Interview with Frances Grundy


Interview with Frances Grundy


Frances Grundy was born in Dorking in 1942 whilst her father was serving as a pilot with the RAF. She describes her earliest memories of growing up during and post war and the special relationship she had with her father. Her father continued his career as a solicitor in London after the war but never spoke about the operations he took part in with Bomber Command. Frances talks about her life, and the research she has carried out from her father’s days as a pilot and recounts some of the memorable items.







00:49:05 audio recording


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DE: So this is an interview with Frances Grundy, my name is Dan Ellin, and this is for the International Bomber Command Digital Archive and we are at the University of Lincoln, and it is Tuesday, 7th of the 7th 2015. I’d just like to say thank you very much for donating all the objects that you have for us to scan and all the things to do with your father. Could you start by telling us a little about where and when you were born and your early life please?
FG: Well I was born in Dorking during the war in 1942, my father wasn’t actually out bombing at the time but he was certainly actively bombing as it were. We moved around a lot during the war, and the only memories I have of that are really the names of places that they’ve told me about, and of course my grandparents who we visited a lot. My paternal grandparents lived in Southampton and we certainly went there in the war me and my mother, but other places just sort of place names as it were. So it wasn’t till after the war that we moved to London and my father was demobbed and he took up his solicitor’s articles again. And from sort of 1946 onwards I do have clear recollections of life as it were, of what was happening. We had a tiny little house in South Kensington, for five pounds a week that they rented behind a posh Crescent, it was quite near to the Brompton Oratory, and there was a bomb site right in front of our house. And about that time I started going to school up the Brompton Road, the Hampshire School, Susan Hampshire, you won’t remember her, her mother ran a rather strange school but it was quite interesting, and we danced and learned lots of things. And that moved to a church hall nearby behind Harrods and lots of trestle tables, and dancing and things and playing rounders in Hyde Park opposite, well in Hyde Park. Then at eight they sent me off to boarding school, which was a disaster for me because I didn’t like leaving home at eight, and I stayed, that was in, that was near my grandmother who’d by that time moved from Southampton to Lymington, and it was a nice place but I was very very very very home sick, and it was a tradition of the family that you sent the children off young to school. My mother had gone very young to school because her father was a Padre, and so she had gone young to boarding school even younger than me but I wasn’t, I was just plain home sick. They then moved house in about 1950 to another house in Chelsea, which my father lived in until he died in 2004, and I was happy there but again I was sent off to boarding school in Winchester, so all my sort of school days happened in Hampshire, and I came home to London for the holidays. My father moved, he remained a solicitor in the city, I can’t remember when he moved to the NEM, the National Employers Mutual Insurance Company, and probably in the mid-fifties, and then he moved to, he became the Chairman of an Industrial Tribunal when he was sixty so that would be 1975 I think wouldn’t it. Do you want to hear about me now?
DE: Oh yes, you can tell me anything you like.
FG: You said.
DE: What did you do when you left school?
FG: I went to Keele and read maths and economics, and enjoyed the work very very much and particularly the maths, I wasn’t a very good mathematician but I enjoyed the sort of puzzle of it. And then went to work for ICI as a, in the maths group they were doing operational research to optimise the production of chemicals at Mond Division in Cheshire, and worked with a very interesting man who was brilliant at making equations out of chemical production, I couldn’t believe it as I watched it you know. You told him what the inputs were to the products, and what the capacity of the plant was, and all that kind of thing, and all the by-products and everything and he made these absolutely fantastic equations. Anyway we, me and my colleagues, we had to put these into an operational research package which optimised it, and then the result came out, and then you had to write a report, I enjoyed that actually. I got married to John, who was at Keele he was a lecturer in philosophy in 1966, and then I went to work at English Electric Computers for a bit. And then I was pregnant with my daughter who was born in ‘68. And I got a job at Keele in the computer centre and I worked in the computer centre until about 1980, and then got a lectureship in 1981, at the time of the cuts of 1981, and stayed there till I retired. I did a lot on women in computing, women and computers, we wrote a book together called “Women And Computers” which was successful when it came out, it didn’t go down a treat with my employers. I did take my employer to an Industrial Tribunal in 1979 for being passed over and I won, two to one, I admit, it wasn’t a very good win but it was a win and it was 1979 so. [laughs] And but then you know conscious of the fact that there were no women in computing I started to do work on general computing and wrote this book, and got a lot of invitations to go to mainly Northern Europe to talk. And what was quite interesting there was that here I was going to Germany and talking, and you know giving these talks, and making massive friends with German people, generally a lot, a lot younger than me, and but there were interesting things that happened then actually. They were very conscious of the war even the young people that you know they were very conscious of the war I think, well not the young, people my age too. Can I pause for a minute just to collect my thoughts on that because I haven’t thought about it for a long time? The first time I went, I went to Dresden and that’s what really got, well it is relevant, because Dresden you know, Dresden was beautiful and a mess when I got there, but as I left the front, I went to stay with him in London before I left and caught the went to Heathrow or whatever. He said it’s extraordinary, he said, ‘Remember they’re still the’ my father rather, ‘Remember they’re still the enemy’. And I couldn’t believe my ears. [laughs] And I told, and my mother had just died, he was very traumatised by her death, very traumatised, I mean their marriage was was very important to him because of the circumstances under which it happened, under which it all occurred. And I reminded him some years later what he’d said, he said ‘Did I say that?’ You know I mean it was quite extraordinary. And then I had a good German friend whom I worked with in Freiburg and so on and once he said to me, ‘Invite him over tell him to come and see me.’ Because he was reasonably fit at that time, so I went and said, ‘Are you coming?’ He said, ‘no.’ He said he wouldn’t come but he didn’t fly much after the war. And one of the comments he made one of his ho ho jokes, ‘I might fall out of the aeroplane’. Anyway you know there were all sorts of strange reactions in the, back home his brother said to me, and I was obviously very friendly with the Germans, and I was, I was going to all sorts of places a did a big sort of tour giving talks in, not entirely in Germany, in Sweden and Finland and also Austria, and. [pause] Sorry I’ve lost my track again sorry I’ve gone blank I’ve dried up. [pause] Yes I was also very conscious of the fact that my my younger colleagues knew there had been a war, and I did didn’t think about it with them I just wanted to know Germany as Germany is known now, you know the recent programmes on on the on Germany by the Director of the British Museum, Neil McGregor. I mean he was really, that’s the kind of thing I quite liked, and so I my there wasn’t no dislike of Germany and all this had been sort of coming up over the years. And then I retired at in 2004, just after he died and came to live in Lincoln, because my daughter’s working here and I really like the city.
DE: So you were away at boarding school an awful lot during your childhood, what was your father like what were your memories of your father when you were at home?
FG: I, I mean it was a very very strong relationship, it was a great friendship, there wasn’t, all the disciplining really happened at school. And in a sense I’ve passed that on to my children that I haven’t disciplined them properly as they’ve all said, because you were disciplined at school and then you came home for the holidays and and had a good time. But he was always looking after me in a sense, he was sending me things, he was contacting me, they were always writing, they knew I was homesick. And we used to go for summer holidays to my grandfather once he’d retired from the Air Force, went to a small parish in Shropshire where he had this fantastic vicarage and we had wonderful holidays there. And that does bring back the war, because there were things like his flying jacket which he gave to a local farmer, and silk petticoats you know silk, parachute silk, was still around and people talked about it and that kind of thing the residue of the war was still there, this was ‘47/’48 you know. And he used to come up and we used to have these fantastic holidays, and he walked and biked and swam in the lake, and he had a, he had a complete costume, a one piece costume, and he swam the lake and caught a fish down it. [laughs] He was very, he walked a lot, he always walked a lot and he always swam a lot, because having been brought up in Southampton he liked the sea and he liked, they sailed, they all had they had sailing boats and things that they, and he rowed, he didn’t row when I knew him but he rowed as an undergraduate, but he biked and walked, he was quite fitness conscious.
DE: Did he ever talk to you or mention his time in the RAF?
FG: Very, very rarely. The subject would come up and it’s so difficult to recall because was it so much part of their lives. Like he had a friend Ken Kendrick, who appears in a lot of his photographs, and Ken Kendrick was my, and he was friendly with Ken and his wife Ara, and they were friendly right through my childhood and teenage-hood so Ken kept turning up so. And they used to sit and talk about Mildenhall, I think it was Mildenhall, I don’t know it might have been later actually, but they, and they went, they all had a reunion there. And they drove round the airfield and they were going sort of joking as they drove down the runway and they could see the church which you lined up with the runway and all that kind of thing. But nothing about, I think the more interesting things actually, I mean his engagement to my mother was incredibly important to him, I mean and it was only when she died that I realised you know, he was it was just the whole thing was, and how much it was influenced by the war which it obviously was. [background noise] [asking someone working a question]. How much it was influenced by the war I don’t know, in the sense that it that must have heightened the romance, or heightened the you know, that he you know he had this this thing which must have supported him in some way I think. Your question was what did he talk about the war? My mother said more probably, not about, I mean he never talked to me about flying, except well he never talked to me about it, in his dotage I got a mobile and [laughs] he’s sitting in a wheelchair in this in Chiswick Garden [?] in Chelsea and I gave it him to hold and to talk to somebody with and he used it just like an intercom [laughs], that kind of thing because he’d never used a mobile you know kind of you know.
DE: [Unclear] to his ear and left it there.
FG: But there was nothing really. Can I have another minute? There was you know the only thing I can remember was once they somehow got a Lancaster to Battersea Park, and I was about it must have been the time of about the time of the Festival of Britain[?] I don’t know what it was must have been a copy or something, but he was definitely there and there were RAF personnel showing people around so you could clamber in and clamber out, pretty sure it was a Lancaster. And he said to these men this was ’51 right ’52 something like that, and he said to these men, ‘I flew one.’ I’ve never seen him say anything like that, ‘I flew one of these’ you know, and you know they were impressed. And I was quite sort of surprised by him telling them you know, I won’t say bragging about it at all, just you know he was proud enough to say it you know, I can remember that emotion because you got so little of that you know most of the time.
DE: Right so that was an unusual thing for him to do yes?
FG: But what I was going to say was what my mother was said about drinking. They did drink and when I had my twenty-first birthday party they let me have our house and they disappeared somewhere, and apparently they, there was a basement you know come down steps and they came to have a look at what was going on if the house was getting totally damaged, they crept down I couldn’t I didn’t seem them and when they came back the next day or so they said, ‘Well that was a sober affair’. [laughs] And she was so you know how much she’d seen of people being carried out with darts in their kidneys and you know, and people swinging on, I mean them swinging on light fittings lit up, and that kind of thing. And he once, I don’t know, he went out to - this was when I was about fifteen sixteen - he went out to some cocktail party and he must have drunk quite a bit and when he came back he was quite drunk, and she just grinned and carried it through, and she was obviously used to it that was you know, she said he hadn’t been like this since the war, and I was you know, it’s a different personality, I couldn’t, it only happened once or twice after that at fifteen/sixteen, I’d never seen it before you know it was quite shattering.
DE: But you think it seems like it was a normal state of affairs during the war?
FG: I don’t know how normal, but she had obviously seen it before and could cope with it quite well, I don’t know how you know, I just don’t know.
DE: When were they married you say it was very important to him you think?
FG: Well they got engaged in, they were married in ’41 in June, and again he talked about the day of the marriage, I don’t know and when he bought the engagement ring and so on. It was important to him and he didn’t really let on until he was you know he was everything was cut from under him when she died. And the second time he got drunk was actually here, when he came up here after her death and he was you know he was grieving something awful, and I had to follow him back to his hotel that was a bit scary. [laughs] He walked all the way up Steep Hill without stopping he was eighty plus, and he also walked up to the roof of the cathedral at eighty plus.
DE: Crickey.
FG: With a stick so he didn’t do badly you know. But I mean there wasn’t a history of drink at all, and in a sense that’s why I tell the story because when you see the films of people drinking you can begin to understand it because she just gave me this brief insight into it you know of. And then there’s that story in that letter, I don’t know if you read it, that somebody had wrote after he died saying that he had an Australian who had, he had come up, my father had come up to this man who was in the bar drinking a pint and he said, ‘Are you flying tomorrow?’ And that was it, the man said he put the pint aside and that was it.
DE: Yes I have read that.
FG: And I thought it was was quite significant in a way.
DE: Suggests there was a time and a place.
FG: Yes.
DE: And it’s not before an operation.
FG: No. As if he was quite strict about it, and at that young age I don’t know how old he was then, at that fairly young age he could influence people like that without saying anything. I mean other things you know that aren’t relevant, was he had to write a lot of letters to people to the relatives of the dead, of those killed, and he found that quite a strain I think because he was very careful composer of text and letters, and he would put his best effort into it and I do remember him saying that was quite a strain and he actually got his mother to help him sometimes because he needed you know.
DE: Really.
FG: Which is quite interesting. He, later on in life, he I mean he went on fighting even though he’d stopped I don’t think, I don’t think he would have liked life in the RAF, I don’t think it was post-war, I don’t think it would have been interesting for him. I think there was no, I don’t, I can’t say fighting was, I don’t know, but it wouldn’t have been interesting enough for whatever reason, obviously he didn’t like fighting but you know I mean he’d commit himself to that if had to. But he had huge battles at the NEM where he reported, he reported somebody from the DTI for misbehaviour and you know. And then when I took that the case to the Industrial Tribunal he provided a huge amount of help to me over that, and he was right behind me, completely behind me you know, writing documents, having ideas and getting me to find appropriate lawyers and things like that.
DE: Yes, so he liked conflict through just cause?
FG: He did, he did yes, yes, very very much so. I think that’s something that I’ve inherited rightly or wrongly I mean I think I tend to be over the top sometimes I think I probably tried to emulate him. [laughs]
DE: That’s interesting. I think this sounds like seems like a good time to discuss the Imperial War Museum and your father’s photographs could you tell us a little bit about those?
FG: Well as everybody knows Cecil Beaton went to, not everybody but, Cecil Beaton went to Mildenhall in ’41 was it? He describes it in his diaries and took a lot of photographs of, what was as the number of the squadron?
DE: I can’t remember we’ll look it up.
FG: But it was that squadron wasn’t it? And they appeared in my childhood, and they were a big part of my childhood, those pictures, particularly the one of him and the co-pilot and so on, in the cockpit and all of them and we looked at them a lot. But that Cecil Beaton’s “Air of Glory” was a book we we looked at you know that was our father, and I think my mother must have encouraged us to look at that to be honest and to be proud of him. My mother and I went to the Coronation, we got tickets, my grandfather won a ballot for some tickets to the to sit in The Mall at the Coronation, and my mother and I went and she said, “Nobody would have medals like your father”. It wasn’t true I’m sure [laughs] you know she was, and that was still hanging round even then, um I’ve lost track.
DE: So you had a copy of a book of his photographs.
FG: And then it came to me by various routes, I mean I didn’t twig that he was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat and the and somebody else was sitting in the pilot’s seat and he’d been moved out of the pilot’s seat, I didn’t twig at all I just saw my dad. And then gradually over the years, I don’t know how, but it came to me that he had been moved out of the pilot’s seat and been replaced by this junior person, whom I later discovered was called Fisher, and I did get really upset about it, and am still upset about it I think because my father never ever said a word about it. I liked looking at those other photographs of him getting on the air you know, waiting to leave and so on, and I hadn’t really got a clue about what was involved. It was just this sort of black and white romantic pictures almost you know from the war, because he was still watching “The Dambusters” and things like that even after. [laughs] It gradually came to me, and not from my father, and I never discussed it with my father, that he’d been quote “demoted” and I was always very curious about the name of the man in the pilot’s seat. So he and my mother had been very friendly with this woman WAAF officer called Brenda Bolton, she wasn’t Brenda Bolton then she was Brenda Forbes, and she had been serving with my mother at the time the photograph was taken, and after they both died, my parents, I wrote to her and said can you tell me anything about this. And she wrote back and said yes, his name was Fisher I think it was Freddie, and we were all shocked and surprised by this demotion. So I tried to get the Imperial War Museum to tell me anything they knew about the way these photographs were taken, how Cecil Beaton had chosen who was to go where and so on, and asked them to please to if they were going to put some names on to name the people properly. And they seemed to miss what I was trying to tell them, which was that he my father was the pilot and was sitting in the co-pilot’s place, and that the somebody called the captain was not my father, and this man was probably not a captain I don’t know, and they and I tried to explain to them. And they told me they’d understood and he was going to be properly labelled when the pictures came up in a recent in a relatively recent exhibition, and when I got there [laughs] and there was this picture of this man apparently called Fisher labelled what flight officer, what would his rank then?
DE: I can’t remember.
FG: The Donaldson anyway and it wasn’t Donaldson anyway and it was very strange seeing somebody you were so proud of being completely mislabelled. [laughs] And then also at the at North West, the Imperial War Museum North West, where they put on an exhibition about the Lancaster they had this huge really big picture as you walked in of a version of this photograph and they’d completely cut my father out. [laughs] He was not there at all, there was just Fisher sitting there staring at me from the ceiling I was. [laughs]
DE: Oh dear.
FG: Wasn’t it sad. I’d driven all the way over from one side of the country from here [unclear]. But it’s the details that you get from the films about the Lancaster, how they pissed on the wheel before they got in, you know and after you never got anything like that, you never got anything about what it was like, or how cold it was, you know he never said anything about that at all. And I don’t, I haven’t really thought through why not, I don’t know why not, why he would never talk to me, he didn’t talk to anybody about it I don’t think, was it fear or if they did start talking it would never stop, or it was the old RAF thing that you mustn’t I mean tell people the facts as it were.
DE: So when did you begin to really sort of start researching about your father’s time in the RAF?
FG: Well I hadn’t really researched it, well I did that I mean, that wasn’t really research that was just trying to put the record straight. I hadn’t really researched it in any detail then, I mean a friend did a search on rural books and came up with references to his later war. He did talk a bit, I mean going back to that the operation research that I did, he did say that, and I never really paid enough attention probably because of those photographs actually, to his later war record and he did say they were using those techniques that sort of operational research, I mean not exactly what I was doing I was doing optimisation, but for flying formations and so on, they were using what they called operational research techniques in the war for the, in the for in the latter period of the war.
DE: I see.
FG: But the only time you’d get to talk to him ‘cos I was looking at that and I saw FIDO.
DE: The log book?
FG: Sorry yes the log book, and I saw FIDO and I said, “What’s that? What does FIDO stand for?”, and he told me, I don’t know now.
DE: Er its fog something dispersal isn’t it?
FG: Yes. Um Google it up or what.
DE: [laughs].
FG: [Unclear]. He did tell me that and he once said he’d been the thirty something person [?] to fly to to North America when he went on earlier in the war, and he went to collect Hudsons from the United States, he landed in Canada and I think flew home from Ohio via Iceland because they couldn’t fly back. And things like, I would ask him things like, how many, what was the maximum number of nights he went on, every night, I’d said that you know fact.
DE: Yes.
FG: And he told me five, I think it was, which is quite a lot. [laughs]
DE: Yes.
FG: And then I asked him about what was the longest flight you did and that was the trip to Gdansk which I think was eleven hours.
DE: But nothing then to do with feelings or emotions or?
FG: He would comment on other people’s, occasionally I can recall him commenting on other people’s failings but not in any critical way, it was people who had just cracked up or. And I think I do remember him saying that awful phrase “lack of moral fibre” he really hated that, and it was something that he abhorred, I remember.
DE: Right. So what would he comment, he said he heard about somebody else that had cracked up what sort of things would he say?
FG: I can’t remember.
DE: Did your mother talk about the war any more often than your father?
FG: Probably not. I remember once I made a big mistake, I’d come here to stay with my daughter and that was probably, what’s the anniversary of the Armed Forces Day, so Sunday they had services in the cathedral I think it’s Armed Forces Day. Anyway they had a service in the summer and I went and stood outside and I get really wound up about men in bowler hats with umbrellas pretending their still in the armed forces, and I really get [laughs], and I started to take the piss out of them a bit, and my mother went absolutely mad, and actually that did it bring it home to me she said, ‘You just don’t know what it was like you have no idea how awful it was’. And the way she said it, and it really shut me up forever on that you know, taking the piss out of something like that, it was, it was quite interesting that.
DE: She was in the WAAF wasn’t she?
FG: Yes.
DE: What was her role?
FG: Mmm, god I forgot she pushed you know she was a —
DE: A plotter.
FG: A plotter, yes she was a plotter, yes.
DE: What are your thoughts about how Bomber Command has been remembered over the?
FG: Well here again I’ve been really influenced by him you know, he never got upset about it, about them not being recognised. I mean everything I heard about that I heard from elsewhere never from him, he never got upset about it so I didn’t really get upset if you see what I mean. And then I saw criticisms of you know, and also all my friends you know were always talking, well colleagues, were talking about Dresden and the damage the bombing did and so on and I absorbed a lot of that. And you know there was no medal, there was no, and we never talked about the huge casualties either there were casualties. And when you read these stories that your, you know, I’m transcribing now, the matter of fact way in which they talk about death and people being killed, and people being lost and so on. And my father did that occasionally, that you know ex went missing or something, and the the coolness in which they talk about it, I find it in many of these documents, and in the kind of things he said, and so all that went on in a way. There was never, he never, he never said that bombing was a bad thing and he always said people often said to him, ‘Did you bomb Dresden?’ And his prompt and instance reaction was, ‘No but I would have done if I’d been asked to.’ Bang that’s it. So I think when the Piccadilly Memorial was went up I was I was very keen to see it, and I found it emotional, I and in a sense I was pleased that it was there, it was time it was there. But I had a very, very strong feeling about them not being recognised, and I realised it was almost entirely political and not to do with the sacrifices they made and what they went through, and even as I say even when that one went up I wasn’t, I was pleased that something had at last been recognised and put in such a very important place. And I liked the figures, I found them, am not sure, I will see how time progresses, how I like them in the future I don’t know, I’m not too keen on the surround it’s a bit, I don’t know anyway. I did like the figures they were, they really stirred me, but only again that’s me and him, and me and my childhood and all that kind of thing so not really about Bomber Command. When the spire went up yes that, then things changed a bit, I think now I do feel that they were, and I’m reading more and you know and more aware of particularly the latter part of the war, and I feel I’ve neglected that in a sense you know because of those I was going to say damn photographs. [laughs] You know I wish I knew more about the one hundred and stuff, and I am I would be quite keen to have a greater a better look at that because of what it was about, not just the silver foil, but also the jamming, and the going out to detect the radar you know, which I’m only just beginning to learn about.
DE: The damn photographs were they just in the book or were there pictures around the house?
FG: No.
DE: Just in the book?
FG: No way, no way, no way. We all had our wings.
DE: Oh really.
FG: Oh yeah, my mother often wore them, my grandmother, I read my I read there’s one sheaf of letters which were all congratulations to him on getting his the bar[?] to his DSO, and from his mother, and from all sorts of people and that was very interesting, because I don’t think he got quite so many for the other awards but this they were all over the top about that. And my grandfather was offered, his father was offered an OBE, I think, and he turned it down because he said he wasn’t going to stand in the queue at Buckingham Palace with people like they did. And um I’m lost sorry what was I on?
DE: Um.
FG: Yes, the damn photos, yes there not the damn photos, I’m saying the reason I’m saying the damn photos is because they biased my view of the war they they somehow inhibited me from looking at other parts of it which would be much more interesting, and there not damn photos at all. [laughs] I’m just trying to explain why I didn’t know, I knew so little about the latter part of the war.
DE: Yes I think it’s very understandable I think yes.
FG: I’m very fond of those photos don’t misunderstand me. Oh yes and the wings I was talking about the wings, and my grandmother, I went and bought it, I went and bought a huge one with twenty diamonds in it which is quite interesting, and at one point I had five because they were left to me, and I wore one to somebody’s wedding when I was you know that big, and I’ve given them my each of my one children one now so I haven’t got that many now. [laughs] There quite nice brooches actually, I forget about them, there not always appropriate but I did sometimes wear them.
DE: I’ve just got a couple of other things I think which came out from talking to you before we started the interview you mentioned that your father declined to speak at your wedding could you explain that for the benefit of the tape?
FG: What are you trying to say my speech is so [laughs] awful and needs explaining?
DE: We didn’t get it on the tape.
FG: No we didn’t no. He was never, I think he would definitely agree that we was never a very good public speaker and if you listen to the recording of the BBC tape he did in 1941, a propaganda tape on a raid on Turin, while his accent is what I am sure it was then, am absolutely convinced there is overlaid to that a nervousness and a desire to enunciate words very carefully so that they come over carefully. So there’s two things there, there’s the sort of 1940’s accent, plus this nervousness and care with enunciation. And I think that nervousness went on and he never liked making public public statements and when it came to our wedding he refused to, he got his brother to make the the bride’s speech, and he also told John my husband that he shouldn’t he wasn’t to make one. And at the end my father’s brother had ended up the speech with something, some joke like nil desperandum, I’m sorry I’ve forgotten he was a blossomer[?] and not a classical scholar, and John came back with, he did make a speech, he made one statement he said ‘I am homo sapien’. No he would never, he was very nervous, he hated it.
DE: Well obviously managed to get into the aeroplane and do all the countless operations. The other thing which I’d like to expand on if we can his attitude to Germany which you mentioned earlier when you were travelling to Germany, but of course he’d visited Germany in the late thirties do you think that there is any relevance perhaps?
FG: Any relevance to?
DE: His thoughts about?
FG: Germans, Germany no I think I mean he was a straight thinker really. I the only I knew he’d been to several biking tours, one to France that may have been a different one when he went to Germany, and he took the photographs of the, he took a photograph which you can see of the German bunting, Nazi bunting if you like, which is quite shocking. His younger brother Norman does mention that David found this a bit alarming. While the war was on they did, my mother had actually been in Germany when just before the war, she had been there as sort of an exchange student and said how it was the club of all classes [?] and she stayed with somebody and this woman interestingly came to see them after the war, very long after the war and they were they never she said, ‘We didn’t start it it wasn’t our fault’ to them. Erngart [?] her name was, and they were furious, and they that they didn’t hate Germans they just found this very difficult to take, I mean it wasn’t late 1950’s/’60 and so. But they didn’t, they never expressed hatred to Germans in that sense, but this woman they were furious with her saying that it wasn’t the Germans fault that they started the war but they were furious about that. And when I started to go to work in Germany for several sabbaticals, and he was very interested I think, but there was this sudden sort of lapse. [laughs] As I left for the first time to visit Freiburg, or no I think Dresden, and he said as I walked out the door, ‘Remember they’re still the enemy.’ I walked out of the door absolutely shaken, I couldn’t understand what he was talking about, and I reminded him several years later that he’d said it and um he couldn’t remember having said it. And certainly my Germany friend she came to stay with me and when we’d been talking about Anglo German friendships relationships and so on amongst older people, she said she never noticed a thing I mean he was always completely friendly with her, and interested in her, and you know they got on very well, there was nothing at all there. And I don’t think there was with my mother either, you can’t, and I don’t think they did, but they did take a bit of time to get over it. His brother once said to me when I was going a lot he said, ‘Do you like them?’ And I said, ‘Yes’. [laughs] At one time he was very very left wing. [laughs] Have they embarrassed well you know it was very complicated business you know, you’ve got a left wing German friends whose fathers’ fought in the army, you know, it’s it’s it is quite difficult to sort of start a conversation with them because they were in the army throughout the war, and you don’t know, they tell you about what their fathers’ did, so they tell you much more about what their fathers’ said about the war much more. You know I had another German friend, and her father worked at Peenemünde and they fled to Alabama, and they lived in a sort of German enclave in Alabama, that’s another interesting story because she didn’t know anything this contemporary of mine, and they just lived in this enclave where they didn’t know anything. And when she came home, they came back, and she got some, only quite recently I think, some quite nasty shocks because she didn’t know.
DE: No very interesting. I think I’ve ticked all the things that I had jotted down to talk about and we’re approaching fifty minutes of it.
FG: Really thank you very much for listening to me.
DE: It’s been marvellous thank you. Unless there’s any other thing that’s sort of niggling in the back of your mind.
FG: No there’s a lifetime so you know, a whole lot one big niggle. [laughs] It is a lifetime.
DE: Well I shall end it there.
FG: I’d like to thank you for raising all this with me actually I mean it’s aroused my interest in it and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
DE: We are very pleased that you’ve donated all these things to be scanned.
FG: Well I’m also doing the transcribing. Thank you very much.



Dan Ellin, “Interview with Frances Grundy,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 19, 2024,

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