By Andrew Alderson, Telegraph.co.uk, August 7, 2010
Roald Dahl led an extraordinary life in America during the Second World War as a philandering James Bond-style spy with a “stable” of women, a new biography of the children’s author reveals.
Apparently motivated by a combination of duty and lust, Dahl slept with countless high society women while gathering intelligence in the United States.
His life as a young, handsome and dashing RAF officer in the early 1940s is detailed in a new book by Donald Sturrock, Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, which is serialised today in The Sunday Telegraph.
Antoinette Haskell, a wealthy friend of Dahl’s who looked up to him as a brother even though he was “drop dead gorgeous”, said the author had a “whole stable” of women to wait on his every need. “He was very arrogant with his women, but he got away with it. The uniform didn’t hurt one bit – and he was an ace [pilot],” she said. “I think he slept with everybody on the east and west coasts that had more than $50,000 a year.”
Dahl had fought as a fighter pilot earlier in the war, until injuries grounded him. He then worked for a secret service network based in the United States called British Security Coordination (BSC). It had been initially established to promote UK interests in the United States and to counter Nazi propaganda.
It is not known exactly how Dahl was recruited as a British agent, but it is thought he was working loosely for BSC by the first four months of 1944 when, officially, he had a public relations role at the British Embassy in Washington DC. He was “run” from New York by William Stephenson, a buccaneering Canadian industrialist and businessman.
Yet Dahl’s secretive role went against the grain because he was a terrible gossip who frequently betrayed confidences, according to his family and friends. His daughter Lucy admitted: “Dad never could keep his mouth shut.”
The new biography also examines Dahl’s allegations of bullying and brutality during his public school days at Repton, which the children’s author wrote about in his book Boy. Dahl blamed Geoffrey Fisher, the Headmaster of Repton and who went on to become the Archbishop of Canterbury, for a vicious caning that left him bloodied and questioning his religious faith.
However, it has emerged that Dahl, who died in 1990 aged 74, was wrong to blame Fisher for his beating in the summer of 1933. By then, Fisher had left Repton to become Bishop of Chester and so the caning was, in fact, administered by John Christie, his successor as Headmaster.