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Weekly editor who won MBE for services to journalism dies at 89

Don MildenhallA former weekly editor and president of the Guild of British Newspaper Editors has died aged 89.

Tributes have been paid to Don Mildenhall, pictured left, formerly of the Western Gazette, to which he continued to submit a weekly column until recently.

Don served as the Gazette’s editor between 1980 and 1991, during which time he was also elected president of the Guild, to represent 400 different newspapers.

Born in London on 19 June 1926, Don lost his father aged six.

His mother subsequently remarried and the family moved to Sussex.

Don’s stepfather was a master builder and when war was imminent he was drafted to assist building the Royal Naval Air station at Yeovilton, Somerset.

Don had always harboured ambitions to be a newspaper reporter and joined the advertising department of the Gazette aged 14, becoming a junior reporter six months later.

In 1944 he was called up to serve in the Army, initially as a radio operator, but later served in the 1st and 6th Air Borne Divisions in Norway and the Middle East.

Don was promoted to the role of chief clerk of the Air Borne Regiment of the Royal Artillery due to being skilled at shorthand, which he had picked up during his early days at the Gazette.

He was due for release in 1947 but had to stay on as the army could not find a replacement shorthand trained operative.

He eventually rejoined the Western Gazette in 1948 as a reporter based in the head office at Yeovil, becoming the Sherborne and district reporter three years later.

In 1978, he was promoted to be the editor of the Pulmans Weekly news, a subsiduary of the Western Gazette that covered mainly Chard and East Devon.

He held that position until 1980, when he became the editor of the Western Gazette, a position he held until he retired in 1991, although he remained as a correspondent in the Sherborne area.

In the year of his retirement he was awarded the MBE for service to journalism.

He also acted as correspondent for the Devon & Dorset Regiment for many years and travelled to be with them to Germany, Malta, Belize, the Falklands and 11 times to Northern Ireland during the troubles there.

He married his wife Pam, who worked at the Express and Echo office in Yeovil, in 1952, and is survived by two daughters and a son.

Don was recently nominated for a Love Sherborne Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to life in the town.

Speaking at the time of his nomination, daughter Sarah said: “While Don was reporting for the Western Gazette, he devoted all his energies to the job and would think nothing of visiting every flower show, fete, and gymkhana in the area at weekends to make sure they were covered.

“He also took delight in supporting community events such as the former town carnival and Royal Legion poppy parades.

“He felt that ‘small’ news stories had just as much right to be told as the bigger news. He still holds the Western Gazette, for which he submits a weekly column, in high regard.”


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  • September 1, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Don was a true gentleman of the press who knew the real value of local newspapers. He was a distinguished advocate for the regionals through his work with, and for, the then Guild of Editors. He was never too busy to help with advice or his time – and always given with his customary good humour.

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  • September 5, 2015 at 8:00 am

    A great journalist and raconteur. Editors’ get-togethers were always a pleasure when Don was there.

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