Christopher Portway

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Christopher Portway was born in Halstead, Essex on the 30. October 1923[1] and died in London on the 30. July 2009[2]. He was a travel writer and an author of several books.

Christopher Portway and his wife, Anna, in 1969

Life during World War II[edit]

Christopher Portway was just old enough to participate in the second half of World War II. He was sent into the savage fighting in Normandy, where he was captured as a war prisoner. He was transported to Silesia, to a polish coal mine, where he was forced to work as a slave. Trying to escape by train, he was later caught and sent to the concentration camp Auschwitz, where he took part in the 1945 "Death March", witnessing the horrors of the Nazi regime which left indelible memories through his whole life. He survived and ran away again. During his second escape he found refuge in a house of a Czech family and met his future wife, Anna, to which he was married to for 50 years. Here he stayed for some time, but was recaptured again.[3] Finally being free at the end of the war with help of the American Third army.[4]


After the war Christopher Portway risked his life for love of two Czech women. The second one was part of a family that gave him shelter and food during the second world war, while on his second escape. She was called Anna and they later got married and stayed together for 50 years. But before that, Christopher had to cross the Iron Curtain several times and was also several times captured and sent back. Once he was even given a 104-year prison sentence, but released after four months and an international incident, and pronounced as a persona non grata by the Czechoslovakian government. Whilst Christopher was trying to get Anna to Britain, Anna had to endure the increasing harassment of the Czechoslovakian police. And after long 12 years Anna was permitted to emigrate to Britain.[5] They got married on the 5th of April 1957 at St Mary's church, Ilford. And one year later their daughter, Alice, was born. And their son, Paul, three years after the daughter.But the story does not end there. Anna and Christopher were permitted to visit Czechoslovakia once in a while to see the family. And gradually they realised that even though Anna left the country legally, it did not prevent the state from taking revenge upon the members of her family. This affected especially Mary and her husband Paul. Mary was Anna´ s sister, so Christopher tried to get them to England. Mary could sometimes visit Anna in the UK, but her husband Paul always had to stay, just to make sure she would always returns. But one time, when Mary was in England, Christopher tried to help Paul to escape. Paul was lucky enough to get a visa to Yugoslavia. The plan was to escape through the check-point at Cezana, north-east of Trieste. The first attempt ended up in both of them being arrested. But luckily Paul was after the third attempt free. He still had to stay for some time in a refugee camp in Italy, but at the end was sent to Britain.[6]

Later in his life[edit]

Christopher's wife Anna died in 2006. And in the same year he also lost his home in Brighton, which resulted in him becoming homeless for 18 months. At the age of 85 he became a very active Chelsea pensioner,[1] for example parading at the Royal British Legion.[7] Christopher Portway died in London in 2009.

Career and books[edit]

Christopher Portway was a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers and the Royal Geographical Society. He also was a recipient of a Winston Churchill Award for biography and travel. He published altogether 19 books[8] telling the story of his life in the second world war, during the communist era and about his interesting journeys. Books such as Czechmate (1987) or Dangerous Devotion (2006) about the Second World War and his two Czech wives. Great Railway Adventure (1983) or The World Commuter: Great journeys by train (2001) about his train journeys down the Khyber pass, travels to Pyongyang, Kalingrad, Bogota, Baghdad and all stops in between.[9] Or Pedal for Your Life (1996) a book about his 2000-mile journey with his son between the Baltic and the Black Sea.

External links[edit]

Hidden Europe Authors: Christopher Portway

Books by Christopher Portway

His brother, Michael Cedric Portway


  1. 1.0 1.1 Love and Life's Adventures. [online]. Arena Books [cit. 2019-03-30]. See:
  2. Book of Remembrance. [online]. The Royal Hospital Chelsea [cit. 2019-03-30]. See:
  3. PORTWAY, Christopher. Dangerous Devotion. Birlinn, 2007. ISBN 978-1843410331.
  4. PORTWAY, Christopher. Two veterans tell how they celebrated VE Day on the run. [online]. The Telegraph, 2005, 31. 5. [cit. 2019-03-30]. See:
  5. LUMLEY, Joanna. Pedal for Your Life. [online]. The Lutterworth Press [cit. 2019-03-30]. See:
  6. PORTWAY, Christopher. Czechmate. London: John Murray (Publishers), 1987. ISBN 0-7195-4391-6.
  7. BRETT, Anna. Halstead: Adventurer turned Chelsea pensioner for Royal Albert Hall. [online]. Halstead Gazzete, 2008, 4. 11. [cit. 2019-03-30]. See:
  8. Christopher Portway. [online]. Alibris [cit. 2019-03-30]. See:
  9. PORTWAY, Christopher. The World Commuter: Great Journeys by Train. West Sussex: Summersdale Publishers, 2001. ISBN 1 84024 145 4.

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