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Alan Moorehead

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Alan Moorehead

Alan Moorehead (left) and Alexander Clifford (right) during the North African Campaign

Alan McCrae Moorehead 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.


Alan Moorehead was born in Melbourne, Australia. He was educated at Scotch College, with a BA from Melbourne University. 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".[1]

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.[2] He was twice mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the OBE. 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."[3] 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."[4] 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."[5]

In 1956, his book Gallipoli about the Allies' disastrous World War I 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 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.


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.[2]



  • Mediterranean Front (Hamish Hamilton, 1941; McGraw, 1942) A journal of his experiences during the first year of WW II while General Wavell was in command, mostly in the Western Desert of North Africa.
  • A Year of Battle (Hamish Hamilton, 1943) & (Harper, 1943) as Don't Blame the Generals. A journal of his experiences, while General Claude Auchinleck was in command, during the second year of WW II, mostly in the Western Desert of North Africa.
  • The End in Africa (Harper, 1943) A journal of his experiences, while General Montgomery was in command, during the third year of WW II, mostly in the Western Desert of North Africa.
  • African Trilogy (Hamish Hamilton & Harper, 1945). A compendium of the above three books, Mediterranean Front, A Year of Battle and The End in Africa. Abridged edition The Desert War (Hamish Hamilton, 1965), published in America as The March to Tunis:The North African War: 1940–1943 (Harper, 1967).
  • Eclipse (1946), Hamish Hamilton. A journal of his experiences, starting at the northern shore of Sicily, just before the Allies first set foot on the mainland at the southern tip of Italy in September 1943, through the Salerno and Anzio landings, then passing to the Normandy landings, Operation Market Garden, the Rhine crossing, and the final downfall of the Nazi empire. (Abridged edition, 1967)
  • Montgomery: A Biography (1946)
  • The Rage of the Vulture (1948). A novel set in Kashmir in 1947 amid an invasion by Pakistani tribesmen which Moorehead had reported for the 'Observer'.
  • The Villa Diana (1951)
  • The Traitors: The Double Life of Fuchs, Pontecorvo, and Nunn May (1952) (Revised edition 1963)
  • Rum Jungle (1953)
  • A Summer Night (1954)
  • Winston Churchill in Trial and Triumph (1955)
  • Gallipoli (1956) (new edition 1967)
  • The Russian Revolution (1958)
  • No Room in The Ark (1959)
  • The White Nile (1960; Abridged illustrated edition, 1967) as The Story of the White Nile, Harper & Row
  • Churchill: A Pictorial Biography (Viking, 1960); Churchill and his World: A Pictorial Biography (Thames & Hudson, 1965; Revised edition)
  • The Blue Nile (1962; Abridged illustrated edition, 1966) as The Story of the Blue Nile, Harper & Row
  • Cooper's Creek (1963), about the Burke and Wills expedition across Australia[6]
  • The Fatal Impact: An Account of the Invasion of the South Pacific, 1767–1840 (1966; Revised, illustrated edition, 1987), Harper & Row
  • Darwin and the Beagle (1969)
  • A Late Education: Episodes in a Life (1970), autobiography, and his friendship with Alexander Clifford during the Spanish Civil War and World War II[7]

Contributions to The New Yorker

Incomplete – to be updated
Title Department Volume/Part Date Page(s) Subject(s)
Illustrious Sir: If You Value Your Life ... A Reporter in Sicily 25/50 4 February 1950 36–47 The Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano.


  1. ^ Eyewitness by Geoffrey Cox, page 238
  2. ^ a b Alan Moorehead: A Rediscovery, National Library of Australia News, September 2005
  3. ^ Clive James, Cultural Amnesia, p.515
  4. ^ Cultural Amnesia, p.518,
  5. ^ Clive James, p.521
  6. ^ Most of the bibliographic detail taken from a copy of Cooper's Creek, first published by Hamish Hamilton UK in 1963
  7. ^ Confirmation can be found from a first edition of the book, published by Hamish Hamilton (London) in 1970

Further reading and related links

  • Tom Pocock. Alan Moorehead. London: The Bodley Head, 1990.
  • Moyal, Ann Mozley. (2005). Alan Moorehead: A Rediscovery. Canberra: National Library of Australia. 10-ISBN 0-642-27616-1; 13-ISBN 978-0-642-27616-2
  • Pollinger Ltd., Estate mananger
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