British Actor

Frank Windsor is one of the most well-known stalwarts of British police drama serials, having co-starred in several such productions since the 1960s. His career as a television performer started in radically different shows from those with which he was destined to become most closely associated, with appearances in the Shakespearean anthology An Age of Kings and subsequently in the science-fiction series A for Andromeda, in which he played scientist Dennis Bridger. In 1962, however, he made his debut in the role with which he became virtually synonymous--that of Newtown's Detective Sergeant John Watt. As one of the crime-busting team crewing Z Cars, Watt was right-hand man to Detective Inspector Barlow (Stratford Johns) and was often placed in the role of the "nice one" to Stratford John's more aggressive, often bullying, senior officer. The two actors formed a dynamic, absorbing partnership that survived well beyond their departure from the series in 1965.

The two stars resumed the same screen personas in their own follow-up series, Softly, Softly, a year after leaving the Newtown force. With Barlow now raised to the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent and Watt now Detective Chief Inspector, the pair continued to hunt down criminals in their "nice and nasty" partnership, though now based in the fictional region of Wyvern, which appeared to be somewhere near Bristol. Three years into the series the pair were relocated to Thamesford Constabulary's CID Task Force and the programme itself was retitled Softly, Softly--Task Force. Barlow disappeared from the series in 1969, when he left for his own series Barlow at Large, leaving Watt to continue the battle with new partners for another seven years.

Barlow and Watt were brought together again in 1973, when they disinterred the case files connected with the real-life "Jack the Ripper" murders of the 1880s. Together they pored over the various theories that the unidentified murderer might be a member of the royal family and so forth, but in the end even television's two most celebrated police detectives could draw no firm conclusion. Along similar lines was Second Verdict, another short series in which the two characters investigated unsolved murder cases from real life.

The extent to which Windsor became linked to just one role has subsequently militated against his taking parts that would challenge public perceptions of his original persona. He has, however, appeared as a guest in supporting roles in a number of established series (including All Creatures Great and Small, Boon, and Casualty) and in quiz shows and has also accumulated a number of film and stage credits.

-David Pickering


Frank Windsor
Photo courtesy of Frank Windsor

FRANK WINDSOR. Born in Walsall, Staffordshire, England, 12 July 1927. Attended St Mary's School, Walsall. Married: Mary Corbett; children: Amanda and David. Began career as performer on radio; founding member, Oxford and Cambridge Players, later the Elizabethan Players; acted classical roles on British stage; television actor as Detective Sergeant Watt in the series Z Cars; has since appeared in further police series, among other productions. Address: Scott Marshall, 44 Perryn Road, London W3 7NA, England.


1960 An Age of Kings
1961 A for Andromeda
1962-65 Z Cars
1966-70, 1970-76 Softly, Softly
1976 Second Verdict


1981 Dangerous Davies--The Last Detective
1982 Coming out of the Ice


This Sporting Life, 1963; Spring and Port Wine, 1970; Sunday Bloody Sunday, 1971; Hands of the Ripper, 1971; The Dropout, 1973; Barry MacKenzie Holds His Own, 1974; Assassin, 1975; Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?, 1978; The London Connection, 1979; Night Shift, 1979; Coming Out Of the Ice, 1982; The Shooting Party, 1984; Revolution, 1985; Oedipus at Colonus, 1986; First Among Equals, 1987; Out of Order, 1987.

STAGE (selection)

Androcles and the Lion; Brand; Travesties; Middle-age Spread; Mr Fothergill's Murder.


Corner, John, editor. Popular Television in Britain: Studies in Cultural History. London: British Film Institute, 1991.

See also British Programming; Z Cars