A Tribute to Clare Hollingworth

In a slight departure from my usual era of the Guardian archive, this month’s blog post is a tribute to Clare Hollingworth, journalist and war correspondent, who passed away this month, aged 105.  

Hollingworth is best known as the first journalist to report on the amassed German forces which were preparing to enter Poland, and for breaking the news of the beginning of the Second World War. This was her first big scoop, and the start of Hollingworth’s career, which would last over another four decades. Hollingworth reported on conflict and war from Romania, Egypt, Algeria and Vietnam, and was the first staff correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in China. The extent of her involvement in the assistance of refugees, fleeing from Nazi invasion, has also recently been uncovered. Prior to her work in journalism, she was employed by the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, and worked in Poland, assisting thousands to obtain visas. She worked as a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Express, The Economist, The Observer, and for the Guardian. Whilst with the Guardian, Hollingworth would provide the first report that Kim Philby, a double agent, had defected and gone to Russia.

Hollingworth was also employed as the defence correspondent of the Guardian, from 1963-1967, and it is from this role that the correspondence featured below is taken.

Reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd
Reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd

In the first letter, we see Hollingworth discuss with Alastair Hetherington, editor of the Guardian, an increase in interest in the First World War, owing to the approaching 50th anniversary of its outbreak, and a proposal for a project to take advantage of this interest with articles from France. This is one of the many examples of Hollingworth’s proactive approach to her role. There are multiple suggestions within the correspondence by Hollingworth of potential trips, to Indonesia and Vietnam, and reference to her visits to Gibraltar, Malta, Tripoli, El Adam and Cyprus, Jordan and Egypt. Hollingworth’s letters show that she was one of the few journalists given personal permission, by President Sukarno to visit Indonesia in 1964, during the Indonesian confrontation. The correspondence suggests that this permission was granted because Hollingworth was perceived as honest, and her work in Algeria had met with approval.

Reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd

The second piece of correspondence featured is also a report from Hollingworth relating to testing of nuclear missiles in Egypt. The assistance of German scientists in the development of nuclear weapons in Egypt was a subject of international controversy, and Hollingworth would report on its impact throughout 1964, alongside reports on and discussion of the work of NATO. The correspondence features several reports by Hollingworth on attempts to reach agreements with regards to NATO, with reference to negotiations between America, France, Germany and Russia.

The above correspondence are minor examples of the work of an inspirational journalist, who successfully both eluded and challenged the limitations placed upon women as reporters. The correspondence series of the Guardian archive also clearly shows that her work and judgement were valued and sought after. Hollingworth, like all trailblazers, widened the horizons, and demonstrated that there were no restrictions upon the work she could perform in her field.


1 comment on “A Tribute to Clare Hollingworth

  1. James Brennan

    Excellent post on Clare Hollingworth and the Guardian. If the author gets a chance, Martin Woollacott, who I think is now somewhere in Hampstead but came from Cheadle might be a good guy to contact about her, since he was just beginning his career with the Guardian as a future defence correspondent in her time there.

    Jim Brennan

    On 1/18/17, John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

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