Above: Roald Dahl at work in his writing hut at Gipsy House, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.
6 feet, 5 & 3/4 inches – Roald Dahl’s adult height (1.96 metres).
3 – the number of languages that Roald Dahl could speak (English, Norwegian and Swahili).
4 – the number of hours spent writing each day (from 10am until 12pm, and then from 4pm until 6pm).
Did You Know?
Roald Dahl wrote his stories from a brick-built shed in the garden at ‘Gipsy House’, his home in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. Whilst sitting in a wingback chair, curtains drawn, he would use HB pencils and write onto yellow legal notepads that he rested on a special board (his back injury made sitting at a normal desk difficult). Dahl built the shed sometime in the late 1950s, having been inspired by the writing shed that Dylan Thomas used.
1 – the number of times that Quentin Blake, his illustrator and personal friend, was allowed into the writing shed (Roald wanted the shed to be a private space and rarely let anyone enter, not even his family).
6 – the number of sharpened HB pencils that Dahl typically kept to hand, propped in an antique Toby mug (visible to Dahl’s right in the picture above).
I go down to my little hut, where it’s tight and dark and warm, and within minutes I can go back to being six or seven or eight again. – Roald Dahl describing the influence of the writing hut on his fiction for children.
283 – the number of words that Roald Dahl invented in his writing, collectively referred to as ‘Gobblefunk’, including frobscottle, scrumdiddlyumptious, Chiddler, and Oompa Loompa.
1939 – the year Dahl enlisted in the RAF, whereupon he was awarded the rank of Leading Aircraftman (LAC).
8 weeks – the length of Dahl’s RAF basic training.
6 months – the length of Dahl’s advanced flying instruction, after which he was ready to go into battle.
80 – the number of Dahl’s RAF squadron.
1940 – the year in which Dahl was forced to crash land his Gladiator aircraft in the Libyan desert. He suffered a fractured skull and temporary blindness.
1941 – the year in which Roald Dahl experienced his first aerial combat of World War II, shooting down a German plane whilst flying his Hawker Hurricane.
1942 – the year in which The Saturday Evening Post published Roald’s first paid piece of writing (an account of his time flying Gladiator warplanes in Libya, the piece was initially titled ‘Shot Down Over Libya’, and later republished as ‘A Piece of Cake’).
2 – the number of hip replacement operations that Dahl experienced.
Did You Know?
Amongst the interesting collection of oddities displayed on the ‘cabinet of curiosities’ in Roald Dahl’s writing hut, the item that caused most surprise was a paperweight made from a piece of Dahl’s femur bone, removed during one of his hip replacement operations.
1943 – the year in which Dahl’s first book was published. ‘The Gremlins’, published in the US by Random House, was written for Walt Disney and intended to be a promotional device for an animated movie that was never made. Dahl was credited as ‘Flight Lieutenant Roald Dahl’.
17 Nov 1967 – the date on which Roald’s mother Sofie died, exactly 5 years after the death of Roald’s eldest daughter Olivia.
47 – the number of years by which Sofie outlived Roald’s father. Following her funeral (which Roald was too ill to attend) her ashes were scattered alongside Harald’s grave in Radyr churchyard.
Above: Roald Dahl interviewed on British TV by Terry Wogan in 1984.
6 – the number of back operations that Dahl had throughout his adult life, a result of the back injury sustained in the war.
1953 – the year in which Dahl married his first wife, the film actress Patricia Neal.
1954 – the year in which Roald and Patricia moved into ‘Gipsy House’ in Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, the house that Roald would call home for 36 years.
36 – the number of years that Dahl lived in Great Missenden.
Did You Know?
In later life Roald Dahl used to enjoy making imaginative food, such as pink milk for breakfast, or jelly containing ‘hundreds and thousands’.
5 – the number of children that Dahl and Neal had together (see facts about his family).
Did You Know?
Interviewed in 2016, Sophie Dahl recalled how, following lunch or dinner, her grandfather Roald would collect a medium-sized, red Tupperware box from the kitchen, containing a selection of small chocolate bars, which could include Flake, Curly Wurly, Fruit and Nut, Aero, Kit Kat, Dime, Crunchie, or packets of Rolo or Maltesers. But never Creme Eggs; both Roald and his granddaughter loathed them.
1983 – the year in which Dahl and Neal divorced, and he remarried to Felicity Ann Crosland.
Above: A TV recording from 1961, in which Roald Dahl is introduced using the correct pronunciation of his name, “Roo-al”.
11 – the number of days that Dahl spent in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford before his death (he was admitted on November 12, 1990).
23 November 1990 – the date Roald Dahl passed away.
74 – Dahl’s age at his death.
Above: Roald Dahl gravestone at the Church of St Peter and Paul, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England (Credit: MilborneOne, via Wikimedia Commons).
Did You Know?
Roald Dahl was buried (at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire) along with a number of his favourite things, such as his HB pencils, some chocolate, burgundy wine, a power saw and some snooker cues.
2012 – the year in which Dahl’s perfectly-preserved writing hut was carefully deconstructed and moved to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, also in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where it can be visited today.