Dan van der Vat, journalist and author, was born on 28 October 1939 and died 9 May 2019.
This website was originally published in 2009 and has been updated following his untimely death – to include the first chapters of his unpublished memoir and the obituaries published in The Guardian and The Times.
But first, allow Dan to introduce himself…
Dan van der Vat is my real name (I could hardly have made it up). It is a Dutch name; I was born and lived my first six years in the Netherlands, where my father was also born. There is more on the Biography page.
Meanwhile, welcome to my website. I was a newspaper journalist for nearly thirty years until I became a full-time, self-employed author. The two careers overlapped by about ten years, so that when I took the plunge and made the big switch to books at the turn of 1988-89, I had already published four volumes of naval history.
I retain one link with journalism: obituaries (and occasionally features) for The Guardian newspaper in London. I started with naval ones, thanks to my new-found knowledge of maritime history in the twentieth century. Then I was allowed to advance into the military and even the aviation fields. Next, my time in South Africa, and later in Germany, and my links with Holland were remembered, enabling me quietly to expand my morbid empire.
The obits fall into two categories: those written when someone has just died, and those about famous individuals, which are written in advance. It can be very satisfying to write about someone in the past tense when he or she is still with us: P.W. Botha, the former president of South Africa, springs to mind. I shall always be grateful to the deceased for keeping me warm and paying my fuel bills. You can get at my obituaries (and other features) via www.guardian.co.uk/news, entering my name in the search box.
Once again, welcome to this website, in which you can read about my life and my work.