Category Archives: Historian

Alastair Borthwick: A War Hero and Highland Wanderer

Scottish war hero and writer Alastair Borthwick immortalized the Scottish Highlands with his most famous work Always a Little Further. Born in Troon, the writer came of age among the working-class throngs of inter-war Glasgow. Those formative years gave Borthwick the skills and language to speak to everyday people about the glories and tragedies of World War II, as well as his devotion to hiking the breathtaking scenery of his native land.

Those inauspicious beginnings did little to signal the career he would he leave behind. Out of high school by the age of 19, Borthwick established himself as a copywriter for the Evening Times and Glasgow Weekly Herald, finally arriving in London in 1935, ending up at the BBC. He remained in broadcasting and print for the next 60 years.

Enlisting with the 51st Highland Division during the war was a natural inclination for the outdoorsman. Borthwick proved as successful in combat as in writing, eventually rising to captain. In the closing days of World War II, he led 600 men behind German lines, under the cover of darkness. Drawing on his intuitive navigational sense formed from his Highland adventures, Borthwick steered his men through muddy terrain and encircled the unsuspecting Germans. Having survived the many atrocities of war, in the end he proclaimed: “I never felt more lonely than I did that night.”

Alastair Borthwick’s writings reflected this journey to war hero. Always a Little Further, published in 1939, was a carefree ode to the mountain trails of Scotland. It helped inspire a generation of men and women, as the disruption of war came to an end, to seek out adventure and solitude on Highland trails. By that time, Borthwick had move on to the war, reflecting that experience in his next work Sans Peur. Published in 1946, it brought to his readers the immediacy and intimacy of battle.

His works would continue to be re-issued in the ensuing decades, while Borthwick would move with a growing family across land and sea, living on Scotland’s most famed islands, before finally settling with his wife Anne on a farm in Ayrshire. Alastair Borthwick passed away in 2003, writing almost until to the end.

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