HI-DE-HI! star Simon Cadell, who died on Wednesday night, aged 45, was one of the finest light comedy actors on stage and screen.

Family, friends, and fans alike were devastated when the star announced in September 1993 that he had only months to live after doctors diagnosed lymph cancer during treatment for pneumonia.

Ironically, he had just survived triple heart by-pass surgery which he said was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

However, despite reports of his imminent death, Cadell battled on. In one of his last interviews in December 1995, he said: ``I don't want to build myself up as anything special. The cancer is still there. We're learning to live with each other. It's a bugger of a disease.''

His wife, Rebecca, and their two sons, Patrick, 10 and Alec, seven, were a constant comfort to him in his last months of treatment at London's Harley Street Clinic.

He blamed the pressures of work and stress from his gruelling work schedule for eventually causing him to become ill.

Regularly working seven days a week, often 14 hours a day, he confessed in December: ``It's a rat race my profession and I am an absolute workaholic - most of us are.

``You have to be indomitably tunnel-visioned to succeed.''

He kept busy right until the end of his life and recently completed a book on fine wines.

However, after a lifetime at the top of his profession, he was best known as Maplin's holiday camp boss - the dithery Jeffery Fairbrother.

Although the final episode of the show was screened more than 10 years ago, millions still remember Cadell shyly fighting off the rival advances of yellowcoat Gladys Pugh, played by Ruth Madoc, and chalet maid Peggy, played by Su Pollard.

He met his wife, a former model, on a location set for Hi-De-Hi! soon after the end of his relationship with Juliet Bravo actress Stephanie Turner. They married in March 1986.

Cadell entered showbusiness when he was 18, at the Bristol Old Vic with Jeremy Irons, John Caird, and Tim Piggott Smith.

Besides Hi-De-Hi!, other TV roles included the nasty SS officer Hauptman Reinicke in Enemy At The Door, Dundridge, the civil servant in Blott On the Landscape, and Life Without George.

When his face was not being seen, his voice was being heard on countless television commercials.

He also loved stage acting whether serious, as in an acclaimed Hamlet, or lighter, with the West End farce Don't Dress For Dinner and, of course, sell out seasons of Hi-De-Hi!

There was an acclaimed performance opposite Michael Gambon in Alan Ayckbourn's A Small Family Business.

He won an Olivier Award in April 1993 as best comedy performance for Travels With My Aunt.

Looking back recently, he said: ``I am happy - genuinely so. I can get depressed, anybody can. But overall I've had a wonderful life. It's been great fun.''