Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916 in Cardiff, Wales. His parents were both Norwegian immigrants, Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Dahl. They named him after a Norwegian explorer named Roald Amundsen.
In 1920, his older sister, Astri Dahl, died from appendicitis. A month later, his father died from pneumonia at the age of 57. He and his three siblings continued to live in Wales with their mother, despite offers by relatives to help them get back to Norway.
As a youth, Roald studied at Llandaff Cathedral School, a private Catholic school. When he was eight years old, he put a dead mouse in a jar of candy at a local candy store that was owned by a grouchy old woman. The headmaster of the school found out and Roald was caned and expelled.
In 1923, he was sent to study at St. Peter's Preparatory School and continued studying there until 1929. At that time, he moved to Derbyshire to study at the Repton School. There, he got a job working as a personal servant to the prefect and also became captain of the school's squash team. Roald enjoyed his time at Repton, but was still homesick and frequently wrote to his mother.
After graduating from school, he went on a trip to Newfoundland with the school's exploration society. After returning, he found a job at Shell Petroleum in July of 1934. After completing two years of training for the job in the UK, he was transferred to work at a facility in Dar-es-Salaam in Tanganyika, an area of the Congo. While there, he lived in a luxurious home owned by the company with servants and a private cook.
In August of 1939, Roald was recruited as an officer and led a platoon of Swahili warriors. He was ordered to help round up all of the Germans in the area and did this, despite some nervousness about the task. In November of 1939, he joined the Royal Air Force and traveled to Nairobi. There, he was given flight training in a De Havilland Tiger Moth and eventually assigned to the 80th Squadron of the Royal Air Force.
On September 19, 1940, Roald was forced to make an emergency landing in the desert on the way to an airstrip in Northern Africa. The plane crashed, resulting in him getting a fractured skull, smashed nose, and temporary blindness. Fortunately, he was rescued by friendly forces and taken to a hospital in Mersah Matruh, where he was revived, but still blind.
After a while, he was shipped by train to a better hospital in Alexandria. There, he finally regained his vision after eight weeks of blindness. The first person he saw after recovering was a nurse named Mary Welland and he fell in love with her afterward. In February of 1941, he was finally discharged and named fit for duty in the Royal Air Force.
He returned to the 80th Squadron, which was now stationed in Greece, and was given a Hawker Hurricane to fly. He saw his first combat over the city of Chalcis and managed to shoot down a bomber. By the end of the war, he had made four more kills and ended the war with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
In 1942, Roald was sent to Washington DC as an Assistant Air Attache and began writing while there. On August 1 of that year, the Saturday Evening Post published his first work, "Shot Down Over Libya", which described his experiences during the crash landing. In 1943, he released his first children's book, "The Gremlins".
In 1953, he married a woman named Patricia Neal, who was an American actress. They had five children, but one of them, Olivia, died of measles in 1962. In 1961, he released his second children's book, "James and the Giant Peach", which is popular to this day. He followed that up with 1964's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", which is by far his most popular work. Throughout the next three decades, he continued to write books for children, becoming one of the most well known writers in the world.
In 1965, his wife suffered a number of strokes that required years or rehabilitation, but they ended up getting divorced when he was caught in an affair with Felicity Ann d'Abreu Crosland. Roald married her in 1983. In 1988, he released one of his most important books, "Matilda", which is about a girl with telekinetic powers.
Roald Dahl died from leukemia on November 23, 1990 at the age of 74.