The nation is in mourning as Andrew Sachs, the German-born British actor most famous for playing Spanish waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers, has died aged 86.

Sachs was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2012 – which eventually left him unable to speak and forced him to use a wheelchair. He passed away on 23 November at a nursing home in Northwood, London.

He was married to Melody Lang – his wife since 1960 – at the time of his death and had is survived by his three children, John, William and Kate Sachs.

Despite making a huge success of Fawlty Towers alongside his famous comedian co-star, John Cleese, the latter had only heard about his death on the day of his funeral, which took place on Thursday 1 December.

The 77-year-old actor tweeted: "Just heard about Andy Sachs. Very sad.... I knew he was having problems with his memory as his wife Melody told me a couple of years ago...and I heard very recently that he had been admitted to Denham Hall,but I had no idea that his life was in danger. A very sweet gentle...and kind man and a truly great farceur.I first saw him in Habeas Corpus on stage in 1973. I could not have found a better Manuel. Inspired.

Andrew Sachs
Actor Andrew Sachs AFP

"If media folk need more, I wrote the foreword to his book a couple of years ago, which apparently 'moved him to tears' Going onstage now..." he added.

A number of other high-profile figures took to Twitter to offer their condolences:

Sachs – who was Bafta-nominated for his role on Fawlty Towers – went on to have a long career in acting and voice-over work for TV, film and radio.

Though he found much success with his later roles in films such as Quartet and soaps including Coronation Street and EastEnders, be became the centre of national sympathy and outcry over a series of insulting messages left by comedians Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on his answering machine.

The event became known as 'Sachsgate' or 'Manuelgate.' The two presenters of the BBC Radio 2 incident were slammed by a number of Members of Parliament, including then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

andrew sachs
Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand have been suspended in the wake of the controversy over their lewd calls to Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, the BBC announced on October 29, 2008. BBC

Following the complaints, Ross was suspended from the BBC while both the BBC and Ofcom launched investigations. Both Brand and Controller of Radio 2 Lesley Douglas resigned from the BBC.

Sachs' wife Melody, 85, who had cared for him in his final years, said that his debilitating illness had left the adored actor using a wheelchair and unable to speak.

She added that despite his ailing health, the pair shared many happy times. "It wasn't all doom and gloom, he still worked for two years. We were happy, we were always laughing, we never had a dull moment. He had dementia for four years and we didn't really notice it at first until the memory started going.

"Dementia is the most awful illness. It sneaks in in the night, when you least expect it. It took a long time for Andy's brain to go," she revealed.

Famed for his "I know nothing" catchphrase in Fawlty Towers, we've compiled some of Sachs' funniest moments as the legendary Manuel.

Manuel sets fire to the kitchen

Basil gives Manuel a language lesson

Manuel hides his rat in the biscuit tin

Manuel "knows nothing"