WWII scoop journalist Clare Hollingworth turns 100

By Annemarie Evans
BBC News, Hong Kong

Image caption,
Clare Hollingworth celebrated her birthday at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club

Clare Hollingworth, the British journalist who reported the beginning of World War II, is celebrating her 100th birthday in Hong Kong.

Mrs Hollingworth happened to be making a trip across the border from Poland to Germany in August 1939, when she saw large numbers of military vehicles by the side of the road.

This was ahead of the German invasion.

While scoops do not get much bigger, it was the start of an illustrious career involving many other stories.

'I just enjoyed it'

In the Daily Telegraph on 29 August 1939, Hollingworth reported: "Today, I crossed the frontier between Polish and German Upper Silesia and spent several hours in Beuthen, Hindenburg and Gleiwitz.

"The frontier is still closed to local traffic. Everywhere I saw signs of the most intense military activity. In the two miles between Hindenburg and Gleiwitz I was passed by 65 military despatch riders on motorcycles. The only cars to be seen were those belonging to the military."

Mrs Hollingworth was born on the same day that Sun Yat-Sen and other revolutionaries overthrew the Qing dynasty in China.

Media caption,
Home editor John Simpson: "Clare Hollingworth is fantastic, she has innumerable stories."

It seems fitting that a woman who would go on to report on many world events should have been born on such a newsworthy day.

She knew both British intelligence officers and spies Donald McLean and Kim Philby when they defected to Russia.

She travelled extensively reporting on Aden, the Vietnam war and Algeria.

She interviewed the shah of Iran, and reported from Beijing during the demise of Chairman Mao Zedong among many other stories.

Asked why it was important to her to be a reporter, she replied: "Because I just enjoyed it, nothing else."

She still loves life, she said, and listened to the BBC World Service on the hour.

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