A serendipitous thing about being an indexer is the way that the same people keep cropping up in the different books I have worked on. Throughout three books I’ve indexed the name of Donald McLachlan has cropped up. He was founding editor of the Sunday Telegraph and in the course of indexing books by Robert Harling, Nigel Buxton, and most recently, Edwin Mullins, his name occurred several times. A quick glimpse at Wikipedia shows him to have led an interesting life that I’m sure would bear a deeper look. His own book about World War II Naval Intelligence in Room 39 is long out of print, and as he died in a car crash in 1971 he didn’t live to fully tell his own tale. In Room 39 he worked under Ian Fleming, and then in the secret admiralty broadcasting unit, alongside Robert Harling and Sefton Delmer. If McLachlan had lived longer he might have been able to tell his own side of the story of those interesting times in more explicit detail.
Buxton and Mullins both came across McLachlan during his time at the Sunday Telegraph during the early 1960s, the time when everything was changing. Buxton was able to demonstrate his own style as a travel writer and persuade McLachlan that he was the man for the post of travel correspondent at the new paper. McLachlan also had the clarity of vision to appoint the young Edwin Mullins as the paper’s first regular art critic. Both Buxton and Mullins were allowed considerable freedom in what they researched and wrote about. There’s obviously more to be told about McLachlan and his influence on 1960s media, as well as his wartime exploits.
Over the summer I’ve had the privilege of indexing two books by men who took part in World War II, and viewed their participation as a necessary interlude in their careers, not defining moments because they went on to forge careers in areas unrelated to the military. They were, perhaps, lucky to live at a time when the post-war period made opportunities for those who could seize them.
Nigel Buxton was travel writer for the Sunday Telegraph and a wine writer, and more recently appeared as BaaadDad in the Channel 4 comedy series The Adam and Joe Show. He tells of his wartime experiences and of how he came to work in Fleet Street and blog. This material has been gathered for a book that includes some of his favourite essays from the Sunday Telegraph. Nigel died at the end of November 2015 and the book makes a fitting tribute to his life.
Robert Harling was editor of House & Garden among many other things. He shared wartime experiences with Ian Fleming and became his friend, sharing holidays and meals with Ian on many occasions. Robson press published Ian Fleming: A personal memoir in October to coincide with the new Bond film Spectre.The book gives a unique perspective on an enduringly popular author and his personal life. However, as Ian Jack, writing in the Guardian, shows, Harling wasn’t entirely honest about his own life.
Both should be on the Christmas list of anyone interested in the post-war period in Britain.