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Clare Hollingworth: The woman responsible for the scoop of the 20th century (1911 – 2017)

By Nina Steele 

Clare HollingworthClare Hollingsworth was 27 when the Second World War broke out. In fact, she was responsible for breaking the news that German troops were about to invade Poland, when she came across them by chance, while travelling from Poland to Germany. At the time of the scoop, she had been a full time journalist for the Daily Telegraph for less than a week. It made her world famous and cemented her reputation as one of the greatest war correspondents of her time.

She was highly regarded by both the people within her profession and world leaders. Of the latter group, her list of admirers included the late Shah of Iran, whom she was the first and the last to interview.

As a war correspondent, Clare Hollingsworth reported from some of the most dangerous conflicts in the world, including the Algerian and Vietnam wars. Of the Vietnam War, she was said to have been “one of the first journalists to predict that American military muscle would not prevail and that a stalemate was inevitable”.

She was fearless and utterly dedicated to her work. Of the Algerian war, she was said to have “survived the ransacking of her hotel bedroom by OAS (Organisation Armée Secrète) terrorists who objected to what she was writing. On another occasion she held off a gang of OAS gunmen with nothing more than an imperious threat to use her shoe”.

Although she officially retired in 1981, she didn’t give up completely on the idea of returning to the front line and “had hoped, aged 79, to be invited to cover the Gulf war and spent five nights sleeping on the hard floor of her Hong Kong flat in preparation”. Unfortunately, her hopes were not realized. Hong Kong is where she spent her remaining years and subsequently died.

Understandably, as you would expect with someone of her stature, since the news of her death broke, eulogies have been flooding in. Lord Patten, who was the last governor of Honk Kong, described her as: “one of the greatest journalists of the 21st century”, and added that “She was a great buccaneer, brave, witty and wise”. Kate Adie, herself a highly regarded former war correspondent for the BBC, said that Hollingsworh “was a role model, without being aware of it. In the sense that she loved the job and had a terrific zest for journalism right to the end of her life”.

Although she would marry twice, Clare Hollingworth never had children. When asked why she did not have any children, she is said to have replied that “being a war correspondent was far more interesting”.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that “Character is destiny”, and how absolutely spot on he was. By living her life with such courage and determination, Clare Hollingworth has shaped her life into this amazing journey that is both inspiring and uplifting. What an amazing legacy she leaves behind!

Clare Hollingworth

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