Obituary: Antony Terry
Saturday 03 October 1992
ANTONY TERRY was a former European editor of the Sunday Times. Before that he was a war hero. In both roles, his achievements were largely unsung, the result of personal and professional abstinence from sensationalism of any kind.
Few of his colleagues were aware that he held the Military Cross, awarded in the Second World War for successfully leading a commando raid on a German port. Seized by the Germans, Terry was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp where he honed his writing skill on a clandestine newspaper.
When the war ended, he honed his investigative skills on suspected Nazi war criminals. His knowledge of German dialects came from having spent much of his youth in pre-war Berlin where his father was attached to the British embassy. This, along with an intimate familiarity with Nazi military and civilian officialdom, made him a valuable member of the Allied teams preparing evidence for the Nuremberg war crimes trials.
Terry was born in north London, but lived almost his entire life outside Britain. Consequently, to many British newspaper staffs he was a somewhat enigmatic figure who would occasionally appear at the London office to discuss assignments only he was qualified to undertake, to eat roast beef at his favourite London restaurant and to fraternise discreetly with a few chosen colleagues and friends.
Physically, he was slightly built, his rather spare frame invariably clothed in dark, nondescript suits. Yet journalistically he was a giant, regarding himself as a kind of garde mobile who undertook jobs far from his bureau: Budapest in 1956, Biafra in 1970. He once cut his way (machete in hand) through the South American jungle in search of war criminals who had evaded Nuremberg. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs and of all aspects of the Cold War: secret arms deals, corruption within both Nato and Eastern bloc institutions and agencies and whatever bizarre happenings that caught his cold, analytical eye. Hired in 1949 by Ian Fleming, then the Foreign Manager of the Sunday Times, he was first based in Bonn, then in Paris, fast becoming one of the paper's most valuable assets, a one-man listening post, a fastidious checker of facts, a burrower into dark corners and a traveller who never complained of fatigue. Terry's expertise in German affairs made him a familiar figure to German television viewers for many years, even after he had been posted to France. No one was greatly surprised when his first marriage, to the novelist Sarah Gainham, fell victim to his work-load.
Terry worked under five Sunday Times editors. All admired his formidable prowess as much as they were intimidated by his legendary reputation and were intrigued by his lack of interest in office politics - the bane of editors. Even when Rupert Murdoch purged the newspaper and brought on new staff, Terry was persuaded to postpone retirement indefinitely. Moving from Paris to the south of France, he accepted major assignments and remained, curiously for one who preferred working alone, the mainstay and inspiration of his paper's investigative team.
But, although his editors made unremitting demands on his vast experience and equally comprehensive filing system, Terry managed to reduce his working pace somewhat, thanks to a companion, Edith Lenart, also a journalist, whom he met in Paris. Eight years ago, they were married and, three years later, resettled in Wellington, New Zealand, where Edith Terry has a daughter, Judith, by a former marriage.
Yet such was his unique value to journalism that retirement continued to be a half-hearted affair. Fearful of losing his services, his newspaper paid its legendary correspondent a retainer right up until his death. It was money well spent, for Antony Terry's heroic effort for his country and its journalism will long be an example that younger reporters will strive to emulate.
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