Watership Down author Richard Adams dies aged 96

Writer died on Christmas Eve

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Richard Adams, the author of children’s favourite Watership Down, has died aged 96.

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A statement on the book’s web-site said: “Richard’s much-loved family announce with sadness that their dear father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed away peacefully at 10pm on Christmas Eve.”

Adams (pictured) was 52 when he wrote Watership Down which became one of the bestselling children’s books of all time when it was published in 1972.

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It was made into an animated film in 1978 and the BBC and Netflix are currently working on a modern co-production. This will be voiced by a range of stars including Star Wars’ John Bodega, James McAvoy, Ben Kingsley, Nicholas Hoult, Gemma Arterton and Olivia Colman.

The book won Adams both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian children’s prize.

The statement announcing his death quoted a passage from the end of his best-known work. It read: “It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.

“‘You needn’t worry about them,’ said his companion. ‘They’ll be alright – and thousands like them.”’

Born on 9 May 1920 in Berkshire, Adams was a World War Two veteran and a keen animal rights campaigner who briefly headed animal welfare charity, the RSPCA.

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His other books included Shardik, The Girl in a Swing and The Plague Dogs which tells the tale of two dogs that escape from a laboratory.