Roald Dahl cannot be summarized as an author of many childrens books but he was a spy, an ace fighter pilot, a chocolate historian and a medical inventor too. Known as the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG, and a treasury of original, evergreen, and beloved children’s books, he remains for many the world’s No. 1 storyteller.
He was born in Llandaff, Wales, on 13th September 1916 to Norwegian parents. His early years were blighted by the tragic deaths of his older sister, Astri, and his father.
His mother sent him to boarding school – first to St Peter’s, Weston-super-Mare; then, in 1929 to Repton as she wanted the best for her son.
Pupils at Repton were invited to trial chocolate bars, a memory that stayed with Dahl throughout his life, inspiring Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Dahl always had lust for travel and that took him first to Canada, then to East Africa, where he worked for an oil company until the outbreak of World War Two.
He enlisted in the Royal Air Force at 23 years old. In September 1940, Dahl received severe injuries when his Gladiator crash-landed in the Western Desert.
Roald Dahl had gone through two marriages, first he married the American actress, Patricia Neal in 1953 with whom he had five children. They divorced after 30 years, and he later married Felicity “Liccy” Crosland, who has furthered Roald’s legacy through the foundation of Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity and The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.
In 1960 Roald helped invent the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, prompted by the need to alleviate the head injuries endured by his son after an accident in New York.
He has been referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. He won the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the British Book Awards’ Children’s Author of the Year in 1990. In 2008, The Times placed Dahl 16th on its list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”.
Dahl’s works for children include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine. His adult works include Tales of the Unexpected.
Roald Dahl died on 23 November 1990, at the age of 74 of a rare cancer of the blood, myelodysplastic syndrome, in Oxford, and was buried in the cemetery at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England. According to his granddaughter, the family gave him a “sort of Viking funeral”.