Tom Pocock

Clare Hollingworth, 1911 – 2017: the bravest of us all

Clare Hollingworth, the veteran British war correspondent who broke the news that World War Two had started, has died at the age of 105. In 1991, Tom Pocock recalled the nerve of his colleague in The Spectator:

It’s odd to think that Clare Hollingworth turned 80 last week. She is for ever briskly middle-aged in the incarnation. I first met her in Algiers one day in February 1962, where she strode the blood-streaked streets like a county lady determined that the vicarage fete shall succeed despite the arrival of Hell’s Angels.

We were reporting the end of French rule and the three-cornered war between the French government, the Algerian liberation movement (the FLN) and the French settlers’ secret army (the OAS), then escalating from terrorism to street massacre and open warfare.

Clare, the correspondent of the Manchester Guardian and an old Algeria hand, had noticed that the newly arrived reporter from the Evening Standard was looking pale. Amongst correspondents in Algiers that always meant a recent shock of fright or horror. In my own case, it had been my presence as one of two Europeans in a crowded square and an Algerian gunman sidling up to the other one and shooting him through the head.

I’m going for a walk,’ she announced. ‘Care to come?’ Walking beside this sensible, upper-middle-class Englishwoman, who talked about Algeria as calmly as anyone could, was reassuring until our destination became apparent. We were heading for the square where I had seen the shooting an hour earlier, It was empty now, and we walked beneath its palms to the deserted arcades of the Rue Bab-Azoun, which skirted the foot of the Casbah.

I did not like to interrupt Clare but the place had the frozen stillness of no man’s land; there had been killings all over the city that day and I finally suggested we turn back.

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