Obituary: Michael Wolfers 1938-2014

Trevor Grundy on the passing of British author and journalist and co-author of ‘Angola in the Frontline'

The British author and journalist Michael Wolfers, co-author with Jane Bergerol of ‘Angola in the Frontline' (Zed Books, 1983) died in London at the start of a private dinner in one of London's most exclusive clubs to celebrate the milestone 75th birthday of his close friend of 56-years standing, Lord (Melvyn) Bragg on October 15.

Wolfers was one of 16 guests savouring the first course at the men-only Garrick Club when an evening of celebration turned into one of horror.

The Togo-based Wolfers, collapsed. Despite attempts by paramedics for more than an hour-and-a-half to revive him, he was declared dead before he arrived at St Thomas' Hospital on South Bank, close to his home in Waterloo.

"We'd been close friends for 56 years," Lord Bragg told a reporter from the Daily Mail. "He made close friendships. He was much loved. He was very highly regarded."

Michael Wolfers was the product of exclusive and expensive primary and secondary education and was an outstanding scholar at Wadham College, Oxford University in the late 1950s.

It was there he met young Bragg who came from an English working class background but who went on to become one of Britain's best known media figures.

After an apprenticeship on a north of England newspaper, Michael Wolfers joined The Times and was that paper's correspondent in various parts of Africa until 1973.

On October 8, 1975 he met journalist Jane Bergerol in Luanda at a dinner partyand they remained close friends and collaborators on a book about the end of Portuguese rule in Angola.

Like Wolfers, Bergerol (real name Jane Wilford) was a child of privilege, eldest daughter of British diplomat, Sir Michael Wilford.

Both were Marxists although both Bergerol and Wolfers went on to do specialist work in London for the Foreign Office.

When in London, Wolfers was a familiar figure at Chatham House . He was fluent in Portuguese and several other languages and a well- respected authority on both the MPLA in Angola and FRELIMO in Mozambique.

On his coverage of the Nigerian civil war, Frederick Forsyth of The Day of the Jackal fame, wrote in "The Making of an African Legend-The Biafra Story" Penguin Books, 1977 that The Times was the only newspaper that managed to keep up a consistently high reporting standard of factual news wherever and whenever it was possible to get it.

He said: "One of The Times staff reporters," Forysyth wrote," seriously showed up by contrast the inability of some of his colleagues to file dispatches out of Lagos without becoming the mouthpiece of any Nigerian or British High Commission spokesman with something crass to say. Confining his reports to factual information about what was happening under his eyes in the Nigerian capital and eschewing speculative guesses as to what might be happening four hundred miles way. Mr Wolfers turned in a file of copy during his sojourns in Lagos in 1969 that was in toto an object lesson on how foreign reporting should be done."

He left The Times in 1973 and in 1975 became an adviser on political and media matters to the MPLA in Luanda.

Michael Wolfers, who never married, will be cremated at the Jewish cemetery in Golders Green, London, on Tuesday, October 22, 2014.


Michael Wolfers at Chatham House, London. (Picture: Trevor Grundy)

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