Eric Newby

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Eric Newby
Eric Newby 1919-2006.jpg
Born(1919-12-06)6 December 1919
Hammersmith, London
Died20 October 2006(2006-10-20) (aged 86)
Guildford, Surrey
OccupationAuthor, travel writer
GenreHistory, travel, non-fiction,
SubjectIndia, Middle East, Britain, Europe, Afghanistan
SpouseWanda (née Skof)
Children2 (Sonia and Jonathan)[1]

George Eric Newby CBE MC (6 December 1919 – 20 October 2006[2]) was an English travel author. Newby's best known works include A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, The Last Grain Race, and Round Ireland in Low Gear.


Newby was born in Barnes[3] and grew up near Hammersmith Bridge, London. His father, George, was a partner in a firm of wholesale dressmakers, and his mother, (Minnie) Hilda (née Pomeroy) had been a dress model at Harrods.[4][1] Newby was educated at St Paul's School;[1] after leaving school he worked for two years at the Dorland advertising agency until 1938 when, at the age of 18,[1] he apprenticed aboard the Finnish windjammer Moshulu and took part in the "Grain Race" from Australia to Europe by way of Cape Horn. This voyage was subsequently described in The Last Grain Race and pictorially documented in Learning the Ropes.[5]

In March 1941 Newby arrived in Fatehgarh, India, stationed as a junior officer in the Rajput Regiment of the Indian Army. In the six months he spent in Fatehgarh he studied for the Lower Standard Urdu Examination that was required to command native Indian troops abroad.[6] After passing the examination he was posted to North Africa.[1]

He served in the Black Watch and the Special Boat Section during World War Two, and was captured during an operation against the coast of Sicily in August 1942. He was later awarded the Military Cross for his part in the raid.[1] Newby was sent to a camp at Chieti a few miles inland from Pescara on the Adriatic coast, and later to Fontanellato, near Parma.[1] Escaping with the other British prisoners after the Italian Armistice, he was helped to hide in the Apennine countryside by a Slovenian anti-fascist woman, Wanda Skof,[1] who married him after the war and became a companion on his travels. These experiences were described in his memoir Love and War in the Apennines, which focuses on how he was helped by ordinary Italians. A film, In Love and War, was made in 2001 based on the book, starring Callum Blue as Newby and Barbora Bobuľová as Wanda. He was free until January 1944, when he was recaptured.[1]

After the war, he worked, off and on for 17 years,[1] in the women's fashion business, before setting out to climb Mir Samir in the Nuristan Mountains of Afghanistan with his friend Hugh Carless[1] in 1956,[7] an expedition later chronicled in A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush – probably his most widely known work, and which included a meeting with the English explorer Wilfred Thesiger. From 1964 to 1973, Newby was Travel Editor for The Observer newspaper.[7] He was awarded a CBE in 1994 and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the British Guild of Travel Writers in 2001. His life and work was profiled in ITV's The South Bank Show (directed by Tony Knox) in 1994. He made travel films for the BBC, returning to Parma with his wife Wanda in The Travel Show (directed by Paul Coueslant, 1994) and visiting one of his favourite cities, Istanbul (1996). He died at age 86 in Guildford.[8][9]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • The Last Grain Race (1956)
  • A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (1958)
  • Something Wholesale (1962)
  • Slowly Down the Ganges (1966)
  • Time off in Southern Italy: The Observer Guide to Resorts and Hotels (ed.) (1966)
  • My Favorite Stories of Travel (ed.) (1967)
  • Grain Race: Pictures of Life before the Mast in a Windjammer (1968)
  • Wonders of Britain: A Personal Choice of 480 with Diana Petry (1968)
  • Wonders of Ireland: A Personal Choice of 484 with Diana Petry (1969)
  • Love and War in the Apennines (1971)
  • When the Snow Comes, They Will Take You Away ("Love and War in the Apennines" 1971 USA edition by Charles Scribner's Sons)
  • The Mitchell Beazley World Atlas of Exploration (1975)
  • Great Ascents: A Narrative History of Mountaineering (1977)
  • The Big Red Train Ride (1978)
  • A Traveller's Life (1982)
  • On the Shores of the Mediterranean (1984)
  • A Book of Travellers' Tales (ed.) (1985)
  • Round Ireland in Low Gear (1987)
  • What the Traveller Saw (1989)
  • A Small Place in Italy (1994)
  • A Merry Dance Around the World: The Best of Eric Newby (1995)
  • Learning the Ropes: An Apprentice in the Last of the Windjammers (1999)
  • Departures and Arrivals (1999)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Nicholas Wroe, "Around the world in 80 ways", The Guardian, 9 June 2001.
  2. ^ "Travel writer Newby dies aged 86", BBC News, 22 October 2006
  3. ^ A Traveller's Life, Eric Newby, Pan, 1983, p. 11
  4. ^ "Newby, (George) Eric (1919–2006), travel writer and adventurer – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-97467. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  5. ^ pamir.chez-alice: The grain races (retrieved 1 December 2006)
  6. ^ Newby, Eric (1966). Slowly Down the Ganges. Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0340499753.
  7. ^ a b Margalit Fox, "Eric Newby, 86, Acclaimed British Travel Writer, Dies", The New York Times, 24 October 2006.
  8. ^ "Adventurer before the days of tourism". The Australian. 25 October 2006.
  9. ^ "Idiosyncratic travel writer from another age". The Guardian. 23 October 2006. Retrieved 18 January 2007.


  • Cocker, Mark, Loneliness and Time: British Travel Writing in the Twentieth Century, London: Secker and Warburg, and New York: Pantheon, 1992
  • Newby, Wanda, Peace and War: Growing up in Fascist Italy, London: Collins, 1991
  • Robb, Kenneth A. and Harender Vasudeva, "Eric Newby" in British Travel Writers, 1940[-]1997, Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 204, edited by Barbara Brothers and Julia M. Gergits, Detroit: Gale, 1999: 223–34
  • Thesiger, Wilfred, Desert, Marsh and Mountain: The World of a Nomad, London: Collins, 1979; as The Last Nomad, New York: Dutton, 1980

External links[edit]