“I must admit that I enjoy being in a war."
January 10, 2017 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Clare Hollingworth, Reporter Who Broke News of World War II, Dies at 105 "In this period of heightened tension, the border between Poland and Germany was sealed to all but diplomatic vehicles. After borrowing a car from the British consul in Katowice and proudly displaying the union jack, she drove through the exclusion zone and into Germany. While driving back to Poland, having bought wine, torches and as much film as possible, she passed through a valley in which huge hessian screens had been erected. As the wind blew one of the screens back, it revealed thousands of troops, together with tanks and artillery, all facing the Polish border. Her report featured on the front page of the Daily Telegraph on 29 August, 1939. Less than a week after becoming a full-time journalist, she had scooped one of the biggest stories of the 20th Century." posted by roomthreeseventeen (45 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by Kitteh at 10:06 AM on January 10


Her report featured on the front page of the Daily Telegraph on 29 August, 1939. Less than a week after becoming a full-time journalist, she had scooped one of the biggest stories of the 20th Century.
Three days later, Hollingworth saw the German tanks rolling into Poland. But when she phoned the secretary at the British Embassy in Warsaw, he told her it could not be true as negotiations between Britain and Germany were still continuing.

"So I hung the telephone receiver out of the window," Hollingworth later recalled, "So he could listen to the Germans invading."
That's how you do a mic phone drop.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:09 AM on January 10 [41 favorites]


Wow, what a way to start a career.
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posted by Bee'sWing at 10:12 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


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posted by Etrigan at 10:19 AM on January 10


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posted by ocschwar at 10:40 AM on January 10


As the wind blew one of the screens back, it revealed thousands of troops, together with tanks and artillery, all facing the Polish border.

This made me gasp. What an astonishing thing to see.
posted by lalex at 10:44 AM on January 10 [17 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 10:51 AM on January 10


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I'm trying to figure out what those screens must have been. Were they on the windows of the vehicle? It seems more than a little suspicious to set up giant barricades on a cliff face.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 10:53 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


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posted by meinvt at 11:09 AM on January 10


I'm trying to figure out what those screens must have been. Were they on the windows of the vehicle? It seems more than a little suspicious to set up giant barricades on a cliff face.

I'd guess just the standard kind of camo tent type thing that you see in all kinds of war movies around a field base. Interesting choice of words in the article calling it a "hessian" screen. Well, of course it was (although it probably means "burlap" in this context).
posted by LionIndex at 11:09 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


More like a Prussian screen, amirite?

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posted by grumpybear69 at 11:11 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I suspect "hessian" was just being used as a shorthand for a coarse sort of fabric, and that it was some sort of camo netting, perhaps improvised. A quick search didn't turn up many other accounts of the same thing, though it's not implausible.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:15 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


"After school she attended a domestic science college in Leicester, which instilled in her a lifelong hatred of housework." The true mark of a hero.
posted by helpthebear at 11:18 AM on January 10 [24 favorites]


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Wow. Just...wow.

There are some women I absolutely envy with all the fiber of my being.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:53 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


nearly 80 and nominally retired, Ms. Hollingworth, attired in a safari suit, her working uniform of choice for 60 years, was spotted in Tiananmen Square shinnying up a lamppost for a bird’s-eye view of the government’s violent crackdown against civilian protesters

oh my god, this woman was some tough nugget
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 11:56 AM on January 10 [22 favorites]


What an amazing woman! I went looking for the original article on the invasion of Poland online, but it doesn't seem to be available, at least not for free. I did, however, come across this nice profile from last August.
posted by TedW at 12:00 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Absolutely incredible.

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posted by tobascodagama at 12:13 PM on January 10


One of the reports of her death on the radio today had a recording of her telling an anecdote, I think from East Berlin in the Cold War. She was nosing about and spotted a new model of Russian tank, which had been parked and left empty. She hopped up and went in, to take notes of the markings on the speedometer and fuel gauge, when she heard the tank crew coming back. "I did my little old lady act," she said, "and told them I was lost and had clambered up to get a better view of the streets.". The next day, her UK newspaper ran a story revealing for the first time the speed and range of the new model.

Ovaries of the purest brass.
posted by Devonian at 12:36 PM on January 10 [33 favorites]


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posted by Token Meme at 12:38 PM on January 10


And I thought I knew what "intrepid" meant.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:48 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


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posted by threetwentytwo at 1:01 PM on January 10


Ye gods, that awkward intro on the Times obit!

"From a single gust of wind, Clare Hollingworth reaped the journalistic scoop of the century."

Why not simply:

A single gust of wind gave journalist Clare Hollingworth the scoop of the century.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:09 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I assumed it was intended as a reference to "They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind".
posted by ardgedee at 1:35 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


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posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 1:41 PM on January 10


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What an amazing life.

Here's the Internet Archive version of a 2009 Daily Telegraph article about the scoop (actually two scoops, as pointed out) which adds lots of detail.
posted by Kattullus at 2:03 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Reading that obit, my God, she was amazing! RIP.

I suddenly foresee a duff biopic which doesn't begin to do her justice made with Lottery money starring Kate Winslet and Judy Dench.
posted by comealongpole at 2:11 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I assumed it was intended as a reference to "They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind".


ardgedee,
I am...blown away by that reference. I had no idea that was the flourish intended. Thank you.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:34 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


OK she was completely bad ass. Wow.

I'm not sure how to put this: looking backward from today's view, it's challenging not to presume a sexual identity on her, given her history of deserting her first husband and apparently never re-marrying after her second husband died in the 60s. On one level, it's problematic to ascribe queerness to any woman who happens to choose traditionally-masculine work or dress. Not all gender rebellion is gay, and queer women are obv not all masculine. I totally get it. But on the other hand, from my personal set of biases and history, Clare Hollingworth appears to have been a smokin' hot butch!
posted by latkes at 3:15 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


latkes - I wouldn't care to speculate about her sexuality, but having been acquainted with various examples of fearsome English women of that class and vintage I would say that nothing in her life or personality as revealed so far would lead me to your conclusion.

Sometimes, having a spouse just gets in the way of doing your own damn thing, and sometimes that's the thing you've just damn well got to do. I would put CH in that category, without a second's hesitation.
posted by Devonian at 3:42 PM on January 10 [13 favorites]


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posted by one teak forest at 4:20 PM on January 10


Not all gender rebellion is gay,

Even framing it as "gender rebellion" is problematic, IMHO -- and I would reference (as always) _How to Suppress Women's Writing_ for that. She wasn't the first female journalist by any measure, and, even if she were, conflating her profession with the way she perceived her gender identity brings with it its own host of issues. (Hell, she could have been a lesbian and still not perceived her behavior as some sort of gender rebellion.)
posted by steady-state strawberry at 8:09 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


I don't understand how -- with all the volumes I've read about World War II -- I have never come across her name. One would think that the person who announces a war would get a little credit for that. What a fascinating life she lived.

- 30 -
posted by bryon at 10:09 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Totally totally agree. And it's problematic to queer jacket women for like, being whole human beings, but it's also problematic to assume people are not queer. Everything I know about Clare Hollingworth, I learned today, so I don't know anything about her sexual identity - whatever that would have even meant to her at various points in her life, but one possible positive way to frame her is as a queer figure, and as a queer person, it certainly comes to mind for me.
posted by latkes at 10:11 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]




"In 1990 Hollingworth published her autobiography, Front Line, which disappointed some who had hoped for more revelations about her private life."

Good for her.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 11:38 PM on January 10 [7 favorites]


An amazing women, not just as a journalist, but as a human (see Fongotskilernie's comment about her arranging evacutations). A friend of mine got the chance to highlight Clare's life on the occasion of her 105th birthday, including a wonderful tribute from one of the women was was evacuated from Poland as a result of Clare's efforts.

That same friend of mine been tweeting and retweeting interesting stuff over the last day, but I particularly liked her appearance on Desert Island Discs.
posted by sarcas at 4:06 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


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posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:23 AM on January 11


sarcas: I particularly liked her appearance on Desert Island Discs

The interview was from 1999, when she was 80 years old, and she said she used to prepare herself for tough situations by sleeping on the floor. Then she noted casually she still slept on the floor from time to time, just to make sure she could still do it.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:22 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


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posted by double bubble at 7:18 AM on January 11


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posted by ZeusHumms at 9:28 AM on January 11


I don't know anything about her sexual identity - whatever that would have even meant to her at various points in her life, but one possible positive way to frame her is as a queer figure

Not if it's not accurate reporting. For all your good intent, making stuff up based on assumptions and not real reports is an insult to her memory.
posted by happyroach at 11:15 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


one possible positive way to frame her is as a queer figure

Even if you mean this as a compliment -- even if it's *true* -- the accusation from moralists of not being a "real" woman is something that would have made women of her age hesitate to pursue non-traditional careers. Equating not being a housewife and being single with queerness (either in gender or sexuality) does their work for them, and, given that at least some women of the time would have found all of those options a poor fit, I think that's problematic.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 12:37 PM on January 11


With the additional caution that "non-traditional careers" erases a history of female journalists.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 12:42 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


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Looks like her autobiography is out of print, unfortunately.
posted by PippinJack at 11:28 AM on January 12


Worse, it's selling for stupid money. Current lowest price: $145 (on Alibris). Current highest: $2,797.00 (on Amazon).

I contacted the (likely) current publisher, Independent Publishers Group (IPG), who acquired Trafalgar Square Publishing in 2006 (Trafalgar published her book in 1991), to ask if they were planning on reprinting this title, given it's dramatic listed price. I'll share if I hear back from IPG.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:26 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


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