the Moon, in which a principal character is a writer named Bedford. It fired the imagination of the youngster, blind in one eye from birth, poorly sighted in his other and with a speech defect from a cleft palate.
Shrugging off his handicaps, he rose through the journalistic ranks to become science editor of the Daily and Sunday Mirror from 1962-86.
Regularly by-lined, he gave millions of readers first-hand accounts from the control rooms or press tables of Cape Canaveral and Houston of such momentous events as the first ever circumnavigation of the Moon and return – by Apollo 8; the first Moon landing – by Apollo 11; the epic flight of the mission that never reached the lunar surface – Apollo 13; the first motor car to be driven on the Moon – from Apollo 15; the last manned mission – Apollo 17 and their respective splashdowns.
Reach for the stars
Bedford died in 2012 aged 90 and his wife Thelma has consigned the archive to The Canterbury Auction Galleries.
Throughout his career with the Mirror from well before Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight in 1961 until his retirement in 1986, Bedford chronicled everything. His fascinating archive will be offered at auction on July 31-August 1.
It is estimated as a single lot at £6000-8000. This comprises 23 ring binders containing around 450 folders, mostly with official and many other portrait photographs of US, Soviet and European astronauts and cosmonauts, many of them signed, and all in alphabetical order along with more than 200 miscellaneous space-related photographs, many of them NASA originals illustrating historic events such as of Shuttle flights and Apollo splashdowns are to be sold.
Famous names featured include Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova, the first man and woman in space; Alan Shepard, the first American in space and John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, both of which are signed, Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon and Aleksei Leonov, the first human to undertake a spacewalk.
The archive also includes portraits of scientists, mission specialists and military officials, NASA press releases relating to various Apollo shuttle lift-offs, numerous Moon surface images, negatives, posters and other ephemera.
Life as a journalist
Ronald G Bedford was awarded the OBE for his services to journalism in the New Years Honours of 1982.
He began his career in journalism running errands and sweeping the printroom floor at the Wakefield Express, before being taken on as a junior reporter at the town’s South Elmsall and Hemsworth Express. Rejected for call-up in the Second World War owing to his disabilities, in 1943, he joined the editorial staff of the Daily Mirror in Manchester, moving to Fleet Street two years later as a feature writer with Reuters.
Bedford was appointed the news agency’s chief reporter (UK) in 1946, but returned to the Mirror in London in 1947 as a feature writer, switching in 1950 to scientific and medical news stories. He was made science editor in 1962.
In addition to his coverage of space exploration, he reported on the development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy; the discovery of the DNA double helix; the first heart and organ transplants and creation of ‘test-tube’ babies by IVF. He was also instrumental in getting the Corneal Graft Act of 1952 onto the statute book - legislation that was understandably dear to his heart.