Frank Whillock – Eulogy 25 January 2016 – Deborah & Michael Harley Introduction Thank you for coming today, some have come some distance. We remember, amongst others, those who cannot be here granddaughter Sarah and family in Australia, nephew Martin (and Ruth Whillock), niece Janet (in Italy), niece Marion (and David) in Canada, and nephew Gerald (and Hnong) in Thailand, Bob Lay his old friend – each are remembering Frank at this time. Early Years Siblings Frank, born in Hornsey, London on the 19 th June 1921, was the youngest of the four children of Caroline and Frederick Whillock. His siblings, Arthur, Ethel and 'Bubbles', have all died and Frank felt that keenly as he became the last one to survive. He said they were like four legs on a chair, as each one died the chair became increasingly wobbly. He'd probably now say that the chair is mended – a typical woodworkers analogy. Ethel and 'Bubbles' used to mother him, while his brother, Arthur, was kind to him and helped him financially through his teacher training. A kindness Frank never forgot. Hard Times The family hit hard times when their father, Frederick, was unemployed for about two years around the Depression between the Wars and mother, Caroline, had different jobs to make ends meet. But it was a loving family which compensated, so Frank felt he had a very happy childhood. Little things pleased him-Bubbles ensured that he got his first pocket sewed into his new home- made trousers, of which he was immensely proud (there's a photo of him with his hand stuffed determinately into the pocket of those trousers). War Years Good War Frank had barely started his Teacher Training when he was conscripted into the Royal Air Force, working with electronics helping to operate Radar. He served in England, Belgium and Germany. Typically Frank couldn't resist secretly taking photographs over Europe as a souvenir, and he got away with it. Frank always said he had a good war. Leaving his gun behind There were one or two incidents that he mentioned which were hilarious in hindsight. He went to the theatre in Belgium, and on returning to his Station realised that he had left his Sten Gun under the seat. He had to rush back to the theatre, knock on the side door and retrieve it from the caretaker. Failing to retrieve it would have meant a prison sentence. Prisoner of War guard He guarded a German Prisoner of War under house arrest in Germany, who had been a war artist. He befriended him and once accepted a social evening alone with him, listening to music and discussing art, deciding it was safe to leave his gun behind in the Station. The artist gave Frank a drawing which is still on a wall. After the war the artist wrote to Frank asking him to set up an exhibition for him in London, but Frank realised it would be immensely unpopular to encourage a German artist in London, so he refused. Confirmation During the war Frank was confirmed in Winchester Cathedral the Chaplain had arranged for the group of confirmees to be flown down specially for the event. Latterly this link with Winchester amused him because of Mike and Deborah's link with the same Cathedral. Post War Choice of careers A defining moment for Frank after the war was when he was offered further training as an electronics engineer, but he decided to return to teacher training. He would wonder what would have happened in his life if he had made a different decision. Teaching He resumed his teacher training and was allowed to continue from where he had left off before the war, this shortened the required training post war which delighted him. Frank became a woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing teacher, thoroughly enjoying teaching and encouraging children in these early years of his career. He was also an accomplished woodworker and joiner, producing many fine pieces of furniture for his home. Family Life Audrey and girls At his first school he met Audrey, who was to become his first wife. They married in 1951, lived in New Southgate, north London, and their daughters were born there - Deborah in 1952 and Diana in 1954. Forgetting the baby He once took the newly born Deborah to the local shops in her pram, arriving later back home without her. Audrey asked where Deborah was he had forgotten that he was a new father and had left the baby outside the shops. On rushing back Deborah was still there in her pram - a sign of more trusting and safer times. Patience Despite the previous incident he was a caring and attentive father. Frank had endless patience, and both Deborah and Diana remember him helping them with their Maths homework, despite their tears of frustration at not being able to understand the subject. Picture Framing Frank has been a picture framer for many decades and had his own business that he ran from the garage, and then the garden shed. Deborah and Diana spent happy hours with him making things out of offcuts of wood. Both remember accompanying him around north London delivering pictures to clients, when he would sing Bing Crosby songs ('In the cool, cool, cool of the evening' being a favourite). Bedtime stories Frank had a talent for making up bedtime stories initiated by Diana, always with a happy and moral ending. Diana remembers stories about an object that didn't want to do what it was meant to, like 'the light switch that didn't want to switch on', or 'the door knob that didn't want to turn'. Wider family Over the decades his two sons in law have found Frank to be a great Father-in-Law, very interested in and supportive of what they have done in their careers and lives. Also, Frank's nephews and nieces have very fond and treasured memories of him. They said he was a kind and generous uncle; interested in what each did; fun with a positive attitude towards life; and a good role model. Retiring During the 1970's, Audrey's health deteriorated, and Frank realised he needed to retire to care for her. He retired as the Head of the Handicraft Department of Ravenscroft Secondary Modern School in about 1978 - the school was the location for the TV series 'Grange Hill'. By then he was pleased to retire since teaching had become a strain for him, as children in this era were far less respectful and obedient than their predecessors. Litton Cheney A decisive move Frank and Audrey moved to Litton Cheney in Dorset in 1979. Mrs Smith, Audrey's elderly mother, moved down with them and occupied one of the bedrooms. Village life to the full Frank threw himself into village life, enjoying every aspect and getting thoroughly involved. He organised the village fete for a few years Diana remembers the fancy dress competitions, where he dreamt up wonderful topical costumes for himself, such as the 'weather man' one year because of the wet summer, and the 'litter man' during the anti-litter campaign. The Harley grandchildren remember taking part in fancy dress competitions. One year Diana was roped in with her friend, Wendy, to be a judge. Audrey dies Sadly Audrey died in 1981, aged 57 years. Frank was left with his Mother-in-Law in the house to care for as she was becoming more dependent, which was a difficult era for him.. Hobbies and interests He began to take craft lessons in the local Junior School; became a PCC member and was involved in the church; and for thirty years he coordinated Country Cars, a service for taking people to hospital appointments from the local Bride Valley. He enjoyed golf and belonged to the West Bay Golf Club. He also threw himself into music he started to learn the violin again, to play the guitar and had piano lessons. He became a member of the Bridport Music Centre Orchestra (even playing the violin at the millenium concert in the Albert Hall) and the Dorchester Camarata. He started to go to a local Folk Club, joining in the singing and playing. A New Era Barbara It was at a folk club that he and Barbara met some time later, they were married in 1984 and a new era began. During their marriage they ran a business together of antiquarian maps and prints and bric-a-brac. Frank continued picture framing and repairing items for Barbara's shop and stall. They enjoyed knowing the local artists who Frank framed for. They jointly sang in the Bride Valley Choir. Friends and parties Barbara and Frank made many friends in Litton Cheney, and Frank's 80 th and 90 th birthday parties were well attended by both family and numerous friends. The Man Poetry Like many in his generation Frank remembered poetry from his school days, which he had learnt by rote, but in addition he was also known to write poetry himself. One or two of his poems were published, and some found there way into the local magazine. One of his poems is going to be read in this service. Inquisitive mind Frank had a naturally inquisitive and lively mind, almost to the end he always wanted to learn about things and to understand how things worked. Although the internet was beyond him and he really didn't want to get involved, he nevertheless wanted to try and understand how it worked. He was absolutely amazed that he was actually on the internet Diana showed him a photograph of him playing the violin on the folk club website. Inclusive As a person he was very inclusive, sometimes modern in outlook, and often accepted people as they were. But he did have strong opinions and was not afraid to express them. Grandchildren Enjoyment Frank derived much pleasure from his grandchildren and Sarah, Jo, Fran, Andrew, Erica and Christopher also remember him with great affection and all have their special memories of him. They enjoyed their visits to Frank and Barbara and found their house fascinating.. Their reflections They loved listening to the stories of his life They felt he was young at heart, warm and enthusiastic They enjoyed making music with him, and he encouraged their musical endeavours Fishing in his river Making things with him from scraps of wood in his shed Having fun on the local beaches Being supported in their hobbies and having their achievements framed In later years finding him interested in and even inspiring their choice of careers Great Grandchildren Frank said that he was privileged to meet some of his great grandchildren, and was something that he never thought that he would see. It gave him much pleasure to meet them and place a silver coin in their hand for luck – a family tradition we were told. Conclusion Poor health As you know Frank's health has been poor over the last years and Barbara has been a really great support, carer and strength as he has been very confined. He missed terribly not being able to get into his workshop and, even with Barbara's help, he realised that it was time to lay down his tools. Peaceful death At the end he died very peacefully and quietly in his own home with Barbara, Deborah, Diana and me around the bed unfortunately CS was unwell and therefore unable to be with us. It was a good death, and he had his wish to die in his own home. Greatly missed He will be greatly missed, but there will be many fond memories of him as we commend him to God with thankfulness for such a long and interesting life, and having had the privilege of knowing him.
The following address was given by Anthony Nicholson at a celebration of Nancy’s life in St Mary and St Catherine Church Bridport on Friday the 12th of September 2014. To enjoy Nancy’s friendship was to experience her great kind-heartedness and her sense of fun. It is my privilege today to share with you, on their behalf, some of her beloved family’s treasured memories of her. Nancy came from Malta with her mother and two brothers when she was 3 years old and the family settled in Bristol. Her father was in the Navy and was away for long periods of time. It was during one of these absences, in the last war, that their house received a direct hit in one of the many air raids suffered by Bristol. At the time the family were taking cover in the cupboard under the stairs. The house was completely destroyed but, miraculously, they all survived to be dug out in the morning, covered in dust but completely unharmed. Even Chummy the dog suffered only a burn on his paw. Alex met Nancy soon after the war when she was working at the Gaumont Cinema, as an usherette. He had gone see a film called “A Hundred Men and a Girl” starring Deanna Durbin but in the interval he saw a far more beautiful girl than the one starring in the picture. Picked out under a spotlight and looking wonderful was Nancy selling ice-cream. He immediately left his seat, spent sixpence on an ice-cream and fell in love. When he returned to his seat, he told his mate “I’ve just seen the girl that I’m going to marry” - and so they did. That six penny worth must be the best investment that Alex ever made. After 58 years of marriage, on the 2nd September 2014, Alex had to say goodbye to his beautiful wife. He will miss her more than words can say. Both Ann and Georgina have so many happy memories of their mother. One of Ann’s earliest memories was when her Mummy and Daddy were off out on a Saturday evening and Nancy would come into the bedroom to tuck them in and kiss them goodnight. She would look up and see her beautiful and glamorous mother. The scent of Chanel No.5 would followed Nancy out of the room. She always made Ann feel warm, safe, and very, very loved. Georgina recollects one day running home up Gibbet Lane from the school bus in the summer. She was running because she could not wait to see her mother. Nancy was always there waiting for the girls to come home. They would sit on the terrace drinking lemonade and Nancy would tell them what she had done that day, watching Wimbledon, doing the garden. Nancy always loved flowers and took great care of her garden. She would cook them a delicious dinner and they would tell her what they had done at school and wait for Daddy to come home. Georgina remembers thinking that day, “how awful it must be, not to have a mother exactly like mine”. As she grew up, that thought always stayed with her. Nancy was stunning and very careful about her appearance. However she could never be described as vain and would far rather spend money on her daughters than herself. They remember that on a family holiday to Malta, Nancy wore a peach two-piece suit with a matching pill box hat. Watching her going up the steps of the BOAC plane, they were reminded of Jackie Kennedy boarding Airforce One. Later on, when Ann and Georgina attended Drama College in London, Alex and Nancy gave them their complete and unqualified support, even though they knew them to be joining a very unpredictable profession - they just wanted them to be happy. Nancy was always very proud of their successes and attended most of their performances. In 2003, when her Grandson Arthur was born, her life was complete. She loved him more than it seemed possible to love anyone. The girls joked that she loved him more than them, but that is an accusation, I suspect, that most grandmothers have faced. Even when she became ill she spoke about him daily and was so happy to see him. Arthur in turn was wonderful with her - showering her with hugs and kisses and telling her how much he loved her. If you will permit me a personal reminiscence. My wife Sandra and I treasure memories of Nancy’s hospitality, her wonderful welcome and her lovely smile. She took an interest in everything that you were doing and was always encouraging and reassuring. Right up to the very end Nancy always knew and recognised Alex, the girls and Arthur. Despite her infirmity Alex could always make her smile. Nancy passed on to all of her family the legacy of love. She taught them that to love and be loved is all that really matters. We are all of us much richer for knowing Nancy.
Alex and Nancy Coombs with their Grandson Arthur
Next Page Previous Page Next Page Previous Page
Nancy Coombs 1926-2014
Alex Coombs 1925-2020
Alexander John Coombs (Alex) was born one of nine children in the village of Batheaston Somerset on 29 th November 1925. He was called up on the 24 th May 1944 and joined the Royal British Navy at Devonport. After a few months training he joined his first ship H.M.S. Royal Arthur at Rosyth in Edinburgh. He then spent the rest of the war aboard the destroyer H.M.S. Witch in the North Atlantic (see below). After the war Alex moved to Bristol and worked with his best friend Dick Batchelor for his father Horace Batchelor. Horace was a Bristolian entrepreneur made famous by predicting the results of football matches. His spelling out of K E Y N S H A M on radio Luxembourg made him famous around the country for his Infra-Draw Method. In 1956 Alex married Nancy and they had two daughters Ann and Georgina. He always worked for himself which gave him plenty of time for leisure activities including horse racing, playing golf and breeding racing greyhounds. He bred a famous dog called “Tell You What” who, to this day, holds a stadium track record for the fastest bitch to win over the longest distance. In 1978 they decided to buy a pub in Devon which suited them perfectly. Alex being the genial host and Nancy the wonderful cook. On their retirement in 1996 Alex and Nancy moved to Litton Cheney in order to be near their daughter Ann and her husband Tom Pattinson. Sadly, just a year later, Tom died and is also buried in Litton Cheney churchyard. Alex was always willing to help out at The White Horse whenever the landlord had a night off. Over the years he worked for several landlords usually ‘hosting’ the legendary Monday Night Club! Alex died peacefully on the 27 th April 2020 at the age of 94. He was buried in the churchyard alongside his beloved wife Nancy who died in 2014. The service was a graveside ceremony conducted by Monseigneur Keith Mitchell from St. Catherine’s' Bridport. Unfortunately, due to circumstances resulting from the Coronavirus, there were only ten mourners. However, it was a simple and uplifting ceremony with a wicker casket decorated with flowers from the garden. Alex and Nancy had wished to be buried together and now rest forever in the peace of the beautiful churchyard. Alex will be remembered for his charm and humanity. His sense of humour and his interest in others, will not be forgotten by all who knew him. His kind spirit and generosity, his sheer sense of fun and ability to have a good time will be remembered by all. He will be sadly missed by his daughters and grandson Arthur, in whom he was inordinately proud.
HMS Witch, the first Royal Navy ship of the name, was ordered in January 1918 as part of the 13th Order of the 1918–1919 Naval Programme, and was laid down on 13 June 1918 by John Thorneycroft & Company at Woolston, Hampshire. The pace of her construction slowed greatly after the Armistice with Germany brought World War I to an end on 11 November 1918 and she was not launched until 11 November 1919. She was then towed to Devonport Dockyard where her fitting-out took place slowly, being completed in March 1924. After commissioning she saw little Fleet service and was placed in Reserve with other ships of the Class. She remained in and Care and Maintenance at Rosyth until she was brought forward for the Royal Review of the Reserve Fleet by King George VI in 1939. She remained in commission after the outbreak of war After a month at Rosyth escorting east coast convoys she was transferred to Western Approaches Command at Plymouth and then at Liverpool. On 9 April 1940 she took passage to Scapa Flow for service with Home Fleet, escorting military convoys to Norway after the German invasion (Operation RUPERT/R4). In June 1940 she returned to Rosyth escorting east coast convoys. Witch continued her convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic into 1942 and was "adopted" by Northwich, Cheshire, in March 1942 as a result of a Warship Week National Savings campaign. Later in 1942 she underwent conversion into a short-range escort. In February 1943 she transferred to Freetown, Sierra Leone, for service with local escort forces there. In April 1943, Witch and Wolverine rescued 53 survivors of the British merchant ship Empire Whimbrel, which the German submarine U-181 had sunk on 11 April 1943, 420 nautical miles (778 km) southwest of Freetown. By May 1944 she had returned to the UK and begun operations in the North Sea, which she continued until the surrender of Germany in early May 1945.Witch continued her duties at Freetown through December 1943, when she was selected for transfer to convoy escort duties in the North Sea. During the early months of 1944 she steamed back to the United Kingdom and by May 1944 had begun operations in the North Sea, which she continued – taking no part in operations related to the Allied invasion of Normandy during the summer of 1944 – until the surrender of Germany in early May 1945. After that, she served on local port duties and in support of reoccupation forces during the summer of 1945. Selected for reduction to reserve status during the summer of 1945, Witch was decommissioned and placed in reserve after the August 1945 armistice with Japan. She was scrapped in Scotland at Granton on the River Forth in 1946.
HMS Witch
OUR VILLAGE HISTORIC ARCHIVE a village in the Bride Valley Litton Cheney Dorset
Photo by Claire Moore 3_7_2021