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Devon weekly editor/owner who went to Fleet Street after serving in WW2 dies aged 98

Eric Carter, a Fleet Street stalwart in the 1950s and 1960s and later editor/proprietor of a Devon weekly, has died aged 98.

Carter (pictured, far left) was a journalist all his working life. Born in December 1920, he started as a reporter on his home town paper, the Bideford Gazette, before being called up during the Second World War.

He enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment on the outbreak of war and then was seconded for service in the Indian Army.

He saw service in India, Burma (now Myanmar) and Malaya (now Malaysia), rising to the rank of major and earning a mention in despatches for distinguished service.

Upon demobilisation, he picked up his journalistic career working for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, part of the Kent and Sussex Courier group. It was here he met his wife Betty, who was a 19-year-old trainee reporter on the Courier in Tunbridge Wells at the time.

She recalls: “I only met Eric because he had an excellent shorthand note – he was sent over to Tunbridge Wells to cover an important meeting because his shorthand was so good.”

The couple met in 1946 and married two years later – they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in July last year.

After his stint on the Chronicle, the couple moved to Devon where Carter worked on the Tiverton Gazette and then became the North Devon district reporter for the Western Morning News. This led, in 1951, to a role on the sub’s desk at the WMN’s head office in Plymouth.

His next move was to Fleet Street in 1953 as picture editor of the Daily Sketch. For the next 20 years, he worked on various national papers and magazines including the Daily Express and Sunday Pictorial.

He briefly edited Men Only in the 1960s – an A5 pocket magazine in those days, far tamer than anything seen on page three – and was features editor on the Telegraph Magazine under the editorship of the irascible John Ansty.

Ansty was not his favourite editor. “As you’d expect, the job included asking writers for changes… but I did balk at the idea of asking – on Ansty’s insistence – Graham Greene to do a total re-write of a piece he’d done for us,” he recalled.

His final London job was as assistant editor of TV Times when in 1972 he decided to take control of his own destiny by returning to Devon and running his own newspaper.

Spurred on by Fleet Street pal Jimmy Hall, who had recently taken over the Sidmouth Herald, Eric bought the Dawlish Gazette, and he and Betty – with reporting help from son Nick – ran the paper for ten years before selling up and moving back to Tunbridge Wells. Betty returned to the Courier while Eric edited the highly regarded County Magazine for the group.

Upon retirement they moved to Leicestershire to be near family. Eric died at home on 15 January of heart failure.

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