At the age of 12 Grant Duff attended St Paul's Girls' School in London, where she befriended Diana Hubback and Peggy Garnett. Though Garnett she met Douglas Jay, who influenced her intellectual development. In 1931 Grant Duff went up to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford where she read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and was tutored by R. G. Collingwood and John Fulton and Isaiah Berlin. Among the friends she made at Oxford were Goronwy Rees, Isaiah Berlin, Christopher Cox and Ian Bowen, and although her closest friendship was with Rees, she remains associated in historical literature with the later German Widerstand figure Adam von Trott zu Solz, then a Rhodes Scholar attending Balliol College who was romantically involved with her friend Diana Hubback.
In January 1935 she found employment as a correspondent for The Observer covering the Saar plebiscite in January 1935, her copy providing that newspaper's successive front-page coverage. During the 1935 general election, she worked as a secretary for Hugh Dalton, the Labour Party spokesperson for foreign affairs. Afterwards, she assisted Jawaharlal Nehru during his visit to England in 1936 and briefly toyed with the idea of following his example into the field of anti-colonialism, before deciding to concentrate on the necessities for the survival of "small-nations" in Europe.
In June 1936, Grant Duff moved to Prague to become the Czechoslovakia correspondent for The Observer. Growing increasingly perturbed by the expansionism of Germany, she soon established a friendship with Hubert Ripka, a journalist and confidant of Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš, who further tutored her on Eastern European politics and introduced her to several leading Czech political figures. At Mowrer's request, she undertook a trip to Málaga in February 1937 to discover the fate of Arthur Koestler, who had been arrested by the Nationalists as a Republican spy.
By the spring of 1937, Grant Duff was increasingly at odds with The Observer's support for appeasement and their being viewed by many in Prague as being in the pay of the German government. In May she resigned from her position with the paper and undertook freelance assignments for other newspapers. At the behest of Ripka, Grant Duff also met with Winston Churchill (whose wife was a distant relation of hers), and served as a contact between the two men over the next two years.
Grant Duff's 1938 best-selling Penguin Special, Europe and the Czechs was delivered to British Parliamentarians the very day that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich having signed the agreement with Adolf Hitler that forced the secession of the Sudetenland to Germany. Its publication brought Grant Duff prominence, and identified her placement between supporters of appeasement and those "on the side of the Angels" or, as Churchill, "in the Wilderness".
Grant Duff could not have served von Trott as a contact point between Churchill and the German government, for von Trott had confided neither his Official nor his resistance activity to Grant Duff. However despite Grant Duff's open condemnation to him of his appeasement cronies, he met Grant Duff and Ripka in a last visit to England after which Ripka reported to Churchill the substance of an "astounding proposition Trott made to Ripka, which they appropriately believed emanated from Hermann Göring, for Hitler's army to withdraw from German-occupied Bohemia and Moravia in return for Polish territory and the international port of Danzig.
Shiela Grant Duff's testimony regarding her friend's proposition and von Trott's using this same offer in attempt to sway Neville Chamberlain, bears upon analysis of the appeasement era and of Widerstand positioning in mid-1939. Grant Duff herself was ever-after unsure as to whether von Trott genuinely sought this transfer of territory or, saw it as a means to achieve another end, and by preventing an out-break of war, give time to some un-specific Widerstand counter-Hitler push. .
In the decades after the war, she became a farmer and, in 1982, published a memoir of her early years in journalism, The Parting of Ways. Six years later, amidst successive historians' studies of the German Widerstand and von Trott's part in it, the full correspondence between Grant Duff and von Trott saw publication. Shiela Grant Duff's final break with von Trott of June 1939, caused by the Poland proposition, continued to influence a division of attitude concerning largely herself and, on the other side, those who leaned to the view that not only was the Widerstand misunderstood even prior to the Second World War, but that Churchill particularly erred in holding to the wartime policy of unconditional surrender.
Grant Duff was married twice. Her first marriage in 1942, to Noel Newsome, the founder of the BBC's European Service, produced 2 children, and ended in divorce. In 1950, she married Micheal Sokolov Grant, originally Micheal Vicentivich Sokolov, a second-generation White Russian who served as an officer in the Royal Navy in the Second World War. Their marriage produced three children and lasted until his death in 1998.
I Was Struck Down by Arthritis. at 14; SHIELA WILSON HAS BECOME A SPOKESWOMAN FOR THE ILLNESS THAT'S HAD A DEVASTATING IMPACT ON HER LIFE FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS
Jan 16, 2007; Byline: By Agnes Stevenson WHEN she was just 14 years old, Shiela Wilson found a strange patch of flaky skin on her scalp....