Veteran DJ Johnnie Walker said he was "most grateful and honoured" to be made an MBE in the New Year honours list.

The Birmingham-born 60-year-old joked that the Queen must have forgiven him for breaking the law when he began his career on pirate radio.

Walker, who recently returned to the airwaves after battling cancer, said: "Having defied Her Majesty's Government in 1967 with pirate ship Radio Caroline, I never expected to see my name in the New Year's honours list.

"Her Majesty obviously has a forgiving nature and I'm most grateful and honoured.

"It's a wonderful start to my 40th year on the radio," he added.

The son of an engineering company rep, he left school at the age of 15, trained as a mechanic and became a car salesman.

He found an outlet to his passion for music with a Friday night slot as a disco DJ under the name Peter Dee.

In 1965, Walker quit his job after spotting an article about a new pirate station Radio England.

He spent six months with the station before leaving to

make his name with the pirate radio ship Radio Caroline.

In the 1960s, his night-time show was essential listening for 86 per cent of the night audience.

Walker continued to broadcast in defiance of Government legislation which closed down the pirates in 1967.

He joined the new BBC Radio 1 in 1969 to present a Saturday afternoon show.

Walker built a reputation as a DJ who accorded more importance to the records he played than the chat between the tracks.

He moved on to a daily afternoon show and the names he pioneered included Lou Reed, Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles.

But his outspoken views, and his choice of music, led to a showdown with his Radio 1 bosses and a move to California in 1976, where Walker recorded a weekly show which was broadcast on Radio Luxembourg.

He returned to the UK in the Eighties and was back at Radio 1 to present its Saturday Stereo Sequence.

Stints on the BBC's local station for London, the newly launched BBC Radio 5, and a return to BBC Radio 1 followed.

He left the station for good in 1995 and three years later was offered his own weekly show on Radio 2, before taking over the Drivetime show, which he still presents.

Walker was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after feeling ill on his return from his honeymoon with third wife Tiggy.

The DJ, who has lost both his father and his brother to the devastating disease, took an immediate break and underwent chemotherapy and an emergency operation in October 2003.

He returned to his Radio 2 show in March last year following a nine-month break.

Walker had announced to his five million listeners live on air that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and later revealed that he "died" on the operating table three times during surgery to repair his burst intestine, caused by the malignant tumour.

Walker was suspended by the station in 1999 after allegations about cocaine use were published in a newspaper.

He was fined £2,000 after he admitted possessing the drug, but station bosses reinstated him after the court case.

Walker and Tiggy married in December 2002, and the DJ has two grown-up children.

In 2004, Walker received the Gold Award at the Sony Radio Academy Awards, the industry's equivalent of the Oscars.

Walker was made an MBE for services to broadcasting.