Clare Hollingworth dies aged 105: Telegraph correspondent who broke the news of World War II passes away in Hong Kong


Clare Hollingworth, the Daily Telegraph correspondent who broke the news of World War Two, has died in Hong Kong aged 105.

The British journalist was hailed for her “scoop of the century” after she spotted German tanks on the Polish border in August 1939.

“We are sad to announce that after an illustrious career spanning a century of news, celebrated war correspondent Clare Hollingworth died this evening in Hong Kong,” a spokesman for the Celebrating Clare Hollingworth group said in a statement on Facebook on Tuesday.

Her death was confirmed by The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong, which praised her “remarkable” career.

“We are very sad to hear about Clare’s passing. She was a tremendous inspiration to us all and a treasured member of our club,” said Tara Joseph, the FCC president.

“We were so pleased that we could celebrate her 105th birthday with her this past year. Details of the funeral arrangements and a wake at the club will be announced later.”

Telegraph editor Chris Evans said: “Clare Hollingworth was a remarkable journalist, an inspiration to all reporters but in particular to subsequent generations of women foreign correspondents.

“She will always be revered by all of us at The Telegraph. Our sympathies to her friends and family.”

The scoop of Hollingworth’s career came to her in late August when she was a 27-year-old fledgling reporter for the Daily Telegraph.She had been a reporter at the newspaper for less than a week.

As the border was closed to all but diplomatic vehicles, she borrowed a British consulate official’s car to drive into German-occupied territory. She saw tanks, armored cars and artillery massing.

She recounted in her autobiography that burlap screens beside the road, “constructed to hide the military vehicles, blew in the wind, thus I saw the battle deployment.”

“I guessed that the German Command was preparing to strike to the north of Katowice and its fortified lines and this, in fact, was exactly how they launched their invasion in the south.”

Hollingworth filed the story that appeared on Tuesday, August 29, on The Daily Telegraph’s front page, underneath the headline: “1,000 tanks massed on Polish border. Ten divisions reported ready for swift stroke.”

She went on to write: “The German military machine is now ready for instant action.”

“I wasn’t frightened,” she recounted in an interview with the Telegraph in 2014, from the modest apartment in Hong Kong where she lived, just around the corner from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

“I broke this story when I was very, very young,” she said. “I went there to look after the refugees, the blind, the deaf and the dumb. While I was there, the war suddenly came into being.”

She went on to win major British journalism accolades including a “What The Papers Say” lifetime achievement award.

She was also made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Former British Prime Minister Ted Heath and former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten were fans of Hollingworth, while various British generals wrote about her fondly.

Lord Patten, who knew Ms Hollingsworth when he was Governor of Hong Kong, told the Telegraph: “Clare was quite literally one of the greatest journalists of the 21st century. She was a great buccaneer, brave, witty and wise.

“She covered some of the greatest stories of the last century with imitable dash and, on top of all that, she was kind and lovable.  Everybody who knew her will certainly have her in the category of the most exceptionable people they have met.”

Patrick Garrett, her biographer and great-nephew, said Hollingworth had recently been ill.

“At 105 we had begun to wonder if Clare was one of the immortals,” Mr Garrett told the Telegraph. “She got a cold around Christmas and obviously it is an extra concern with the elderly. We assumed she’d fight it off but it was to be her last Christmas.”

Mr Garrett added: “She was far from home but she’d been abroad most of her life. Seventy-eight years ago in Nazi Austria and most years since on foreign soil.

“On the one hand we have been expecting it would happen one day – but it will still come as a shock – and will probably only hit us tomorrow.

“I am happy that I put 10 years into writing and researching her biography. She may be gone but her legacy lives on.”

Did she speak about her Telegraph war scoop in the final months: “Her times in Poland still came up. She talked occasionally about the refugees she helped save too.”

In quotes | Clare Hollingworth

On war: “I must admit that I enjoy being in a war. When we were small children, my father used to take us to the Battle of Bosworth Field. When I was very small, in World War One, I used to hear people talk about the battles, and I did become extremely interested in warfare. I’m not brave, I just enjoy it.”

On bravery: “I enjoy action. I’m not brave, I just enjoy it. I don’t know why. God made me like this. I’m not frightened.”

On her love of taking risks: “It’s like playing a slightly uncertain game, you don’t know which way it’ll go.”

On journalism: “My mother thought journalism frightfully low, like a trade. She didn’t believe anything journalists wrote and thought they were only fit for the tradesmen’s entrance.”

On children: “I didn’t want to be bothered with children because I wanted to devote all my time to writing.”

On old age: “It’s extraordinary, being old. I just dream of being young all the time. I’m very much a youngster.”

On where she would go if she could turn the clock back: “I should look through the papers and say, ‘Where’s the most dangerous place to go’, because it always makes a good story.”

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