A book I’d like to read – the life of Donald McLachlan

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.


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