Howerd was born the son of soldier Francis Alfred William (18871934) and Edith Florence Howard (ne Morrison, 18881962), at the City Hospital in York, England, in 1917 (not 1922 as he later claimed). He was educated at Shooter's Hill Grammar School in Shooter's Hill, London.
His first stage appearance was at age 13 but his early hopes of becoming a serious actor were dashed when he failed an audition for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He began to entertain during World War II service in the British Army. It was at this time that he adapted his surname to Howerd "to be different". In 1944 he became a bombardier in Plymouth, was promoted to sergeant, and on 6 June 1944 was part of the D-Day effort but was stuck on a boat off Normandy. Despite suffering from stage fright, he continued to work after the war, beginning his professional career in the summer of 1946 in a touring show called For the Fun of It.
His act was soon heard on radio, when he made his debut, in early December 1946, on the BBC's Variety Bandbox programme with a number of other ex-servicemen. His profile rose in the immediate postwar period (aided with material written by Eric Sykes, Galton and Simpson and Johnny Speight). In 1954, he made his screen debut opposite Petula Clark in The Runaway Bus, which had been written for his specific comic talent. Shooting took five weeks, with a budget of 45,000. The film, however, was an immediate hit, even though Howerd never established a major film presence thereafter.
"Three Little Fishies" (1949), Harmony A1001, acc. by Billy Ternent and His Orchestra
"English As She Is Spoken"/"I'm The Man Who's Deputising for the Bull" (1952), Columbia Records, written by Eric Sykes, acc. by Billy Ternent and His Orchestra
"All's Going Well"/"Nymphs and Shepherds" (1953), Philips Records PB214, with Margaret Rutherford
"Up Je t'aime" (1971), with June Whitfield
Radio: The state-owned Gambia Radio and Television Service has two AM stations (Bonto, Basse) and three FM stations (Bonto, Serrekunda, Banjul). There are also seven private FM stations in Serrekunda, Banjul, and Basse. Transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are available, some via shortwave radio (2007).
Radio sets: 196,000 (1997).
Television: The Gambia Radio and Television Service operates a single-channel TV service with the main transmitter at Banjul and numerous relay stations. Transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are available; cable and satellite TV subscription services are obtainable in some parts of the country (2007).
Television sets: 4,000 (1997).