Alastair Borthwick recently died at age 90 in September of 2003, leaving behind his history as a writer, a journalist, a broadcaster, and war historian. He was born in 1913 in Troon, Ayrshire, and left school at 16 to work on the Evening Times, shortly followed by the Glasgow Weekly Herald, for which he edited, wrote, and did a variety of miscellaneous duties. His true passion, however, was broadcasting, and for that he found his calling at the BBC, where he began to run radio talks on mountaineering in 1934, and continued to do so up until 1995.
During that time Alastair Borthwick found himself employed with the war effort against Germany within WWII. He served with units in North Africa and Western Europe, and was a lance corporal by 1941. However, his most challenging and well known feat occured in 1944, where he led 600 men through the night to a position behind enemy lines – a feat that was quite difficult, considering the inaccuracies of maps at the time. His mountaineering background proved itself useful for this event, and saved him many times from imminent danger.
The first book penned by Alastair Borthwick, Always a Little Further (1939), became popular amongst the massive movement of hikers, outdoorsmen, and people who spent their free time amongst the natural world. His incredibly detailed descriptions resonated with the people, and made his novel particularly interesting. Alastair’s second book enjoyed similar popularity, even though the genre was entirely different. Sans Peur (1946) was written very shortly after the war, while the details of his experience were fresh on his mind, and outlined his recollections of the many fascinating and terrible events that he went through. Both books were republished and reissued in the 1980’s and 90’s, which brought the spotlight back on Alastair and his work.
Almost until the end of his life, Alastair Borthwick continued to work first as a broadcaster, and then as a teleprompter script writer when the popularity of the television skyrocketed. He will be remembered as a Scottish icon for his many feats in his fields.