Tony Brown, once one of the bad boys
of Fleet Street, has died in Washington
at the age of 77. The cause of his death
was officially listed as dementia.
Although in his years as a journalist
he travelled most of the world, he spent
his last months virtually alone in a
Washington nursing home.
The son of a printer on The Luton
News, Tony first got ink on his fingers
packing “black newspapers” into parachute
containers to be dropped over
Germany in WW2, part of Sefton
Delmar’s anti-Nazi propaganda campaign. After service in the RAF, he
started work for a paper in Bristol.
Then he joined the Daily Mail, where
he spent most of his newspaper career.
For years, he worked in the shadow of
such notable foreign correspondents as
Noel Barber and Rene McColl, but
made his own name with his travels to
Russia, the Middle East, Africa — and
even the South Pole.
He also showed great initiative.
Once, covering the Iceland Cod Wars,
refused access to an ordinary telephone,
he dictated his story on short-wave
radio, using alphabetic code to deceive
the Government censors.
He was one of the first Western journalists
to interview Boris Pasternak, but the story became controversial when a
handwritten copy of a Pasternak poem,
intended for the author’s girlfriend, Olga,
somehow disappeared between Moscow
and Paris, later to turn up in an auction
house. But not before the poem had
appeared in the Daily Mail.
His other achievements included
reporting a trip aboard the first nuclear
powered submarine, an interview with
Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser
just after the Six Day War, and covering
the Algerian War of Independence.
After leaving the Mail, he began writing
books. His biggest bestseller,
Bodyguard of Lies, was about the World
War Two propaganda campaign. The
title came from Churchill’s famous
quote: “In wartime, truth is so precious
that she should always be attended by a
bodyguard of lies.” Brown also wrote
books about the origins of the OSS
(later to become the CIA) and about
Kim Philby, the “third man” in the
Burgess-McLean spy ring with whom he
used to drink on Sunday mornings in a
Beirut hotel during his days in the
Middle East. He also wrote a life story of
Wild Bill Donovan, the man who
founded America’s biggest spy network.
It was at this time — having moved
to Washington — that he started using
his full name, Anthony Cave Brown.
For a time, he pursued an academic
career at Stanford University’s Hoover
Institute. But journalism kept calling.
For a time, he reported for TV stations
owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Early in his career, he was married to
Caroline Gilliat, the daughter of British
film-maker Sidney Gilliat. The marriage
ended in divorce. His companion for
the ensuing 37 years, Joan Simpson,
died in March.