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MS 675

Reference code

MS 675


Gavin Young collection



Administrative / Biographical history

Young, Gavin (1928–2001)

Gavin Young was a journalist and travel writer.

He was born on 24 April 1928 in Cornwall to Gavin Young, a lieutenant colonel in the Welsh Guards, and Daphne Young, the daughter of Sir Charles Leolin Forestier-Walker, Bt, of Monmouthshire.

He was educated at Rugby before going to Trinity College, Oxford where he read Modern History.

On graduating he joined the Welsh Guards on military service in Palestine and subsequently, at the age of 22, he got a job as a clerk with a shipping company in Basra. After meeting Wilfred Thesiger, Young was persuaded to abandoned his plan to explore the desert and live with the Marsh Arabs of Iraq where remained for two years.

He continued to travel in southern Iraq until 1956, when the Suez Crisis forced him to seek work for Radio Morocco. In 1960, he joined The Observer of London as a foreign correspondent. During his 20 years as a journalist he covered 14 wars, including the Algerian war and the war in Nagaland in the mountains of north-east India where the Naga rebels who were resisting the Indian government. He also visited Vietnam and Cambodia.

In the late 1970s he gave up journalism and turning to writing books instead. He published 10 books in total, the bestselling of which are ‘Slow Boats To China’ (1981) and ‘Slow Boats Home’ (1985).

The work of Joseph Conrad was a significant influence on Young throughout his life and in 1991 he published ‘In Search of Conrad’.

He died on 18 January 2001 in London.



Extent & medium

20 boxes

Content description

The collection covers Gavin Young’s literary papers and contains notebooks, typescripts, letters and other items relating to Young’s writings. They give an insight into Young’s working methods, his experiences travelling to various parts of the world, and the people he met. Young was also a keen photographer, recording for posterity the places he visited and this has also been represented in this collection.

The papers also reflect Gritta Weil’s professional assistance to Gavin Young, both in relation to his work for The Observer and with the publication of Young’s books. The collection contains a mix of material created and accumulated by Young himself and by Weil, acting on his behalf.

The collection mainly relates to Young’s writing career; however some of the files contained within the final series include a limited amount of personal items and administrative papers. The correspondence within the various files relate to his literary work and travel.

The collection includes papers relating to Young’s time with the Marsh Arabs and, they provide an interesting comparison to Wilfred Thesiger’s experiences during the same period. However they contain little information on Thesiger himself. There are no family papers and his early life is not represented in this collection.


This collection was housed in the home of Gritta Weil, the editorial secretary at The Observer.

Physical characteristics

Some of the photographic material requires a slide projector to view the images

Associated material

A collection of books belonging to Gavin Young were acquired from Gritta Weil alongside the archive. These have been catalogued separately

Conditions of access and use area

This collection contains items covered under the Data Protection Act. The affected files have been noted at the appropriate level

Finding aids

A more detailed handlist for MS 675 04 is held by Eton College Library
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