Woman who Broke News of World War II Dies: Clare Hollingworth Dead at 105

Woman who Broke News of World War II Dies: Clare Hollingworth Dead at 105 Clare Hollingworth with Life photographer Tim Page. June 1968 from manhhai/FLICKR with CC BY 2.0

Clare Hollingworth, undoubtedly one of the best war reporters of all time, died at the age of 105 in Hong Kong on Tuesday. She was the first reporter to break exclusive news of Germany preparing troops for battle, which would go on to be known as World War II.

Clare Hollingworth Facts

She was born in on Oct. 10, 1911 in Knighton in central England. She attended a domestic science college in Leicester. As was the popular trend at the time, she was engaged off to a suitable bachelor. Rebellious as she was, Hollingworth broke off the engagement and announced her desire to pursue journalism.

International relations began going downhill in 1939. But no one believed world leaders would plunge their nations into another World War, especially after seeing the destructive aftermath of the first one. So when Hollingworth published an article exposing Hitler’s impending attack on Poland, the world was dumbstruck.

The article came out on August 28, 1939, two days before German forces invaded Poland, triggering World War II. It was regarded as the “scoop of the century.”

How Clare Hollingworth Discovered Story That Changed Her Life

To think that a simple gust of wind was behind one of the most brilliant pieces of journalism seems eerie, but true. As it so happens, Hollingworth was driving her car from Gleiwitz in old Germany to Katowice in Poland when she came across a tarpaulin sheet fluttering in the wind.

The sheet was the only thing shielding the German valley near the border of Poland from view. One peek through the hole in the sheet allowed Hollingworth to witness the massive scale of military preparations in the German side.

Acquiring a world exclusive, instead of losing her wits, she hurried back to Poland and called her editor at the Daily Telegraph, where she worked. The next day, her article became the most talked about piece that decade.

Clare Hollingworth Career

Hollingworth did not stop there. She knew that she has a nose for sniffing out covert news, which she put into good use. She went on to cover World War II from multiple countries. Also, she covered Greek and Algerian civil wars, the Palestinian conflict and the Vietnam War.

In fact, she was so good at fishing out detailed information she was often accused of being a spy by other countries. She got arrested for it quite a few times.

Since she did not have a dearth of sources, no matter where in the world she travelled, she was always able to get front row seat to any major occurrence. This includes an exclusive interview with shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in 1979.

She had direct acquaintance with former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, who was then the minister of information and broadcasting. This allowed her exclusive access to the Indo-Pak war of 1965, a privilege no other reporter enjoyed.

Hollingworth was determined as she was fearless. She liked being in the thick of things, even if that meant sacrificing a shelter over her head sometimes. “I must admit that I enjoy being in a war,” Hollingworth told The Telegraph on her 100th birthday, as reported by the New York Times.

The editor of The Telegraph, Chris Evans, extended his condolences on the occasion. “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.”

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