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Eric Newby
Eric Newby 1919-2006.jpg
Born (1919-12-06)6 December 1919
Hammersmith, London
Died 20 October 2006(2006-10-20) (aged 86)
Guildford, Surrey
Occupation Author, travel writer
Nationality British
Period 1956–99
Genre History, travel, non-fiction,
Subject India, Middle East, Britain, Europe, Afghanistan
Spouse Wanda (née Skof)
Children 2 (Sonia and Jonathan)

George Eric Newby CBE MC (6 December 1919 – 20 October 2006) was an English travel writer. His works include A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, The Last Grain Race and A Small Place in Italy.

Early life

Newby was born in Barnes, London, and grew up near Hammersmith Bridge, London. His father, George, was a partner in a firm of wholesale dressmakers, and his mother, (Minnie) Hilda (née Pomeroy) had been a dress model at Harrods. Newby was educated at St Paul's School; after leaving school he worked for two years at the Dorland advertising agency until 1938 when, at the age of 18, he apprenticed aboard the Finnish windjammer Moshulu and took part in the "grain race" from Australia to Europe by way of Cape Horn. This voyage was subsequently described in The Last Grain Race and pictorially documented in Learning the Ropes.

Military career

During the Second World War, Newby was commissioned in the Black Watch in 1940. As a junior officer in the Rajput Regiment of the British Indian Army, he studied for six months of 1941 in Fatehgarh, India, for the Lower Standard Urdu Examination that was required to command Indian troops abroad. After passing the examination he was posted to North Africa.

He served in the Black Watch and the Special Boat Section, and was captured during an operation against the coast of Sicily in August 1942. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1946 for his part in the raid.

Newby was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, PG21, at Chieti, a few miles inland from Pescara on the Adriatic coast, and later to PG49 at Fontanellato, near Parma. Escaping with Michael Gilbert and other British prisoners after the Italian Armistice, he was helped to hide in the Apennine countryside by a Slovene anti-fascist woman, Wanda Skof, who married him after the war and became a companion on his travels. These experiences were described in his memoir Love and War in the Apennines, which focuses on how he was helped by ordinary Italians. A film, In Love and War, was made in 2001 based on the book, starring Callum Blue as Newby and Barbora Bobuľová as Wanda. He was free until January 1944, when he was recaptured.

Postwar career

After the war, he spent 17 years working on and off in the women's fashion business. In 1956, he set out to climb Mir Samir in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan with his friend Hugh Carless, an expedition later chronicled in A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. The voyage included a chance meeting with the English explorer Wilfred Thesiger. From 1964 to 1973, Newby was Travel Editor for The Observer newspaper.

Later life and recognition

In 1967, Newby and his wife began restoring a dilapidated farmhouse in the foothills of the Apuan Alps in Italy. A Small Place in Italy, a memoir of the couple's experiences in renovating the house, was published in 1995.

Newby was awarded a CBE in 1994 and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the British Guild of Travel Writers in 2001. His life and work were profiled in ITV's The South Bank Show in 1994. He made travel films for the BBC, returning to Parma with his wife Wanda in The Travel Show (1994) and visiting one of his favourite cities, Istanbul (1996).

Newby's last published book was A Book of Lands and Peoples, which appeared in 2003. He died at age 86 in Guildford, Surrey.

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