Actor who starred in EastEnders

Born: May 13 1920;

Died: March 27, 2017

RICHARD Beale, who has died aged 96, was a stocky, dependable character actor whose career spanned five decades. A distinctive presence, his rich voice and strong features were recognisable to audiences even if his name was not. A year in EastEnders (1990-91 as veteran market trader Jackie Stone) cemented the viewer’s impression that they had probably seen him in something somewhere.

He was born Richard Henry Beale, the eldest of three sons of print business owner Henry and his wife Constance. Joining the Navy in 1940, he rose from being a rating to having his own command by the end of the Second World War: Lieutenant Beale was mentioned in Despatches for distinguished service in 1945.

For ten years he worked at his father’s firm before following his dream and becoming an actor, whereafter he was rarely short of work. Early roles in nautical films like The Battle of the River Plate (1956), A Night to Remember (1958) and Sink the Bismark! (1960) benefitted from his wartime experience.

His theatre career began in Bristol, and he enjoyed stints at the Traverse, Edinburgh (1980) and as Julius Caesar for the National Theatre at the Young Vic (1972, with Nigel Hawthorne as Brutus). He cut his teeth on the small screen in the tense arena of live television and became an asset to directors like Rex Tucker and Michael E Briant who used him again and again. Early recurring parts included the stableman Hippolyte (good casting as he was a skilled rider with a love of horses) in Madame Bovary (1964) and a detective in the soap opera Compact (1963-64).

His deeply textured voice found him playing a benevolent invisible alien opposite William Hartnell’s Doctor Who in The Ark (1966) which was to be the first of four credits on the iconic show. Alongside staple fare such as Dr Finlay’s Casebook (1970), Z-Cars (1972, 1974) Dixon of Dock Green (1975), and The Onedin Line (1978) he was in the high profile BBC productions of War and Peace (1973, with Anthony Hopkins), The Prince and the Pauper (1976, with Nicholas Lyndhurst in the dual role), A Horseman Riding By (1978), and The Life and Times of David Lloyd George (as Lord Kitchener, 1981).

He worked opposite three different interpretations of Long John Silver, playing Captain Smollett in the BBC’s Treasure Island (1977, with Alfred Burke), the same role in an otherwise unrelated Return to Treasure Island (with Brian Blessed for Disney, 1986), and Mr Arrow in the 1990 TV Movie with Charlton Heston.

He was in the film A Handful of Dust with Kristin Scott Thomas (1988) but despite a busy time on screen in the early 2000s - including Teachers (2004) and Afterlife (2005) both with Andrew Lincoln - he eventually retired to spend more time with his boat, racing and sailing single handedly until 2010. Thereafter he remained as physically active and mentally sharp as ever, engaging with political issues by writing to his local paper or contributing to the BBC’s Any Answers. His evocative and well written memoir of his time in the navy, One Man’s War, was published by Bloomsbury in 2015.

His marriage to German born Anne ended in divorce: he is survived by their two children Anya and Tom.