Dispatches from the Front, by David Halton

A biography pick by Jean-Louis


dispatches(McClelland & Stewart, 2014)

For anyone who is a news junkie is this country, the name Halton will ring a bell–for good reason. The Halton family have been on the front line of news in this country since the 1930’s. “Dispatches from the Front: Matthew Halton, Canada’s Voice at War” is an account of the professional career of Matthew Halton who began his career in Pincher Creek, Alberta and went on to write for the Toronto Star and broadcast for the CBC. The book is written by his son David Halton, who recently retired from the CBC after his own very distinguished career as a foreign correspondent. The Halton’s have not left the stage yet, however, as David’s son Dan can now be seen on the CBC.

As the subtitle indicates, the height of Matthew Halton’s career came during the second world war and the book give us a lot of detail about where, when, and a sampling of what Matt Halton wrote and broadcast during that time. Halton was one of the preeminent voices at the time and his reports were regularly picked up by the BBC in Britain and also by American news outlets. Son David, is eager to shine a light on a very courageous and distinguished career of a Canadian journalist. Matthew Halton died early at age 52 so the book is also a chance for a son to really learn about a father who died far too young.

The author takes pains to point out how journalism has changed over time. During the war Matthew Halton was involved in campaigns to sell victory bonds for the government, clearly something that no objective journalist of our time could ever be involved with, As well, David comments on the change in the style of language that is used by journalists then and now. All this is done in a clear style that allows us as readers to join in the turbulent adventure that was Matthew Halton’s career.

Matt Halton was one of the first journalists–as early as 1933–to sound the alarm over the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party. The book chronicles Matt’s first 30-part series of articles documenting the rise of Hitler and the coming storm in Europe. It also tracks Matt’s frustration with the lost years of political appeasement that nearly spelled the ruin of Europe.

This is a fascinating read which I can highly recommend for any Canadian news junkie or history buff.



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