From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl has been igniting a sense of wonder and curiosity in children for more than 56 years.

On Wednesday, September 13, it will be Roald Dahl Day - a day when book lovers around the world can gather and celebrate one of the best-loved children's authors of all time – with many unaware he attended a South Derbyshire school. The author was born in 1916 and died in 1990 but his books will live on forever as they are cherished by children all over the world.

Dahl boarded at a top private school, Repton, in Willington Road, from 1930 to 1934. It was his time at the school where many believe he gained the inspiration to write arguably one of his most popular books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Roald Dahl added magic to a lot of childhoods
Roald Dahl added magic to a lot of childhoods

During the four years he attended the private school, he and his schoolmates were used as guinea pigs by Cadbury, the chocolate company, to taste and rate new products before they went to market.

Dahl would dream of inventing a new chocolate bar that would win the praise of Mr Cadbury himself. The school believes this is what sparked a lifelong love of chocolate, ultimately leading to Dahl's world-famous story.

"It was then I realised that inside this great Cadbury's chocolate factory there must be an inventing room, a secret place where fully grown men and women in white overalls spent all their time playing around with sticky boiling messes, sugar and chocs, and mixing them up and trying to invent something new and fantastic," he wrote.

In his autobiography novel 'Boy', Dahl reminiscences fondly about Repton, recalling how he was chosen as captain of the squash team and of his days spent riding his motorbike through the village.

In a letter written later in life, he said of riding the bike: "It gave me an amazing feeling of winged majesty and of independence."

Dahl, top left, with his cricket team from Priory House at Repton School in 1932
Dahl, top left, with his cricket team from Priory House at Repton School in 1932

On Wednesday, September 13, Repton School will also celebrate the annual Roald Dahl Day to celebrate their famous former pupil which will see youngsters enjoy a series of Dahl-related activities and experiences.

Headmaster of the school Alastair Land said: "Last year, Repton celebrated the centenary of Roald Dahl's birth, inviting local primary school pupils to Repton to enjoy tea in Dahl's former boarding house, The Priory, and to play a game of Fives.

Dahl is part of the school's extraordinary and fine literary heritage and also an example of a great Repton School all-rounder: during his time at Repton Dahl played squash, served as the Fives captain and was appointed to the role of prefect. Reading is fun at any age – Roald Dahl's works remind us all of this."

Dahl, bottom right, after winning a Fives for Priory House. Roald and his team were senior winners in the 1933 tournament
Dahl, bottom right, after winning a Fives for Priory House. Roald and his team were senior winners in the 1933 tournament

Dahl's talent has won him 18 awards, saw him sell more than 250 million books and even when on to release of 14 hit film adaptions of his stories,

So how did a Repton school boy become one of the best-known children’s authors of all time?

History: The Second World War and becoming a spy

In the years before fame, Roald Dahl led a life struck by tragedy that many may not be unaware of.

The beloved writer was born in Llandaff, near Cardiff, on September 13, 1916. Named after the famous Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, he lived happily with his brothers and sisters; Astri, Alfhild, Ellen and Louis.

Roald Dahl with Wife Patricia Neal and Children Olivia Tessa and Theo
Roald Dahl with Wife Patricia Neal and Children Olivia Tessa and Theo

In 1920, when Roald was just three and a half years old, his old sister, Astri, died from an infection following a burst appendix, aged just seven. Tragically just three weeks later, his father, Harald, died of pneumonia.

After leaving Repton School in 1934, a 17-year-old Roald worked for the Shell Oil Company until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, when he piloted a Hawker Hurricane fighter for Royal Air Force for a period of time.

In 1940, his plane crashed into Libya's Western Desert and he suffered severe wounds to his head, nose and back, leading to him spending months in hospital. After experiencing debilitating headaches due to his injuries, he was sent home to Britain, being deemed unfit to fly.

At 25, Roald joined a secret organisation based in the United States known as the British Security Coordination as a spy, where he'd uncovered early US talks of landing a man on the moon.

Roald Dahl, who would have been 101 this year
Roald Dahl, who would have been 101 this year

Which Roald Dahl books do our readers love most?

We have been asking Burton Mail readers which are their favourite Dahl books. Is it the tales of Charlie and his adventures in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory or is James who sets sail on an amazing adventure inside a giant peach?

There are so many to chose from. Here is what you had to say: Helen EJ Dempster says she still reads "The Twits" daily.

Liane Worthington said: "It's got to be Matilda or The Witches!"

"Mines always been Danny the Champion and George's Marvellous Medicine. The first two Dahl books I ever read!" said Becky Leigh-Anne Picton.

Joanna Wilkinson went with a popular choice, Matilda.

Heidi Doughty loves The BFG and Hajrah Zaman chose The Witches as her favourite book.

10 amazing words Roald Dahl made up

1. Argy (verb) : If giants or human beans or cattlerpiddlers are argying, they are having an argument.

"One of the biggest chatbags is the cattlepiddlers ... They is argying all the time about who is going to be the prettiest butterfly." - The BFG

2. Biffsquiggled (adjective) : If you feel biffsquiggled, you are confused or puzzled.

"'You must not be giving up so easy,' the BFG said calmly. 'The first titchy bobsticle you meet and you begin shouting you is biffsquiggled.'" - The BFG

3. Bibble (verb) : When something bibbles, it makes a soft gurgling sound.

"All around them lay the vast black ocean, deep and hungry. Little waves were bibbling against the side of the peach." - James and the Giant Peach

4. Bish (verb) : If you bish something, you ruin it.

"'This is it!' He whispered to himself under his breath. ‘The greatest moment of my life is coming up now! I mustn’t bish it. I mustn’t bosh it! I must keep very calm.'" -Esio Trot

5. Bundongle (noun) : A bundongle is something that contains only air.

"I thought all human beans is full of brains, but your head is emptier than a bundongle." - The BFG

6. Catasterous (adjective) : A catasterous situation is very bad indeed, and a catasterous disastrophe is the worst of all.

"'Catasterous!' Cried the BFG. 'Upgoing bubbles is a catasterous disastrophe!’'" The BFG

7. Churgle (verb) : When you churgle, you gurgle with laughter.

"The fact that it was none other than Boggis's chickens they were going to eat made them churgle with laughter every time they thought of it." - Fantastic Mr. Fox

8. Crodsquinkled (adjective) : If a giant is crodsquinkled, he is in a hopeless situation.

"'I is slopgroggled!' squakwed the Gizzardgulper. 'I is crodsquinkled!’ yowled the Bloodletter." - The BFG

9. Daddle (verb) : If you daddle, you run very fast.

"So start to run! Oh, skid and daddle / Through the slubber slush and sossel! / Skip jump hop and try to skaddle! / All the grobes are on the roam!" - Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

10. Darksome (adjective) : Dark and murky.

"'This one is a nasty fierce bogrotting nightmare ... I would be hating to get this one inside me on a darksome night.' the BFG said." - The BFG

Simple no-sew fancy dress costumes to celebrate Roald Dahl Day

If you fancy really pushing the boat out this Roald Dahl day then you can look the part by dressing up as one of his famous characters. Here are some tips:

Sophie from the BFG


You can go by the film where Sophie is seen wearing a blue skirt and beige blouse with a waistcoat or you can stick to the book and simply opt for a pink dress, or nightie, with glasses.

George from George's Marvellous Medicine

George's Marvellous Medicine is a much-loved children's classic
George's Marvellous Medicine is a much-loved children's classic

You can dress your youngster in blue trousers and a red top with the name tag "George" – if that isn't already their name!

Then give them a big saucepan labelled 'marvellous medicine' and a wooden spoon – it's as easy as that.

Mr or Mrs Twit

Mr and Mrs Twit were not the nicest of characters
Mr and Mrs Twit were not the nicest of characters

To craft the perfect Twit costume all you need is scruffy clothes, messy hair, some walking sticks and a long warty nose for Mrs Twit and a scruffy beard for Mr Twit.


Matilda Wormwood
Matilda Wormwood

Roald Dahl's sweet character is probably the most easiest to sort – put your child in a blue dress with a red ribbon in their hair while carrying a pile of books.

An Oompa Loompa from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

An Oompa Loompa is a popular fancy dress choice for many
An Oompa Loompa is a popular fancy dress choice for many

All you need is orange face paint, a green wig and white trousers or dungarees.

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