Best-selling author of children’s books

Place of Birth: Cardiff

Author of many of the UK’s favourite children’s books, Roald Dahl created magical worlds with a dark undercurrent in classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The BFG.
He was born to Norwegian parents in the Llandaff district of Cardiff, where his father Harald had settled after coming to the city in the 1880s to found a ship-brokering business.

Dahl was just three when his father died, leaving his mother Sofie with six children to bring up.

His childhood took an unhappy turn when he was sent to the local prep school at the age of nine.

In his autobiography Boy: Tales of Childhood, Dahl revealed that his only happy memories of Llandaff Cathedral School were his trips to the local sweet shop – a likely inspiration for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

Dahl was then sent to Repton public school, where he turned to books as an escape from bullying, becoming an avid reader.

On leaving school at the age of 18 he joined the Shell oil company in the hope of a posting abroad, and was sent in 1938 to Dar es Salaam in the African colony of Tanganyika (now Tanzania).

When war broke out, Dahl served as a fighter pilot, surviving a near-fatal crash in north Africa.

The experience inspired his first published short story, Shot Down Over Libya in 1942.

Other short stories followed, some based on his wartime experiences with others revealing a preference for bizarre events and twists, as featured in his 1970s TV series Tales of the Unexpected.

But Dahl is best remembered – and wanted to be remembered – for his children’s books.

Classic tales such as James and the Giant Peach emerged from off-the-cuff bedtime stories he would tell his daughters Olivia and Tessa.

His writing for children has been praised for its unpatronising style, with youngsters adoring the grotesque elements reminiscent of the hags and trolls of Norwegian folklore.

Dahl died of a rare blood disorder at the age of 74 in November 1990, but is still remembered fondly by British book fans who voted him the UK’s best author in a poll to mark World Book Day in 2000.

He is also honoured in his native city, where the Oval Basin in Cardiff Bay is now known as Roald Dahl Plass.

The site is just a stone’s throw from the rebuilt Norwegian Church where his parents once worshipped and he himself was christened.

Moment of Glory:
Which one of many? Probably winning the 1983 Whitbread Prize for The Witches.