Fairlight foreign correspondent who started career in Hastings dies

George Vine
George Vine
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A distinguished foreign correspondent who started out as a young reporter for the Hastings Observer has died, aged 97.

George Vine, who lived in Fairlight, reported on many defining moments of the 20th century during his career for the North China Daily, News Chronicle, Daily Mail and Reuters News Agency.

In 1949 he faced the firing squad in China after publishing the army’s plans to cross the Yangtze River. Saved by diplomatic intervention, he was one of the last western journalists to leave Shanghai, as Communist forces swept to power.

While working in Germany he and a BBC correspondent were arrested and interrogated by the Stasi forces in East Berlin. Mr Vine ripped up and swallowed pages from his notebook so his contacts would not fall into the hands of the Stasi.

Charles Wheeler, from the BBC, said: “I could hear George through the partition screaming at this guy, and eventually they let us go, but it was just a chance to tell a secret policeman the regime he was serving was an international disgrace.”

Mr Vine, who died on December 19, was later decorated by the German government for his services to journalism.

Born in 1919, he served in the Second World War, joining the Royal Sussex Regiment in September 1939.

His wife Maggi said her husband was a man of ‘huge personal integrity’ and ‘pursued the truth with vigour’. She said: “He was blessed with a great curiosity about the world. Although brilliant he didn’t have the slightest touch of intellectual arrogance.”

Mr Vine’s first story was written for the Hastings Observer in 1935, a description of the Corpus Christi procession.

His wife added: “George was a writer, an artist, a thinker, a poet, a farmer and a wonderful family man. He valued friendship and had many life-long friends. He showed tremendous understanding of the frailty of the human condition.”

His funeral is on Friday, January 6, from 12.45pm at All Saints Church.

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