Bolitho was born and educated in Auckland, New Zealand, the son of Henry and Ethelred Frances Bolitho. He travelled in the South Sea Islands in 1919 and then through New Zealand with the Prince of Wales in 1920. He travelled in Africa, Australia, Canada, America, and Germany in 1923-4, finally settling in Britain where he was to remain for the rest of his life.
On his arrival in Britain he worked as a freelance journalist. At the start of World War II he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) as an intelligence officer with the rank of squadron leader, editing the Royal Air Force Weekly Bulletin, which in 1941 became the Royal Air Force Journal. In 1942 he was appointed editor of the Coastal Command Intelligence Review.
Bolitho undertook several lecture tours of America (in 1938-39, 1947, 1948, and 1949).
Bolitho was homosexual and was in a long-term relationship with Derek Peel, an army officer, from 1949 until Bolitho's death in 1974.