As you may have read, war correspondent Clare Hollingworth passed away, aged 105, on 10 January 2017. She is mostly remembered as the journalist who filed the scoop of the century: the beginning of the Second World War. She was also the first one to suggest that Kim Philby was ‘the third man’ in the Burgess-Maclean espionage case.
Given all the tributes paid to that formidable woman, I thought it would be interesting to see how her story, or at least someÂ of it, was recorded in governmental files.
Clare Hollingworth first appeared on the Foreign Office’s radar in 1939, when she started working with Czechoslovak refugees in Poland as part of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia.
Following the Munich Agreement, Germany annexed the Sudetenland â€“ the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia. On 15 March 1939, the Germans invaded the rest of the country, and hundreds of people crossed the Polish border. Clare Hollingworth arrived in Katowice, in southwestern Poland, on 22 March 1939, and promptly organised everything in a very efficient manner. As soon as she arrived, she found herself in charge of the maintenance, visas and evacuation of over a thousand refugees.
By April, the consul at Katowice, Thwaites, estimated that ‘the total of refugees amounted to over two thousand’. To cope with numbers, she had to resort to block visas, countersigned by the consul. To make things easier and ensure she could facilitate the evacuation of the largest number of people possible, Hollingworth also issued identity cards in lieu of passports (FO 371/24085). Continue reading »