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Alan Moorehead

Moorehead (left) with Alexander Clifford during the North African Campaign
Moorehead (left) with Alexander Clifford during the North African Campaign
Born Alan McCrae Moorehead
(1910-07-22)22 July 1910
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died 29 September 1983(1983-09-29) (aged 73)
London, England, United Kingdom
Resting place Hampstead Cemetery
Nationality Australian
Education Scotch College, Melbourne
Alma mater University of Melbourne
Spouse
Lucy Milner (m. 1940)
Children Caroline Moorehead

Alan McCrae Moorehead, AO, OBE (22 July 1910 – 29 September 1983) was a war correspondent and author of popular histories, most notably two books on the nineteenth-century exploration of the Nile, The White Nile (1960) and The Blue Nile (1962). Australian-born, he lived in England, and Italy, from 1937.

Biography

Alan Moorehead was born in Melbourne, Australia. He was educated at Scotch College, with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne. He travelled to England in 1937 and became a renowned foreign correspondent for the London Daily Express. Writer, world traveller, biographer, essayist, journalist, Moorehead was one of the most successful writers in English of his day. He married Lucy Milner, who at the Daily Express in 1937 "presided over a women's page free of the patronising sentimentality which marked much writing for women at the time".

During World War II he won an international reputation for his coverage of campaigns in the Middle East and Asia, the Mediterranean and Northwest Europe. He was twice mentioned in despatches and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. According to the critic Clive James, "Moorehead was there for the battles and the conferences through North Africa, Italy and Normandy all the way to the end. The hefty but unputdownable African Trilogy, still in print today, is perhaps the best example of Moorehead's characteristic virtue as a war correspondent: he could widen the local story to include its global implications." And James further affirmed, "His copy was world-famous at the time and has stayed good; he was a far better reporter on combat than his friend Ernest Hemingway." Moorehead's 1946 biography of Montgomery also remains well considered – "Moorehead was well able to see – as Wilmot calamitously didn't – that Eisenhower was Montgomery's superior in character and judgment."

In 1956, his book Gallipoli about the Allies' disastrous First World War campaign at Gallipoli, received almost unprecedented critical acclaim (though it was later criticised by the British Gallipoli historian Robert Rhodes James as "deeply flawed and grievously over-praised"). In England, the book won the Sunday Times thousand-pound award and gold medal was the first recipient of the Duff Cooper Memorial Award. The presentation of the latter was made by Sir Winston Churchill on 28 November 1956.

In 1966, Moorehead and his wife, younger son and daughter (Caroline Moorehead) made what became for him the first of an annual series of visits to Australia. There he had completed a television script for his manuscript "Darwin and the Beagle", but tragedy struck before the book was published. That December, suffering from headaches, he went into London's Westminster Hospital for an angiogram which precipitated a major stroke. It was followed by an operation, in which brain damage occurred, affecting the communicating nerves. At 56, Moorehead, one of the great communicators of his time, could neither speak, read, nor write.

Through his talented wife Lucy, however, his writing voice went on. Darwin and the Beagle was brought out as a beautifully illustrated book in 1969 and in 1972, she gathered together her husband's scattered autobiographical essays and published them as A Late Education. Moorehead died in London in 1983, and is buried at Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green.

Legacy

His professional and personal correspondence — diaries, magazine and journal essays, press cuttings, book serialisations, reviews of his works, the background notes, drafts and proofs of his writings, and material relating to his unpublished writings — have been preserved. During the 1960s, two major American universities pressed Moorehead to deposit his private papers as a core of their collections of contemporary writers. Instead, in 1971, Alan and Lucy Moorehead brought his papers to Australia to present them in person to the National Library.

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