Foreign Correspondent Clare Hollingworth, Who Broke News of World War II, Dies Aged 105

Clare Hollingworth
Former war correspondent Clare Hollingworth reflecting on the past during an interview with AFP at the Foreign Correspondent's Club, Hong Kong, October 10, 2011. Hollingworth has died aged 105. Ted Aljibe/Getty

Clare Hollingworth, who was a rookie reporter for a British newspaper when she broke the news in 1939 that World War II had begun, has died in Hong Kong aged 105, a close friend reported Tuesday.

In August 1939, at the age of 27, Hollingworth travelled alone to the German border and witnessed the first column of Nazi tanks mobilising to invade Poland.

Three days later she was first to report the outbreak of hostilities not only to readers of The Daily Telegraph, but also to the British and Polish authorities.

"Clare passed away surrounded by family and friends with lots of care," Cathy Hilborn Feng, a friend of more than 20 years, said by telephone in Hong Kong.

Hollingworth's reporting of the outbreak of the war was one of the greatest scoops of modern times.

"I broke this story when I was very, very young," she said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph in 2009. "I went there to look after the refugees, the blind, the deaf and the dumb. While I was there, the war suddenly came into being."

The president of the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) in Hong Kong, where Hollingworth celebrated her 105th birthday in October, expressed sadness at her passing.

"She was a tremendous inspiration to us all and a treasured member of our club. We were so pleased that we could celebrate her 105th birthday with her this past year," FCC president Tara Joseph said in a statement.

On that occasion, scores gathered to celebrate the former reporter, who has also been credited with saving the lives of thousands of Eastern European refugees by helping them flee Hitler's Nazi army.

Hollingworth was a long-time member and regular visitor to the FCC, the expat watering hole of which she has been the doyenne for more than two decades.

The club would reserve a table for her at lunchtime, often calling to check whether she would be popping in to eat and listen to the BBC news.

Hollingworth's great nephew, Patrick Garrett, has published a book on his great aunt, Of Fortunes and War: Clare Hollingworth, First of the Female War Correspondents.

According to Garrett's biography, Hollingworth had a natural talent for "cajoling reluctant government officials, juggling incomplete information, and managing chaotic logistics."