Interview with Pat Rumfitt


Interview with Pat Rumfitt


Pat Rumfitt was born in 1927 and experienced a privileged upbringing living in Kent as an only child before the war. She describes the resilient attitude to bombing in Bromley, walking to their flooded Anderson Shelter in her dressing gown and wellies, and evacuating only to return the following day after a near-miss. Rumfitt recalls her dissatisfaction with food rations and her parents acquiring chickens and a pig to ensure they had food, yet neither generating produce. She details her mother’s proactive involvement with The Red Cross and her caring nature for the pilots at RAF Biggin Hill. In 1941, at the age of 14, Rumfitt attended Bromley Arts School, where she was later offered a job with Tatler magazine and pursued commercial drawing in the fashion industry. She also visited Edinburgh with her mother in 1942, where she met Lister Harvey Arrowsmith, a flying officer based at RAF Bruntingthorpe. She married Arrowsmith in 1945, at which time, he had completed 26 operations and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, Rumfitt visited her husband’s home in Australia but strongly disliked the culture and filed for a divorce, which took six years to finalise. Finally, she describes her lifelong fondness for RAF Biggin Hill, and her mother remaining in touch with the officers that she cared for.




Temporal Coverage




00:45:49 audio recording


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ARumfittPA190701, PRumfittPA1901


MC: This interview is being conducted on behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewee is Pat Rumfitt and the interviewer is Mike Connock. The interview is taking place at Pat Rumfitt’s home in Lincoln on Monday the 1st of July 2019. Also present is Margaret Allsworth. Okay. We’ll make a start Pat and —
PR: Yes.
MC: I think we’ll start at the beginning with you.
PR: Yes.
MC: Just tell us a bit about where and when you were born.
PR: I was born in Thornton Heath, south London in 1927 and I didn’t meet Lister until I was fifteen. So, I think that date was possibly 1943.
MC: So you were born 1927.
PR: I was born in 1927. I met him when I was fifteen.
MC: So, so what did your parents do?
PR: My father was a stockbroker.
MC: Oh right.
PR: And so we were alternately very well off and very poor. Week by week [laughs]
MC: So —
PR: And we lived in Chislehurst in Kent.
MC: Did you have any siblings?
PR: No.
MC: None.
PR: No. My mother and father were each one of large families. My mother was the youngest one of eight. My father was the middle one of five and I think early on in their lives they made up their minds that if they ever got married they’d have one. At the most one. And so I had, I was part of fourteen cousins who all lived in Kent so I, I didn’t lack company but I had my parents to myself. Which is probably why I’m so selfish because you get very spoiled when you’re only one.
MC: What about those early schooldays? What do you remember about those? Did you enjoy them?
PR: I was, I went to a small private school for a long time in Bromley, Kent and then I went to Bromley Girl’s County School when I was nine. And I was there ‘til I was fourteen when I left and I had managed to get, pass an entry exam into Bromley Art School where I was totally at home because the love of my life is to draw and I was able to do exactly what I liked there. They thought I was quite talented and eventually I went in to commercial drawing in the fashion industry. This is all about me. And that was all by accident. I was at the college one day when, you always had people coming around to look at your work and these people came and they turned out to be from the “Tatler” Magazine. Do you remember? They used to, I don’t think there is still a “Tatler” and straight away because the stuff was all in the room, they said, ‘Who did this?’ ‘Who did that?’ And the tutor said, ‘Patricia. That’s Patricia’s work.’ They said, ‘How old are you?’ I think I was about fourteen, something like that at the time and they said, ‘Well, it’s a gift. You do this easily. Would you like a job?’ I said, ‘Oh, my mother wouldn’t let me work. Not yet anyway. I’m too young.’ They said, ‘Well, if and when you do could we be in touch with your mother?’ I think they didn’t think I had a father but I always referred to my mother for everything. I said, ‘Well, she won’t mind at all. Especially if you like the drawings because she’s very very proud of the things I do.’ Anyway, they persisted and several years later when I really did want a job I rang them up and reminded them who I was and what I did, and I got a job because the “Tatler” has a fashion page. I think it’s only a monthly magazine. It has what they called, “The Fashion Page,” and they wanted drawings of accessories or make up all around the frieze. Nicely, good taste little black and white drawings, you know. So I would draw gloves, shoes, handbags, an eye with make-up, all these things and I was good at it. It was a gift because I didn’t have any trouble doing it and they paid me very well. When my father heard what they were going to pay he said, ‘You should take the job. [laughs] You should take the job.’
MC: So growing up, growing up as a child before the war what was it like? I mean, did you —
PR: Oh, well before the war, ah well mine was quite a privileged life. We had a nice home, a nice garden and until we weren’t able to we used to go abroad once a year for a holiday. My mother liked Italy but, so we would go and I think the last time I didn’t go with them. It was 1938 and my mother went to her beloved Portofino. When they came back she, they, they were then convinced that they wouldn’t be going abroad the next year. They had already got the feeling that we were going to have a war but they didn’t have that feeling in England. They got the feeling in Italy. I don’t know whether they weren’t made welcome. I’ve no idea but when they came back I said, ‘Well, next year I’ll go with you and I can see this Portofino,’ because I’d been there with them when I was younger and I, it’s built on the side of the rocks you know overlooking the sea. It’s lovely. But it didn’t appeal to me very much. It wasn’t a young person’s place. Anyway, then the war came. I was twelve when it started and I was still at the County School. Then I left and went to the Art School which I’ve already told you. I was fourteen when I went to the Art School which was young. They didn’t really want you until you were sixteen but if your portfolio was impressive they would allow you to attend but you didn’t get much else. You only got art and that was considered a bit young to leave ordinary education but —
MC: So this was all growing up during the war.
PR: That was growing up.
MC: During the war.
PR: During the war.
MC: Yeah. So it —
PR: And of course living in Kent we were bombed most nights. I’m not saying we didn’t care. We just got used to it and —
MC: Were you affected directly by the bombing at all?
PR: Well [laughs] we were once because my father decided that my mother and I should go to a place of greater safety than Bomb Alley which was what Bromley, Kent was called which it was and we had barrage balloons, and we were four miles from Biggin Hill which of course was target number one. So if they weren’t going past us to bomb the West End or the East End of London they were going to bomb Biggin Hill. So we were, we were in the middle and so we did have, and I can honestly say we actually got used to it. I certainly got used to being told to, you went in your pyjamas and a plaid sort of dressing gown with a funny sort of cord and Wellington boots which you would go down the garden and climb into an Anderson shelter which of course almost as soon as it was put in the ground half filled with water so you could only go on to the top bunks. You certainly couldn’t sit at the bottom because it was now underwater and all the food in tins that my mother had put in there to save for later during the war all went rusty. All the underwear and woollies and things she put in they all floated away. We had to carry the dog because he was a little Brindle. And the war was a joke. It really, it was. In Kent it was a joke. Then my mother who was running the war from a sitting position, she was in the Red Cross, she was in the ARP, she was a warden, she did everything she could to help. She made tea. My father stood at the end of the drive with a garden fork. He was in the LDV. He was too old to be called up and too young to die. You know. I mean there he was in no man’s land and all he did was defend England with a garden fork with a head about this big that I couldn’t lift up it was so heavy and stood at the end of the drive in front of the house. Then he would be on fire duty and, and he was a home, most of all he was home LDV but nobody liked being on duty with him because they had three at a time. One on duty at the end of the drive and two trying to get a bit of a sleep but when it was his turn to sleep he kept the others awake because he snored. So they really didn’t want my father but it was his garage and he insisted upon being there. So he was [laughs] They couldn’t get rid of him but they put up with, they used to put him on fire duty which meant he, he was on the roof of the garage, the flat roof looking for the bombers, you know. I mean looking for fire bombs.
MC: Yes.
PR: A very dangerous position they gave him but I think they thought this will get rid of him [laughs] But he survived the war my dear dad. He did. He survived the war.
MC: So, as a young girl growing up what sort of entertainment did you have then?
PR: Oh, well —
MC: I mean, obviously —
PR: We had, from our point of view we were, our entertainment was really in Bromley, Kent and it is loaded with pubs. I was far too young to drink but my parents took me all the time. So I would always be either left outside, during the raids of course [laughs] while they were inside drinking with everybody else. It was a fairly, it was a fairly rowdy time you know. People weren’t depressed. We were, we were a bit fed up about the food because that was very severely rationed. And then we got a pig. My mother of course, her name was Gertrude and she was a lady pig and my mother loved her to bits. We could never have her killed for bacon meat. So she lived with us for several years because my mother would not have her slaughtered and we had to give up our meat ration, our bacon ration, everything because we’d got a pig. We kept, we suddenly started keeping chickens. They didn’t lay so that was a waste of time [laughs] I remember this so well that everything was going to be alright. We’re having a chicken. We’ve got a pig. We won’t, we’ll always have meat. We’ll always have eggs. We didn’t have either because the pig wasn’t allowed to be killed and the chickens didn’t lay [laughs] And the bombs went on every night. Then my father decided to send us to [pause] what was the name of the place? Does Berkhamsted sound like a proper place because I think that was, I don’t think that was the county? I think that was the sort of location, and the first night we got there the house next door was blown to blazes. So we were all moved back again to Bomb Alley because it was much more dangerous in Berkhamsted. Well, I don’t think they had another raid. They only had the one and it blew up the neighbour’s house. Five people in it were killed. They’d never had any raids before. I think the Germans knew that all these kids from Kent had gone there with their mothers for a night’s sleep and bang. But it, it literally took the house out. There was just a hole where it had been. It was a detached but it was only six feet from the one we were in. We lost a couple of windows at the top front but that was all. Houses further away lost their windows but we didn’t. The blast went past us.
MC: So how long were you down there?
PR: Well, we came back the next day.
MC: Oh, you didn’t stop.
PR: No. No. No. No. No. Can’t stay there. It’s obviously —
MC: Yeah.
PR: Much more dangerous than Bromley, Kent. So we, my father who had managed to get, because there was no petrol people forget this you know when they’re talking about it and you think well how did they get there? But you got very very little. Sort of an eggcup, you know with a hole in the bottom. But my father saved up his coupons and my uncle gave him his coupons and he was able to take us over to this Berkhamsted. The next day he had to use more petrol to come and get us back. He was more worried about the petrol than he was about us. And we used to go to our local Country Club, Bromley Country Club for entertainment. My mother and father liked to dance and that’s where the chaps from Biggin Hill went because it was the nearest, well, only Country Club and they could swim there. They still had the open air pool and they managed to keep it clean and chlorinated and everything. So if the pilots could get away ever because Biggin Hill flew during, as you know it was a daytime station. They weren’t night fighters. They were Spitfires. When the Americans came, the Eagle Squadron came there the Eagle Squadron did fly at night, but our Spitfires never did. I know that for a fact because I remember my mother would say, ‘Well, they can come over for breakfast. Then they’ll have to go back because they’ll be going off again at eleven,’ or something like that. We knew all about the timing of their sorties because of when they came and had what my mother could scrape together. We had egg. Powdered egg in tins and she used to make huge mountains of scrambled egg and they liked it. I couldn’t eat it. It was like rubber. It was horrible. But the pilots liked it. Anything they could get their hands on they ate and they of course were allowed alcohol which was forbidden to civilians. You couldn’t walk into the pub and say, ‘I’ll have a double whisky.’ I didn’t drink but I know my father was a whisky drinker and he could only get one every now and again because he knew the barman but it wasn’t really allowed. There was no spirit allowance for the civilians. I think it all went to the officer’s mess. And because we were so near to Biggin Hill we were almost under martial law really because we had, we had to keep secrets, and we had to be careful with what we said and they were careful with what they told us, you know. My mother used to make an enormous fuss of these boys, because they weren’t much older than me and it was like having a house full of sons and she’d never had any. And they loved my mother. She was all bosom and strings of pearls you know and, ‘Oh, tell me what would you like?’ ‘What will you have?’ [laughs] You know, you know I can caricature her but she was lovely. She was a lovely lovely lady.
MC: She sounds it.
PR: Oh, she was. She was great.
MC: So, how old, so let’s get on to Lister then.
PR: Well —
MC: How old were you when you met and how did you come meet Lister?
PR: How did I meet him? Well, this is quite a funny story. My mother became quite tetchy and difficult and the doctor, my father, he said, ‘Well, she’s running the war isn’t she? This is the trouble.’ ‘I think you should get her away. Has she, are any of these enormous number of sisters do any of them live somewhere like Devon, Wales, Scotland? Somewhere where they don’t know about the war.’ My father said, ‘Her eldest sister lives in Edinburgh.’ He said, ‘Well, they don’t know there’s a war on up there. Why don’t you send her there?’ My mother said, ‘I can’t leave. I can’t leave Kent.’ You know [laughs] I mean, it was almost like abdicating because she just didn’t want to go. Anyway, my father insisted. I think she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She was running left and right and everything. And my aunt in Scotland didn’t have a phone so everything had to be done in writing. And the next week we heard back to say she would be delighted to have my mother and I to stay, but the Navy was in in Leith Dockyards and the place was full of Norwegian sailors. My father [laughs] my father didn’t like the sound of the Norwegian Navy but these are all facts and I remember them and I was then fifteen. And so we went to King’s Cross. Daddy took us to King’s Cross using another egg cup of petrol. So he loaded us into a train and in those days the carriages were for eight people. Is it too cold for you? Is it?
[recording paused]
MC: So you were —
PR: We were in a carriage. In those days you had a corridor with a loo at one end, and half a dozen carriages with sliding doors. The trains weren’t like they are now. They were strange little upright, with four seats a side and sort of flock velvet you know. And so my mother, my mother sat in the corner seat and I sat next to her and there were three other people. So there were five of us in these four seats. So I was the one that was sort of like this, you know. I was obviously the youngest. I was also the tallest. I’d certainly got the longest legs. There was more of me to fold up than there was of anyone else but I got the dickie seat, and we sat there because nothing went on time. It went when it could. And I think it was a daytime train. It was normally an eight hour journey and we were on it at about 9 o’clock in the morning. Come up from Kent by car. Got in to the train when suddenly the sliding door was pulled back and there in the doorway was this beautiful young man in a uniform with a kit bag over his shoulder. My mother took one look and said, ‘Oh look. It’s one of the boys.’ She immediately thought pilot. He would be a fighter pilot from Biggin Hill. So she said, ‘Come on in. You can sit. Patsy can sit on my lap. You can have her seat.’ So I now lost this dodgy bit of velvet and he came and sat in it and he said to my mother, ‘I’ve got a better idea. Why doesn’t she sit on my lap?’ And my mother said, ‘Because she’s only fifteen and I’m not going to let her.’ [laughs] Anyway, he was charming and very chatty. He and my mother talked all the way to Scotland. No one could use the loo which was a bit difficult because when you pulled into some big station everybody got out and ran about looking for a loo. You were lucky if you got back before it went but needs must and so we all got off and we all got back. I still didn’t get a seat. I still had to sit on my mother’s lap. By the time we got to Edinburgh it took about eleven hours because it was stop start and there were raids. As far up as the Midlands you had to be aware that there would be an air raid. That’s quite frightening when you’re in a train strangely enough. I’d never bothered about it much in the house because you went in the cupboard under the stairs, waited for it to be over, came out, picked up all the broken things and got on but if you’re on a train you can’t do anything. You’re a, you’re a target, aren’t you? Anyway, we got to Edinburgh and my mother and the boy had a fond farewell and then she said, well I heard her say, ‘I shall be there. Not tonight but I shall be there tomorrow night,’ because he was staying at the Officer’s Club in Princes Street and this was where my mother was going to run the bar for the Red Cross. This was her holiday. She thought that she was being sent there so that she could pull Edinburgh’s socks up, you know. But she wasn’t. She was sent there because she was ill. Anyway, the following afternoon she said, ‘Now, Patsy, you’d better get yourself changed in a minute because I’m taking you with me to the Club this evening. You can do the tea urn.’ Because I was too young to be anywhere near the booze because they had plenty of alcohol in the Officer’s Club. My mother was going to see to it that this was distributed fairly. I suppose we’d been there about an hour when I recognised sir in a doorway and he went straight to my mother. She was, I was miles away. A good fifty yards long this damned great room was and I was at the far end with this wretched tea urn. We didn’t have tea bags in those days by the way. It was all tea leaves and big jugs of milk you know and only allowed so much and it was made up of powdered milk. Horrible stuff. And I saw him go to my mother and apparently, her version of it was she said, ‘Oh, how lovely. Are you comfortable? Is your room alright?’ He said, ‘Well, I’m sharing. I haven’t met the chap I’m sharing with yet but his stuff is in the room. I’ll meet him later. He didn’t come in last night but his luggage was there.’ So he was evidently sharing with another officer who had gone off to see friends or relatives or something. And she said, ‘Well, what can I get you?’ And he said, just like yesterday, ‘The girl at the end of the bar.’ And so she said, ‘I told you that’s my daughter and she’s fifteen. No. You can’t have the girl at the end of the bar.’ And he said, ‘I can wait.’ And he did, ‘til I was seventeen when we got married. But we met just like that on the train.
MC: So did you see much of him during, during that period?
PR: Yes. He came to us for his leaves and stayed with my mother and father in our house. And he wasn’t too pleased that most days it filled up with fighter pilots because when he had, he was at public school here apparently and the recruiting officers, you may know all about this apparently they went to public schools and took the cream off the top, put them into OFTU, and they, they asked him if he’d like to be in the Air Force. They weren’t going to give him any choice. They only were recruiting for the Air Force, and he said he would love to thinking he would love to, thinking he would like to fly a fighter. Anyway, he went straight in and it was quite obvious that he was mentally capable of flying a Lancaster and that’s what he was trained for. By the time he was twenty he came out of there.
MC: So, what was he doing up in Scotland then?
PR: On leave.
MC: Oh, did he —
PR: He just went on leave.
MC: Oh, he was only up there on leave. He wasn’t stationed up there.
PR: I don’t know where. No. No.
MC: No. Oh right.
PR: No. He went, he got on at King’s Cross. So far as I know he must have been stationed down here because he didn’t get on anywhere near Bruntingthorpe. He got on in London. Whether he’d had to go to London. I never found that out.
MC: You never knew where he was stationed.
PR: I didn’t know where he was stationed then. I only knew that at the time, at the time we got to know him and he came on leave he was always at Bruntingthorpe in Leicestershire. And a couple of times I went to visit him in Leicester and I can’t even remember [pause] I stayed in a hotel in the middle of the town there and he used to come in when he could. But I never saw him in the evenings because they flew at night. He was a night bomber. And he never discussed his job. He was obviously very popular because there was always a crowd of people with him. They weren’t all his crew because they weren’t all officers. They were nearly all sergeants and he did when I, when I married him, not when I met him but by the time I married him he had completed one tour which was I believe twenty six missions. He was now half way through the second lot. He got a DFC at the end of the first lot. And for getting through the second lot he got a bar to his DFC. Got another DFC. It was automatic.
MC: So —
PR: You know.
MC: You say he was at Bruntingthorpe.
PR: Bruntingthorpe.
MC: What aircraft? Do you know what aircraft?
PR: Lancasters. Always Lancasters.
MC: Always Lancasters.
PR: Always Lancasters. I never knew him mention any —
MC: When, when did you get married then?
PR: 1945, this is when I got this certificate.
MC: So you said. 1945.
PR: 1945. When I was still seventeen. I wasn’t eighteen until the March. We got married in the February. He was twenty. And he was [pause] actively flying then. He got a weekend. An extended weekend. That’s what they called it. An extended weekend.
MC: Yes.
PR: So he would be home on Friday morning at my mother’s house and he wouldn’t leave there until Monday afternoon to get back to Leicestershire. Well, then I started going with him but we never had a home. We always, I was sort of billeted at the pub at Bruntingthorpe. I had a very nice room there. When he came off every morning he used to join me there for breakfast and of course he was allowed sausages, bacon, so forth. I was lucky to get an egg. But as a civilian you, you had no, you took your ration book and you worked your way through their rations in their pub and we didn’t get an egg a day.
MC: So, what rank was he when you married?
PR: Flying officer.
MC: Oh, he was flying officer.
PR: That’s what he is in the picture. You can see he’s got the ring. The wide ring. By the time our marriage finished and the war was over he was an acting squadron leader. Now, I don’t know whether that means he got the rank. Whether he was only. Everybody else was dead. When I said, ‘You’re now a squadron leader,’ he said, ‘Well, I’m acting squadron leader. There’s nobody else left.’
MC: So, where —
PR: I was still staying at the pub in Bruntingthorpe.
MC: So, how long did he stay in the Air Force after the war was over then?
PR: Oh, well —
MC: When did he come out of the Air Force?
PR: To my knowledge — I only sat it out for another year because I wanted a home. I was sick and tired of being in a billet which was in my case a nice hotel, a nice pub but it wasn’t my home. And I then decided to go home to my mother and that didn’t please him because he was still stationed there. And about a year after that he came out and that’s when he decided because his family were in Australia that he wished to go back there and he wanted me to go. Well, at one stage the Air Force shipped me over. I don’t know whether you know about that system but I went on a boat. It took three and a half weeks. I shared a very small smelly little cabin with another officer’s wife that I’d never met before and we went to Sydney. Well, his family were in Townsville in Queensland. That’s a long way away and I went up country as they call it on a train and I hated Australia. It was hot, dusty. I didn’t like the people. Oh my God. They were awful. Mind you this is seventy years ago. They’re probably civilised now. Apparently everybody loves it but I absolutely hated it. I thought it was [pause] well, outback was the word for it. It was so rough and the people spoke this strange lingo. I couldn’t understand them and they made no attempt to understand me because I was just foreign, you know. I mean, and his family were shipping agents in Townsville in Queensland and obviously well off. Well off enough to send him to England to public school. That took some doing I can assure you. And their house was on stilts and they had strange sort of native people that lived underneath and they were, well you didn’t need a gardener. It was just someone to rake the sand, you know. It was awful, you know. Townsville I suppose now is quite glamourous and probably has spas and clubs but then it was just rough. But it’s seventy years ago so, or more because I was still only what eighteen? Nineteen? Something like that. And I’m ninety two now so if I was even twenty it was seventy two years ago isn’t it?
MC: Yes. I mean is Lister Arrowsmith was his name —
PR: Yes.
MC: Did he have a middle name?
PR: Lister Harvey.
MC: I did do some research.
PR: Lister Harvey Arrowsmith. Yes.
MC: Yes. Yeah. His commission was Gazetted on the 17th of October 1944.
PR: Was it?
MC: 1944. To flying officer. Yeah.
PR: Yeah. He was flying officer when I married him.
MC: Yes. Yeah. But you don’t know what squadron he was with.
PR: I still don’t know the number of the squadron.
MC: No.
PR: Do you know I don’t think I ever asked.
MC: So when —
PR: He was just flying a bomber.
MC: Yeah. I know he did his first tour in 90 Squadron.
PR: Did he?
MC: Yeah. Tuddenham.
PR: Collingham.
MC: Tuddenham. Tuddenham.
PR: Tuddenham.
MC: RAF Tuddenham. T U D D E N H A M.
PR: That’s where he started was it?
MC: That’s where he did his first tour, yeah. As a pilot. But I don’t know much about, more about him than that.
PR: He had a [coughs] when people say, people used to sort of fall back in amazement when, because he had the obviously he had a DFC on his uniform, and they all knew because it was length of service that got you that in those days. You didn’t have to do anything particularly brave. It was as he said, ‘I’m only doing my job.’
MC: Yeah, but to complete a full tour, full tour of operations on Bomber Command.
PR: Well, exactly but then he, when I took, I said, ‘Why are they so surprised that you’ve done so many? Because you don’t seem to think it’s very clever.’ He said, ‘It’s experience.’ I said, ‘How do you mean experience?’ Because he was still what, twenty?
MC: I know.
PR: And most of the people who worked with him were a great deal older and sometimes I think he had trouble with them because he had such a baby face, and he was excessively handsome. And I think most of the men thought Christ, look at this. You know. This is competition. And he was. He was beautiful. He really was beautiful. That’s why I married him. I had no other reason. I was only seventeen. I only knew how he looked.
MC: So, did you have any children with him?
PR: No.
MC: Oh. No.
PR: No, we didn’t. But we didn’t have a home either. We had great plans for having children but I always regarded the thing as a bit [pause] I think I always thought of it as temporary. I think I was too young to get married, and in the first place my father didn’t want me to. He said, ‘Patsy, you’re too young.’ And I just said, ‘Oh, you’re just, daddy you just don’t want me to marry anybody.’ And he, he really didn’t want me to get married. My grandmother couldn’t wait for me to marry him because she fell in love with him the moment she saw him. My mother’s mother. And she said, ‘Oh, Patsy where ever did you meet him?’ I said, ‘I was with mummy on a train.’ And she said, ‘Well, he’s the one for you dear. Don’t you ever let him go.’ This was the first time she’d met him. She was seventy eight at the time but she just went mad about him.
MC: Did you know at the time he was from Australia? Did he have an accent?
PR: I knew that, I knew he’d been born there but I didn’t realise because when I first met him he was in an ordinary RAF officer’s uniform. It wasn’t until much later he said, ‘I’ve got to get a new uniform. I’m in the wrong thing.’ And he had to go off to Gieves and Hawkes and get another lot made and this time in the dark blue which I didn’t like at all. I didn’t like it. And then he had Australia on his shoulder then after that. But up ‘til then he’d just been RAF and of course several years in a public school had eradicated that ghastly accent so even I hadn’t ever heard it and he wouldn’t have dreamt of using it. Certainly not with my mother and father, you know because they would have said, ‘What was that? Whatever was that?’ You know. Because it is a horrible accent. It is still now. And most of them still speak like that.
MC: Yeah.
PR: Well, it isn’t a case of being snobby. It’s unattractive. It’s like the South African. It’s horrible.
MC: So what, do you know what happened to him after the war?
PR: I know he went back to Australia and when I was in my early twenties he came back here. He wanted to talk me out of getting, because I still hadn’t got it. It took me six years to get the divorce and in the end my father got it for me. I needed it because you see I had left him. He didn’t want me to go and every time we tried to get it to court our solicitor would say, ‘He doesn’t want to know. He’s not going to. You’re not going to get a divorce from him. He doesn’t want you to and you haven’t done anything. He’s not divorcing you. You’re divorcing him and he hasn’t done anything. You can’t get a divorce from him.’ And then my father, who was a stockbroker said, ‘I’ll get someone in the City, Patsy. I’ll get you a divorce lawyer. We’ll get out.’ I don’t know how he did it but on the sixth year of trying I got my divorce. But the year before that when that first started he came back here as a civilian and just appeared at my mother’s house and said he’d come for me. I was out. When he arrived I was actually out to dinner with somebody. I was horrified when I got home. Mummy said, ‘Lister’s here. He’s staying in London. He’s not staying with us.’ I said, ‘What’s he doing here?’ She said, ‘Well, he’s apparently come back for you. He hasn’t got the message yet.’ I said, ‘Well, did you explain to him that we are at last hopeful of getting — ’ She said, ‘He doesn’t want a divorce, Patsy. It’s going to be increasingly difficult. Especially as he’s now here.’ I said, ‘Well, has he come back here to live?’ She said, ‘He didn’t say. He just said I’ve come back to collect Patsy. She is my wife and I want her back.’ He wanted to take me to Australia.
MC: So, but you didn’t go.
PR: Oh, I made a mistake in going the first time. I shouldn’t have gone but I was curious because I thought well maybe I’ve got, I was grown up enough then to think well you are married and the least you can do is go and find out if it would work. But the Air Force put me on a boat. They weren’t flying people anywhere. And there were mines of course. The sea was heavily mined so we took our lives in our hands those of us that went on that boat. And it was a terrible journey. Oh God, it was awful. I hated it and I liked boats but I didn’t like that one. It was very uncomfortable. Very hot.
MC: So you finished with the RAF after that then. The Royal Air Force.
PR: Well, not really because it’s addictive isn’t it? The Air Force. I’ve never got I will never get divorced from Biggin Hill because that was brilliant. What a place. What a place. I wasn’t made very welcome there because I’d married a bomber so all my mother’s boys didn’t like that. Those that survived you know she heard from for years afterwards. They all married and they all had families and they all wrote to my mother. It was as if she was a sort of surrogate mother. She’d made them so welcome I think when nobody else had. She welcomed them all and gave them our rations and everything else she could lay her hands on. My father wouldn’t let her deal on the black market so it all had to come out of our rations and there were plenty of opportunities to deal on the black market but he just wouldn’t. On principle he wouldn’t. He said, ‘I couldn’t eat it. No. I couldn’t eat that. We’ve got a pig.’ [laughs] You know.
MC: So I mean obviously Lister Arrowsmith, you don’t, you don’t know much about his squadrons as you said. What squadrons he was on.
PR: No. No. I don’t know. All I know is that when I last spoke to him he was an acting squadron leader. Well, so far as everyone was. But he didn’t have, because I said, ‘Oh God, have I got to sew those rings on?’ He said, ‘No. I’m only acting.’ So I think it wasn’t established.
MC: Was he at Bruntingthorpe at that time?
PR: Yes. He was still at Bruntingthorpe but of course when he came back to England he was a civilian and he’d been a civilian for at least four years. So, as I say it took me six years from start to finish to get my divorce. And I think in the end he realised it was useless because I was a different person. By the time he came back I’d grown up and I was now working in London. I worked with my father at the Stock Exchange. In his office. His brokers. And I was totally different from the little girl he’d married, you know. I mean, you had to be. If you worked in the City you had to look as if you worked in the City and I did. I used to go up on the train with my father but my father had an enormous influence on me always. I miss him dreadfully but I don’t think, I don’t think he actually spoiled me. He just wanted the best. If I wanted something he would move heaven on earth to get it. The way he did the divorce, you know.
MC: I think that’s, you know, I mean it’s a brilliant story, Pat. I mean it’s —
PR: Yeah.
MC: It’s lovely. Thank you very much.
PR: Well, there’s nothing —
MC: Thank you for talking with us.
PR: I can’t really tell you anything. I don’t even know if he’s still alive. You can find that out on your



Mike Connock, “Interview with Pat Rumfitt,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 18, 2024,

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