Biography

Birth date: 27 March 1901
Birth place: Australia: New South Wales, Orange
Death date: 30 June 1971
Death place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, North Sydney
Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Kenneth Slessor, poet and official correspondent during the Second World War, was born on 27 March 1901 at Orange, New South Wales. Up until he was 13 his family's surname was Schloesser, but his father, Robert, changed it soon after the outbreak of the First World War. In the meantime the Schloesser's had moved to Sydney. Even as a child, Kenneth was a keen reader and had edited his school's magazine.

In 1918 Slessor gained employment as a cadet journalist with the Sun newspaper. Having already discovered a love of poetry, he had his first poems published in the Bulletin in 1919. Three years later, in 1922, he married Noela Myee. He continued to work in journalism, spent time editing several journals and published his first volume of poetry in 1924. In 1927 he began working for Smith's Weekly, becoming its editor in 1935.

After five years in that position, Slessor was appointed as an official war correspondent in February 1940 and he left for England in May that year. He followed the Australian campaigns in the Mediterranean until returning to cover the war in New Guinea in 1943. Having seen and described Australians in combat he developed an admiration for ordinary soldiers but fell foul of the authorities and lost his accreditation. He resigned in February 1944 in a protest against the Army's Public Relations Branch and returned to the world of newspapers as editor of the Sun.

Although his poetic output had slowed dramatically, the publication of his 100 poems in 1944, and subsequent reprints, ensured that this side of his writing would live on in the public mind. In the post-war years he wrote a series of books about aspects of life in Australia. His first wife having died of cancer in 1945, he married Catherine Wallace in 1951. The couple divorced after ten years together.

Slessor's journalistic and literary careers continued in parallel during the 1950s and 1960s. He edited magazines and anthologies as well as the Sun, and later the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. In 1956 he became president of the Journalist's Club in Sydney. A cultured man, whose early ubringing had instilled in him a cosmopolitan outlook and an appreciation of fine food and wine, Slessor was considered witty and urbane by those who knew him. On 30 June 1971 he suffered a myocardial infarction and died in North Sydney.

Rolls and Awards

Collection Items

Photograph

006819

1941-03-23. IKINGI MARYUT, EGYPT. SCENE IN THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS CAMP THE NIGHT BEFORE EMBARKATION FOR GREECE WITH CORRESPONDENTS CHECKING THE ISSUE OF TRAVELLING RATIONS. IN THE PICTURE ARE REGINALD GLENNIE, JOHN HETHERINGTON, GAVIN LONG, IAN FITCHETT, MASLYN WILLIAMS AND KEN SLESSOR. (NEGATIVE BY...

006819

057093

LAE, NEW GUINEA. 1943-09-19. AUSTRALIAN WAR CORRESPONDENTS, WHO LANDED WITH THE 9TH AUSTRALIAN DIVISION, QUICKLY MADE THEIR HEADQUARTERS AS NEAR TO THE FRONT LINE AS POSSIBLE. SHOWN: B204 MR KENNETH SLESSOR (1); SX9267 LIEUTENANT V. E. ACOTT (2).

057093

001830

1940-05-05. SYDNEY. K. SLESSOR WAR CORRESPONDANT. (NEGATIVE BY S. HOOD).

001830

Timeline

Date of birth 1901-03-27 Orange, NSW.
Other 1918 Slessor gained employment as a cadet journalist with the Sun newspaper.
Other 1923 - 1924 Was a joint editor of Vision; a literary quarterly.
Other 1924 Published his first volume of poetry.
Other 1925 Slessor worked in Melbourne as chief sub-editor of Punch.
Other 1926 Returned to Sydney as a special writer for the Sun.
Other 1927 He began working for Smith's Weekly.
Other 1935 Became the editor of Smith's Weekly.
Other 1940-02 Appointed as an official war correspondent.
Other 1940-05 Left for England.
Other 1943 Covered the war in New Guinea.
Other 1944 Published a book of his poetry, 100 poems.
Other 1944 Resigned from position as an official war correspondent in a protest against the Army's Public Relations Branch. He returned to his work at the Sun.
Other 1947 Became literary editor of the Sun newspaper.
Other 1953 - 1971 Appointed a member of the advisory board of the Commonwealth Literary Fund.
Other 1956 - 1951 Editor of the literary journal Southerly.
Other 1956 - 1964 Became president of the Journalist's Club in Sydney.
Other 1957 Slessor left the Sun to become leader writer and book reviewer for the Daily Telegraph.
Date of honour or award 1959 Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Date of death 1971-06-30 North Sydney, NSW.