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Evelyn Irons; First Female Reporter to Reach Hitler’s Berchtesgaden Retreat

Evelyn Irons, 99, believed to be the first female war correspondent to reach Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden. She also had a famous love affair with writer Vita Sackville-West. After Irons, a Glasgow native, graduated from Somerville College in Oxford, she was hired by the Daily Mail of London to write for the women’s page but was fired because she looked unfashionable. At her next job, for the Evening Standard, she was sent to interview Sackville-West, the English poet and novelist who was married to diplomat Harold Nicolson. The two women commenced a short and tangled affair in 1931 that resulted in Sackville-West’s dedication of her “Collected Poems” to Irons. The romance ended when Irons fell in love with another woman, Joy McSweeney, who remained her companion until McSweeney’s death in the 1980s. When World War II erupted, Irons became a war correspondent for the Standard. Certain of a chilly response from British commanders toward a female correspondent, she attached herself to the French Army, eventually crossing the Rhine with Charles de Gaulle and traveling through Germany and Austria with French troops. She was one of the first journalists to enter liberated Paris and is believed to have been the first female correspondent to reach Hitler’s hideaway at Berchtesgaden. Later, she was honored with the Croix de Guerre. She scored another coup in the 1950s when, as a reporter for the Sunday Times of London, she rode a mule into Guatemala during a revolution there and scooped her colleagues. Never married, she retired at the age of 68 after many years as the Sunday Times’ New York bureau chief and spent her last years growing roses. On April 3 at her home in Brewster, N.Y., two months shy of her 100th birthday.


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