Roald Dahl was born on 13 September 1916 in Villa Marie, Fairwater Road, Llandaff, Glamorgan & died on 23 November 1990 in Oxford, was a British novelist, short story writer, fighter ace and screenwriter of Norwegian parentage.
Born on to Norwegian parents, Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Dahl. Dahl’s father had moved from Sarpsborg in Norway and settled in Cardiff in the 1880s. His mother came over to marry his father in 1911. Dahl was named after the polar explorer Roald Amundsen, a national hero in Norway at the time. He spoke Norwegian at home with his parents and sisters, Astri, Alfhild, and Else. Dahl and his sisters were christened at the Norwegian Church, Cardiff, where their parents worshipped.
He served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence agent, rising to the rank of Wing Commander. He rose to prominence in the 1940s with works for both children and adults, and became one of the world’s bestselling authors. His short stories are known for their unexpected endings, and his children’s books for their unsentimental, often very dark humour.
Some of his better-known works include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, Matilda, The Witches, and The BFG.
In 1920, when Dahl was three years old, his seven-year-old sister, Astri, died from appendicitis. Weeks later, his father died of pneumonia at the age of 57. Dahl’s mother, however, decided not to return to Norway to live with her relatives, but to remain in Wales since it had been her husband’s wish to have their children educated in British schools, as he felt they were the best in the world.
In July 1934, Dahl joined the Shell Petroleum Company. Following two years of training in the UK, he was transferred to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania (named Tanganyika then). Along with the only two other Shell employees in the entire territory, he lived in luxury in the Shell House outside Dar-es-Salaam, with a cook and personal servants. While out on assignments supplying oil to customers across Tanganyika, he encountered black mambas and lions, amongst other wildlife.
In August 1939, as World War II loomed, plans were made to round up the hundreds of Germans in Dar-es-Salaam. Dahl was made an officer in the King’s African Rifles, commanding a platoon of Askaris, indigenous troops serving in the colonial army.
Dahl married American actress Patricia Neal on 2 July 1953 at Trinity Church in New York City. Their marriage lasted for 30 years and they had five children: Olivia, Tessa, Theo, Ophelia, and Lucy. On 5 December 1960, four-month-old Theo Dahl was severely injured when his baby carriage was struck by a taxicab in New York City. For a time, he suffered from hydrocephalus, and as a result, his father became involved in the development of what became known as the “Wade-Dahl-Till” (or WDT) valve, a device to alleviate the condition.
In November 1962, Olivia Dahl died of measles encephalitis at age seven. Dahl subsequently became a proponent of immunisation and dedicated his 1982 book The BFG to his deceased daughter.
In 1965, wife Patricia Neal suffered three burst cerebral aneurysms while pregnant with their fifth child, Lucy; Dahl took control of her rehabilitation and she eventually relearned to talk and walk, and even returned to her acting career.
Following a divorce from Neal in 1983, Dahl married Felicity “Liccy” Crosland the same year at Brixton town hall, and with whom he was in a relationship before that. According to a biographer, Donald Sturrock, Liccy gave up her job and moved into his home, ‘Gipsy House’, with Roald and his children.
He is the father of the author Tessa Dahl, grandfather of author, cookbook writer and former model Sophie Dahl and father-in-law to actor Julian Holloway (son of actor Stanley Holloway).
Roald Dahl died on 23 November 1990, at the age of 74 of a blood disease, myelodysplastic syndrome, in Oxford, and was buried in the cemetery at the parish church of Saint Peter and Paul in Great Missenden.
The anniversary of Dahl’s birthday on 13 September is celebrated as “Roald Dahl Day” in Africa, the United Kingdom, and Latin America.