Person - Peter Batten

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PETER WOODRUFF BATTEN (1893 - 1958)

Father of at least 12 children, Peter Batten in 1947 acted in NT’s The Shepherd and the Hunter and played the psychiatrist in What Happens to Love? In Perth the previous year he had acted under the auspices of the Adult Education Board in The Proposal, and played Crooks in Of Mice and Men with the Repertory Club.

Born in Cheshire, England, Peter was the fourth child of John Thomas Batten (1854-1926) who worked for Inland Revenue, and Mara Mira Swannell née Woodruff. He served at Gallipoli and the Somme in the First World War and was awarded the Military Cross. After demobilisation in 1920 he turned to writing. Under pen names such as Richard Worth he wrote some 40 novels between 1923-31 for Aldine Publications. He also contributed to John Bull, the Sunday Express, Star and Daily Express. In 1926 he became news editor on the Sunday Dispatch; in 1929 chief sub-editor on the Sunday Express, and 1930-2 editor on the Sunderland Echo. He also acted on stage and radio and made uncredited appearances in the films The Arcadians 1927, The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel 1928, and Dawn 1928, the story of Nurse Edith Cavell (portrayed by Sybil Thorndike). Despite these multiple careers Batten went into bankruptcy in January 1932.

Batten married Sarah Eva Pritchard in 1911 with whom he had three sons and a daughter. The couple divorced in 1925 and in 1926 Batten married Gladys Maud Daniels with whom he had a further eight children. Batten left the UK for Australia ca 1934 to work as a sub-editor on Truth, but within a year returned home after clashing with Ezra Norton.

In 1936 the family moved to Colombo where Batten took a job as chief sub on The Times of Ceylon, leaving in 1940 to emigrate to Melbourne to work as a sub-editor for The Age. During this time he joined the Volunteer Defence Corps and in 1941 talked his way into the RAAF. As an Intelligence Officer he was sent to Perth where he served until late 1942 when it was decided to send him to the tropics. This meant taking a medical exam and, with blood pressure of 200+, Batten found himself a civilian once again.

In Perth he joined the Mirror as chief sub and was also an accredited war correspondent. Postwar, he was made editor of the Mirror's sister paper the Sunday Times. In November 1946 he moved to Sydney to become chief sub on the ABC Weekly where he remained for some years. He was also a feature writer for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Whilst in Ceylon, Batten and his second wife had started a children's radio program and this experience led to him becoming the news editor of Sydney’s Radio 2GB ca 1950, a position he held until shortly before his death. His work varied, from announcing to acting in radio plays, delivering the news, reading 15-minute extracts from novels, broadcast at 8.45 am for people to listen to just before work. He also performed on stage (usually in farces). Although he drank and gambled, he never missed a day's work. He was a good cook. Soon after retiring from 2GB, he died at Bellevue Hill on 28 September 1958.

Peter Batten's play The Odd Man Out is in BOX 97 of the Sydney New Theatre archive (ML MSS 6244) held by Mitchell Library.



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