MOOREHEAD, ALAN McCRAE (1910–83)
Alan Moorehead was one of Australia’s most renowned journalists and writers of the 20th century. Born in Melbourne, he obtained a BA at the University of Melbourne, but abandoned his law degree to become a journalist, joining the Herald (Melbourne) in 1933, and setting off to Britain in 1936 in search of a wider vision. Moorehead had ‘a nose for news’, and his rise as a journalist was striking. Hired initially as a retainer for the Daily Express, reporting from Gibraltar on the Spanish Civil War, he quickly became an Express staffer, was appointed to the Express’s Paris office in 1938 and, as the Axis presence gathered, was selected by Arthur Christiansen to open an Express bureau in Rome. With Italy’s entry into the war in June 1940, Moorehead was transferred to Cairo to become the Daily Express chief correspondent in the Mediterranean and simultaneously British War Correspondent in the Western Desert.
Moorehead’s writing from the battlefront was urgent and immediate. His compelling despatches on the British Army’s role in the African Campaign won him special prominence in the newspaper world and the title of ‘The Prince of War Correspondents’. He would bring his painterly eye and vivid reporting techniques to the D-Day Landing and to the very different scenes of conflict in Europe. Along the way, he published Mediterranean Front (1941), A Year of Battle (1943) and The End of Africa (1943)—brought together in 1944 as African Trilogy—and his sequel on the European war, Eclipse (1945).
Tired of journalism and war, he retired with his English wife and children to Tuscany, writing a stream of books including Montgomery (1946), The Villa Diana (1951), The Traitors (1952) and Winston Churchill in Trial and Triumph (1955). Moorehead, however, was essentially a wanderer, and his skill and eloquence as a writer of historical narrative emerged from his far-flung journeys in Africa that produced No Room in the Ark (1957), The White Nile (1960) and The Blue Nile (1962), the prize-winning Gallipoli (1956), and a series of works that brought him back to his native shore and included Rum Jungle (1954), Cooper’s Creek (1963), The Fatal Impact (1966) and Darwin and the Beagle (1969). Published in their millions and widely translated, his books won him critical acclaim and international fame. Moorehead’s autobiographical A Late Education was published in 1970. He received an OBE in 1946, a CBE in 1968 and an AO in 1978.
REFs: A. Moyal, Alan Moorehead (2005); Moorehead Papers (NLA).