Kilbracken, John 1920-2006

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Kilbracken, John 1920-2006

(John Godley, John Raymond Godley, Lord 3rd Baron Kilbracken, John Raymond Godley Kilbracken)


See index for CA sketch: Born October 17, 1920, in London, England; died August 14, 2006. Journalist, politician, and author. A former foreign correspondent for British newspapers, Kilbracken was later known for his views on environmentalism and foreign policy while in the House of Lords. While attending Eaton College, he was called up to military duty and served in the Fleet Air Arm. Commissioned a lieutenant commander in 1941, he led two squadrons and flew dozens of dangerous missions, earning a Distinguished Service Cross in 1945. After World War II, he completed a B.A. and M.A. at Balliol College, Oxford. Though he did well in his Civil Service exams, Kilbracken chose to become a reporter instead. Early on in his career, he wrote for the London Daily Mirror and Sunday Express, before going freelance in 1951. Traveling the world, he reported on stories ranging from art forgery and the Mafia, to wars and international politics. His father had died in 1950, making Kilbracken a baron over a fairly impoverished region of Ireland, but giving him considerable freedom. Initially, he remained a writer and was not a vocal member of the House of Lords, but he gradually became more active and spoke out on some issues close to his heart. One was gambling. As a gambler himself who had once been a horse-racing bookie while attending Eton and who had become aware that he was an addict, Kilbracken supported a 1968 measure to ban blackjack. Also an organic farmer, he was concerned about pesticides and other additives in food and poisons in the environment; he therefore advocated better food labeling, among other causes, including the dangers of contraceptives. Kilbracken was also outspoken about British foreign policy and world events. For example, he gave back his war medals in protest of England's internment policies in Northern Ireland, and he supported the cause of the Kurds in Iraq. In 1999, however, Kilbracken was disqualified from the House of Lords. Over the years, Kilbracken successfully published a number of well-received books, including Master Art Forger (1951), Living Like a Lord (1956), Shamrocks and Unicorns (1963), and his war memoir, Bring Back My Stringbag: Swordfish Pilot at War, 1940-45 (1979; revised edition, 1996). His last three books were nature guides: The Easy Way to Bird Recognition (1982), which won the Times Educational Supplement's Senior Information Book Award in 1983, The Easy Way to Tree Recognition (1983), and The Easy Way to Wild Flower Recognition (1984). He was also editorial director of Worldwatch Magazine from 1984 to 1985.



Kilbracken, John, Bring Back My Stringbag: Swordfish Pilot at War, 1940-45, revised edition, L. Cooper (London, England), 1996.


Times (London, England), August 15, 2006, p. 49.