Victor (Peter) Spencer, the son of Victor Charles Spencer, 1st Viscount Churchill and Lady Verena Lowther, the daughter of 3rd Earl of Lonsdale, was born on 2nd August 1890 at 6 Herbert Street in London.
At the age of twelve he became Page of Honour to King Edward VII. Peter later recalled: "The page business went on until I was sixteen, and I was paid for it; four hundred pounds a year. My mother used this money to pay for my uniforms. They were expensive and I grew out of them. The pages' elaborate uniform with scarlet coat and white knee breeches and a real sword with an ivory hilt in the shape of a horse's head had not changed since the eighteenth century."
Peter Spencer was educated at Eton College. "I was born into the surprisingly small world which had controlled the British Empire... My parents were related to half the people in it... Besides Spencer cousins and Churchill cousins and Spencer Churchill cousins there were Lowther relations and Pagets and even Spanish dukes who were cousins."
His father, the 1st Viscount Churchill, was an active member of the Conservative Party and was a party whip in the House of Lords. He was also chairman of the Great Western Railway and a director of the Peninsular & Oriental Steamship Company. In his early life Peter enjoyed a good relationship with his father: "When I was a child he had taken a fair amount of interest in me, even getting the notion occasionally to show me off, as when he took me to the House of Lords... At the House of Lords there was a policeman in a corridor, and he saluted my father. I had never seen a policeman salute anyone."
His mother, Lady Verena Lowther Spencer, became a close friend of Annie Besant. At the time Besant was leader of the Theosophical Society. Verena became a sincere disciple of Besant and became a strict vegetarian as well as a thorough believer in theosophic dogma, included reincarnation. This brought her into contact with other feminists and socialists such as Countess Muriel de la Warr. As her son explained: "My mother was neither a liberal nor a socialist: she was a strict Tory, having accepted her political creed unquestioningly as she had accepted her upbringing, and with her new friends she found herself constantly defending her opinions."
When Peter was sixteen 1st Viscount Churchill left the family home and went to live with Christine McRae Sinclair. "My father offered me the choice of leaving my mother or being cut off financially, and at the same time he tried to coerce my mother by getting legal control of her money and the custody of my two sisters." When he decided to stay with his mother his father disinherited him and never spoke to him again.
Peter Spencer decided he wanted to study at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Lady Emily Lonsdale offered to fund his education. "My grandmother agreed with my idea. Even if my mother forgot to send me money or if she was too short of it herself to spare me what I needed, my grandmother said that she would see that I had enough to start me off at the Sorbonne... I signed on at the Sorbonne and my grandmother gave me money and we found a room for me and then she left for England. It was the last time I saw her. She died not long afterwards."
On the outbreak of the First World War Spencer considered being a conscientious objector: "People I knew and believed in were becoming conscientious objectors in those days... In England it needed courage to become a conscientious objector; far greater courage than to join the armed forces. You needed no courage at all to join the Navy or the Army. You just followed the crowd. Spencer decided to join the King's Own Scottish Borderers. "Why did I decide to follow the, crowd? Was it through a lack of moral conviction? Lack of the right kind of courage? Or wasn't it, perhaps, that I'd already had enough of isolation from the general crowd, and I wanted to be in the human stream and not for ever outside it? Partly, it could have been a wish for excitement and, partly, who knows, the promptings of heredity."
Spencer served on the Western Front at Ypres where he was a victim of a German chlorine gas attack in 1915: "Then there was a clear picture of riding a tired horse through a field of red poppies in bright sunlight, and another of being left for dead after the first German gas attack, hearing what people were saying but not being able to move or speak or show a sign that I was alive." He also remembered meeting his cousin, Winston Churchill, when he was visiting Sir Douglas Haig.
In 1916 his mother asked Peter to marry her friend Katherine Beaven, whose husband had been killed at Jutland: "My mother started writing to me a series of daily letters full of despair. They were all about the stories which she said my father was continuing to spread in London concerning K (Katherine Beaven) and her. I had never known my mother to be in such a depressed and desperate state of mind. Then, one day, she said that she was coming over to see me. She said that she had something to discuss with me that she did not want to talk of in a letter. I managed to get leave so that we could meet in Paris. It was wartime, but she succeeded in getting there. Her appearance gave me a shock. She looked ill and crushed in spirit. The old fight had gone out of her. When she told me what it was that she had come over to say to me, I found at first that I could hardly believe what I heard. It was a simple request. Would I marry K? If I married K it would settle everything and all the endless troubles would be over. No one, my mother said, would go on believing the stories that my father had been spreading. Everything would be explained. It would be the most natural thing for my mother to be with her daughter-in-law. "
Spencer married Katherine Beaven and then returned to the front-line. He was promoted to the rank of Major but at the end of the First World War he once again came into conflict with his mother: "It was not surprising that at the end of the war my mother wanted to leave England, where things had been so unhappy for her. It was then that she proposed that she and K should come to France and make a home there with me. This I refused. For a while I still had a military job which kept me in France. It was one thing to have a wife in another country. It was quite another to live in a house with a wife who was not one's wife, someone to whom one would never have been married under normal circumstances. My mother took my refusal badly. She now began to upbraid me for what she described as my "desertion" of K. The daily letters started again, although this time - they were not filled with despair but with violent outpourings of abuse and anger directed against me... It was a strange bombardment. In the end I left the letters unopened as well. Then I started to return them. After that they stopped. Oddly enough, my mother seldom tried to telephone me; the magic, apparently, lay in the written word. When those abusive letters stopped, and from then on until she died, I never saw or heard from my mother again. She refused all communication."
After the war Peter Spencer found work as a journalist in London. He then became an actor: "My last job in England was as an actor in a film made by an English company. My agent thought that I was not being offered enough money, but all I wanted was enough to get me across the Atlantic and to start me off there. I took the job."
Soon after arriving in New York City he was invited by Guthrie McClintic, the theatrical producer, to read for the part of Duke of St Austrey in a new play by Margaret Ayer Barnes, based on the book, The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. Spencer was offered the part in the play that starred Katherine Cornell. The play was a great success and it ran on Broadway for over a year.
Spencer found himself unemployed at the end of the run as "Equity, the actors' trade union in the United States... made a ruling that in future no actor from England could take a second engagement in the United States within six months of the end of his first contract." On his return to London he became a playwright and had great success with The Late Comer.
In the early 1930s Spencer became involved in politics. He was converted to socialism after reading Memories of Lenin by Nadezhda Krupskaya. He also read the works of Karl Marx, Lenin, Harold Laski, Mikhail Bakunin and John Stuart Mill. "I began reading everything I could find on the history of socialism, from the Chartists to the Russian Revolution. I was beginning to see political history in a different light."
Spencer joined the Labour Party and attempts were being made to get him selected to the House of Commons. However, on 3rd January 1934, his father died and he became the 2nd Viscount Churchill and as a member of the House of Lords, was unable to stand for Parliament. He decided to return to journalism and helped establish the Political Research Bureau.
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Spencer decided he must play an active role in the struggle against fascism. In July 1936, Isabel Brown, at the Relief Committee for the Victims of Fascism in London, received a telegram from Socorro Rojo Internacional, based in Madrid, asking for help in the struggle against fascism in Spain. Brown approached the Socialist Medical Association about sending medical help to Republicans fighting in the Spanish Civil War.
Brown contacted Hyacinth Morgan, who in turn saw Dr Charles Brook. According to Jim Fyrth, the author of The Signal Was Spain: The Spanish Aid Movement in Britain, 1936-1939 (1986): "Morgan saw Dr Charles Brook, a general practitioner in South-East London, a member of the London County Council and founder and first Secretary of the Socialist Medical Association, a body affiliated to the Labour Party. Brook, who was a keen socialist and supporter of the people's front idea, though not sympathetic to Communism, was the main architect of the SMAC. At lunch-time on Friday 31 July, he saw Arthur Peacock, the Secretary of the National Trade Union Club, at 24 New Oxford Street. Peacock offered him a room at the club for a meeting the following afternoon, and office facilities for a committee."
Isabel Brown also contacted Peter Spencer. In his autobiography, All My Sins Remembered (1964) explained what happened: "Finally, a group of us - three well-known medical men, a famous scientist, several trade unionists, and one communist - formed a committee for the purpose of collecting money for medical supplies to be sent to the Spanish Government forces."
At the meeting on 8th August 1936 it was decided to form a Spanish Medical Aid Committee. Dr. Christopher Addison was elected President and the Marchioness of Huntingdon agreed to become treasurer. Other supporters included Leah Manning, George Jeger, Philip D'Arcy Hart, Frederick Le Gros Clark, Lord Faringdon, Arthur Greenwood, George Lansbury, Victor Gollancz, D. N. Pritt, Archibald Sinclair, Rebecca West, William Temple, Tom Mann, Ben Tillett, Eleanor Rathbone, Julian Huxley, Harry Pollitt and Mary Redfern Davies.
Leah Manning later recalled: "We had three doctors on the committee, one representing the TUC and I became its honorary secretary. The initial work of arranging meetings and raising funds was easy. It was quite common to raise £1,000 at a meeting, besides plates full of rings, bracelets, brooches, watches and jewellery of all kinds... Isabel Brown and I had a technique for taking collections which was most effective, and, although I was never so effective as Isabel (I was too emotional and likely to burst into tears at a moment's notice), I improved. In the end, either of us could calculate at a glance how much a meeting was worth in hard cash."
Peter Spencer added: "The Medical Aid Committee soon produced results, and before long we had not only collected medical supplies but also had a team of doctors and trained nurses, ambulance drivers and medical orderlies, all of them volunteers... In August, when our first medical aid unit left for Spain, I went with it."
The First British Hospital was established by Kenneth Sinclair-Loutit at Grañén near Huesca on the Aragon front. Sinclair-Loutit found the talents of Peter Spencer very useful: "Peter himself had then been a very young General Staff Officer in the Great War. His gift to me was a post-graduate course in map-reading. I had started with my father, done a bachelor's course in the OTC but with Peter I was with a master. When we were trying to site the Unit's first hospital he taught me how to squeeze the last bit of truth out of a map. It was Lord Churchill who found the Grañen site of our first hospital with its road and rail support, its river and its favourable position on the Huesca front." Other doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers at the hospital included Reginald Saxton, Alex Tudor-Hart, Archie Cochrane, Penny Phelps, Rosaleen Ross, Aileen Palmer, Patience Darton, Annie Murray, Julian Bell, Richard Rees, Nan Green, Lillian Urmston, Thora Silverthorne and Agnes Hodgson.
Spencer later admitted: "Once in Spain we soon learned the truth of the situation. From the first moment on Spanish soil we found ourselves liable to be bombed at any moment by German Heinkels or Italian Capronis. The memory of those early days had remained vivid, particularly my first sight of the front line, at Las Casas, a small village on the Aragon Front. As we came near to the front trenches in the sunlight under the olive trees we passed close to a road on which a party bringing up rations in the dark had been caught by machine-gun fire the night before. Now, in the bright sunlight, the dead were lying there. It is one thing to see dead soldiers but these young girls, who had been bringing food to their men; were lying there in their clean bright clothes with their shining well-brushed hair spread out in the dust amongst the spilled soup and scattered blood-stained rice and the newly baked loaves. It was a sight not easily forgotten in those pre-blitz days."
Archie Cochrane was concerned by Spencer's moral behaviour: "Lord Peter Churchill was a good public relations figure, a fair administrator, and a friendly person; but I was worried that his fairly obvious homosexuality or bisexuality might run the unit into legal trouble, although I knew little of the laws in Spain." According to Kenneth Sinclair-Loutit: "I learnt later that the Committee had much trouble with the expenses he incurred while traveling. He not only had to go everywhere by First Class, he could only use the best hotels and he also needed a cash float for which no accounting was ever vouchsafed."
In 1937 Spencer was asked by Indalecio Prieto, the Minister of War, to go on a mission to Turkey. "Prieto seemed to think that I might be able to find a way to get military supplies through the blockade set up by non-intervention. A foreigner, he thought, particularly an English lord, would have a better chance than a Spaniard." Leah Manning was one of those who was not told what was going on: " Peter was an agreeable, but incalculable person, making strange and unaccountable forays into Turkey and other South European countries. How he got in and out, I never knew, but anyone who has read his autobiography will recognise that he is a strange and elusive person."
Spencer was appalled by the way the Russians behaved in Spain: "It had been in Spain that I first saw displayed the true nature of Stalinism. Later in the century the whole world would see it. The enormous divergence between the communist ideals of Marx and Engels and the realities of the Stalinist police state would become very plain."
In his autobiography, All My Sins Remembered, Spencer explained how he had to protect members of the International Brigades from the NKVD: "Some of these Britishers who had gone to Spain were communists, but in Spain they had come across things that were being done in the name of communism which had made them think, and some of them had spoken their minds too freely. From then on they found that their lives were in danger, with death threatening not from the enemy but from their own side. A few of them got in touch with me secretly and told me their story. I knew the truth of it well, from experience, and saw no reason why I should not help them if I could. In each case speed was essential as these men were being tracked down by the newly formed secret police. There was one of the English nurses whom I knew I could trust. With her I organized the job of getting these men out of Spain."
On his return from Spain he worked as a journalist in the United States and during the Second World War served in the US Air Force. He later remarked how different this was from the time he served in the First World War: "Twenty-five years later it had been another surprise to find myself a sergeant, far from the youngest this time, in the United States Air Force. Major to sergeant in twenty-five years, the theme was in keeping with the rest. The paradox had held."
Katherine Spencer, Vicountess Churchill, died on 1st December 1943. Soon afterwards he met Joan Black. "Joan, beautiful, vulnerable, impossible and fantastically loyal, with a child's clear wisdom, and the confused values of a contradictory grown-up, was about the most human person I had ever known in my life." The couple were married on 19th October 1949. They lived in California before moving back to London. "I thought Joan might enjoy being Viscountess Churchill in England for a while." Joan died of hepatitis on 12th May 1957.
Peter Spencer, 2nd Viscount Churchill, published his autobiography, All My Sins Remembered, in 1968. He died on 21st December 1973 at the age 83.
When I was a child he had taken a fair amount of interest in me, even getting the notion occasionally to show me off, as when he took me into the House of Lords. Taking me into the House of Lords at that age was an unusual and individual kind of thing to do. At the House of Lords there was a policeman in a corridor, and he saluted my father. I had never seen a policeman salute anyone, nor had I ever seen a policeman indoors, and he looked funny to me standing there. We walked through lobbies. There seemed to be a public kind of feeling about the place that was new to me inside a building, except in the case of railway stations which this reminded me of, though it was quieter here and carpeted, and cleaner, and duller because there were no trains. Even the Victorian Gothic monstrosities of decoration did not seem to have disturbed my strong impression of being in some kind of railway station.
By the time my father led me into the House of Lords itself and told me to sit down on some red-carpeted steps leading up to an empty throne I had found out that I was not enjoying myself specially, and I would willingly have given up the right to sit on those steps which, I would know later, was a right accorded only to the eldest sons of peers. Embryo peers were allowed this far into the temple of heredity, and a peer's eldest son could sit on these steps and watch proceedings from there. Nothing but his father's death, however, could move him forward the few more steps to the benches, and allow him to open his mouth.
When I found myself sitting alone on the steps and my father gone, I began to feel angry. I felt angry because people were looking at me, and I had been told not to move or go away. I was not frightened or bored, I could remember, just angry at having to sit there on the steps like a well-trained dog. I amused myself by letting my eyes, at least, run over the place. The dark throne a few steps above me was a big uncomfortable looking empty chair with a dull red dust-cover over it. Wherever I looked things seemed to be red; I had never seen so much red anywhere. The steps of the throne were red, and the long benches, and the Woolsack where I could see the Lord Chancellor sitting, dressed in black, with a long grey wig.
I grew up into a war, and growing up into a war had certain unforeseen effects ; among them was your not knowing that you were what they were going to call a "lost generation". Looking back from far off and looking at it as simply as possible, what did the First World War do to me? I had come through it alive, even though nearly a year of it was spent in the Ypres salient. I had been through the experience of gas-poisoning, but not the traumatic effect of wounding. I had been cold, tired, plastered with mud, sometimes hungry and often very frightened. These, being normal human experiences, had left little impression, I think. Military discipline, which means keeping your mind on the trivial for the greater part of the time (armies can't be run in any other way : only the top, commanding echelons have the fun of really being able to use their brains), may have had a retarding effect. It certainly helped me to think one thing and do another with every appearance of sincerity; the kind of behaviour life in a school teaches you, only more so. And I had never really been to school. Apart from that, whatever else it may not have done, I knew that I had been brought closer to life more quickly than I would have been in peacetime...
I made the decision to join the Army. The Navy was more to my taste-seafaring I enjoyed-but there were obstacles. You had to have previous training, I think. Anyway, I remember that there were difficulties, and instead of trying for the Navy I presented myself at the headquarters of the local infantry regiment; the King's Own Scottish Borderers. I was told, there, to report to the Verne Barracks, Portland, where one of the battalions was stationed.
People I knew and believed in were becoming conscientious objectors in those days. Some of them were theosophists, but not all by any means. In England it needed courage to become a conscientious objector; far greater courage than to join the armed forces. You needed no courage at all to join the Navy or the Army. You just followed the crowd. Why did I decide to follow the, crowd? Was it through a lack of moral conviction? Lack of the right kind of courage? Or wasn't it, perhaps, that I'd already had enough of isolation from the general crowd, and I wanted to be in the human stream and not for ever outside it? Partly, it could have been a wish for excitement and, partly, who knows, the promptings of heredity...
That was how the four years had begun, four years that were slow and unreasonable and unlikely, as war years are.
Strongest of the impressions at first had been unaccustomed horror; but horror memories, beginning with the frogs on the corpses in the moat at Ypres, had long ago been shut down. What had remained most vividly from those years were inconsequential images: the English cavalry major at Ypres, the peppery, swearing major of long service who kept a fresh rose in a tin can of water in his dugout ; the blue helmet of the French pompiers worn by Winston the day I met him on the steps of Douglas Haig's chateau. We had talked for a moment, that day, the first time I had talked to Winston since I was a small boy. Then there was a clear picture of riding a tired horse through a field of red poppies in bright sunlight, and another of being left for dead after the first German gas attack, hearing what people were saying but not being able to move or speak or show a sign that I was alive. And there were the round pink bottoms of cupids in London, on the painted ceiling of the converted Carlton House Terrace ballroom, which I gazed up at from my bed in Lady Ridley's hospital. And there were the long, dragging convalescence, and a year later the time to become aware of the mealy-mouthed righteousness of ambitious lawyers and politicians as pointed up by the trial of Roger Casement, and to watch the Asquith Establishment, not content with killing Casement, making a feebly sordid attempt to blacken his name with his own poor pathetic pornography. And so it had gone, and more months of mud and confusion, and finding myself "mentioned in dispatches", and, a rather surprising development, one of the very young majors in the British army.
Before the end of the war a strange little episode took place : a meeting with my father. I had come over to London on leave and I had taken my mother, whom I had not seen since Djenan, to lunch at the Savoy Hotel. A few tables away I saw my father sitting with another man. Now that my mother was back in England and I was on my own and everything was changed I thought it was time that my father and I should stop being strangers. I could see that my father would have to pass close to our table on his way out. He would pass without looking towards my mother, I knew that; but as he passed I went over and spoke to him. He stopped, smiled at me affably, and we stood talking for a few minutes ; then he wished me luck, we shook hands, and he went on his way. I came back to the table to join my mother, feeling happy that the ice was broken. The estrangement between my father and me had always seemed so useless and certainly now there was no reason for it. I was grown up, I was on my own, and I was asking nothing from him. I was glad it was over now and that we could be friends again.
I left that night for France. Then a letter came from my mother. In it was a note which she had found waiting for her when she got home after our lunch together. It was from my father. "Dear Verena," it said, "Who was the young man you were lunching with today? I remember his face but I cannot put a name to him." That was all ! Decidedly you couldn't win in this parent game. The sooner I gave it up the better. In her letter my mother remarked that this was the only note my father had written to her in several years.
My mother started writing to me a series of daily letters full of despair. They were all about the stories which she said my father was continuing to spread in London concerning K (Katherine Beaven) and her. I had never known my mother to be in such a depressed and desperate state of mind. Then, one day, she said that she was coming over to see me. She said that she had something to discuss with me that she did not want to talk of in a letter. I managed to get leave so that we could meet in Paris. It was wartime, but she succeeded in getting there. Her appearance gave me a shock. She looked ill and crushed in spirit. The old fight had gone out of her. When she told me what it was that she had come over to say to me, I found at first that I could hardly believe what I heard. It was a simple request. Would I marry K? If I married K it would settle everything and all the endless troubles would be over. No one, my mother said, would go on believing the stories that my father had been spreading. Everything would be explained. It would be the most natural thing for my mother to be with her daughter-in-law...
At first my mother's request seemed totally absurd. I argued that for me to marry K would settle nothing. It would only make matters worse. But my mother was convinced that this would be the solution to all her troubles. She looked ill and unhappy, and tears were running down her face, which was something I had never seen before. There were twenty years between K and me. We were friends, but she was my mother's friend, not mine. At that moment I had no one near me I could consult. This was unlucky. I think any woman would have helped me to make up my mind to refuse my mother because almost any woman would have been instinctively against the idea of such a marriage. As it was, I agreed to it. Why? As far as I could remember, it made so little difference to me. There was no one I wanted to marry at the moment, and perhaps I thought that marriage would be some kind of protection, and anyway I might not come through the war. It was no great unselfish gesture towards my mother, but it would stop her from being miserable and she would stop sending me daily letters of despair. Looked at long afterwards it was an insane solution, of course, and it was difficult to know what I was thinking about that I accepted the idea so easily. Was it apathy? Could K or my mother really have thought that this marriage would solve anything? Or was it a move of K's against my father, an attempt to put herself in a strong position; and what was she trying to gain anyway? She must have known that people would blame my mother for allowing such a marriage to take place. My father had already disowned me. I was not much of a matrimonial catch. Could K have thought that I was? Could she really have had such ideas in her head? One does not know.
My mother went back to England happy. She arranged everything and on a two-day leave in England K and I were married. A Theosophical Society friend of my mother's who was also a Church of England clergyman married us at Edgware near London. His name was Scott Moncrieff. I did not know him, though I knew his younger brother, George Scott Moncrieff, who had made the famous translation of Marcel Proust into English. George and I were in the same regiment, the King's Own Scottish Borderers. Poor Scott Moncrieff, senior, had been dreadfully ill at ease on the day of that marriage. He had taken me into his study beforehand, and asked me earnestly if I really wanted to go through with the ceremony. The fact that it was my mother who had made all the arrangements and that I had only appeared at the last moment worried him greatly.
Back in France again, it had seemed a small thing to have done and it had made my mother happy. As anyone might have foreseen, however, her happiness was only temporary. The marriage did not have the effect she thought it would. Her friends gave her a worse time than ever.
It was not surprising that at the end of the war my mother wanted to leave England, where things had been so unhappy for her. It was then that she proposed that she and K should come to France and make a home there with me. This I refused. For a while I still had a military job which kept me in France. It was one thing to have a wife in another country. It was quite another to live in a house with a wife who was not one's wife, someone to whom one would never have been married under normal circumstances. My mother took my refusal badly. She now began to upbraid me for what she described as my "desertion" of K. The daily letters started again, although this time - they were not filled with despair but with violent outpourings of abuse and anger directed against me. Sometimes bulky packages of `guide' writing appeared. I knew the look of the packages and these I never opened. It was a strange bombardment. In the end I left the letters unopened as well. Then I started to return them.
After that they stopped. Oddly enough, my mother seldom tried to telephone me ; the magic, apparently, lay in the written word. When those abusive letters stopped, and from then on until she died, I never saw or heard from my mother again. She refused all communication.
That fragment of life also had broken off suddenly, the last in which either of my parents were involved. After a couple of civilian office jobs I got tired of being an Englishman in Paris. Besides, I decided that good jobs in France were for Frenchmen and that I should do better in England. My first attempts to earn a living there showed me, however, that I had not yet escaped from the past. The past met me again when I took a newspaper job in London. A member of the staff found out about my family connexions and refused to believe that I was a junior reporter on the newspaper for the sole purpose of earning my living. The theory he preferred was that an influential father had put me there to learn the newspaper business `from the bottom up', and that soon I should be promoted to some higher job on the editorial board. I was not experienced enough in the ways of England and of Fleet Street as it was in those days to know what was the matter, and why the copy I turned in (which was certainly no worse than some of the other copy I saw being produced) was picked on and given rough treatment by this particular member of the staff. I could see that others escaped the treatment I was getting. I found out the reason at last when I swapped copy with another reporter, and he sent my stuff in as his. Having discovered that my copy was acceptable so long as it did not come from me, I took a certain sub-editor out and made him drunk in a Fleet Street pub, and his resentment at the imagined situation soon appeared. Then I understood. He understood, also, when I had explained the actual situation, and from then on there was no more trouble; my copy apparently suddenly became much better. The whole episode had soured me for job-hunting in England. For a time I had a job managing a garage, and then I had decided that America was where I wanted to go. My last job in England was as an actor in a film made by an English company. My agent thought that I was not being offered enough money, but all I wanted was enough to get me across the Atlantic and to start me off there. I took the job.
At that moment my father died. I was crossing a street when my eye was caught by a placard at a news-stand, `Viscount Churchill dead'. It gave me an odd kind of a shock, as of something that had been stopped before it was finished. My father was in his sixties and I had not expected him to die. Now that he was dead, and now that it was suddenly too late, I knew I had always wanted and expected one day to be able to meet him and to be friends. I had felt for a long time that this senseless family feud which had gone on since the early days should, and could, end. Now it was too late.
My fingers were fumbling for a coin to buy the newspaper which would tell me how and where my father had died, but my thoughts already had gone back to my grandmother's house on that day when I was sixteen. I could see my father's face. He was telling me that he would never speak to me again as long as he lived, unless I agreed to leave my mother. Certainly he had kept his word. He had meant what he said and now he had died without my being able to talk to him. It had been a long time since I had first started writing him a letter each year giving him my news and my address, but the years had gone and he had never answered me. Several times I had talked to Sir John Withers, his lawyer and friend. I had told him how much I would like to see my father. The past was past, I had said, I was on my own, earning my own living : why should anything stop us from meeting? Several times John Withers promised to arrange a meeting. But always afterwards he said that he had tried, but that my father had refused to see me. It was too late now. My father was dead and we should never meet.
My father had died in Scotland of pneumonia. Soon messages began to arrive. The messages came from Buckingham Palace; they conveyed royal condolences and requests for information about funeral arrangements. The Royal Family were sending a wreath, and King George wished to be represented at the funeral, etc., etc. Then it was the Duke of Connaught's A.D.C. on the telephone. The Duke also wished to be represented. Meanwhile my efforts to reach my father's widow in Scotland were getting nowhere. She remained incommunicado. I was obliged to stall off the royal inquiries as best I could. I remembered with a mournful kind of humour that this was how it had always been. None of my dealings with my family had ever been easy. Finally, I got John Withers on the job and everything was dealt with in a seemly manner.
When the funeral took place it was in a dark church at the end of Sussex Gardens. Two throne-like chairs had been placed out in front of the first pew. They were for the two colonels who would represent the King and the Duke of Connaught. At the appropriate moment two tall expressionless colonels duly occupied the seats, and I sat alone immediately behind them in the pew reserved for the family. Across the aisle was my father's widow, whom I had never seen before. The pews behind us were filled with people I did not know. My father's body had been cremated in Scotland. When the service started a small casket containing the ashes was brought in by a middle-aged man with a gold watch-chain stretched across his waistcoat, and was placed among flowers. The religious ceremony was soon over, the man with the watch-chain advanced up the aisle and removed the casket, and then there was a pause. The pause prolonged itself, there were uncomfortable shufflings, and after a while the two colonels moved from their chairs, and then people began leaving the church and I left with them. Only later I found out what had caused the strange pause. I had caused it. According to custom, as my father's eldest son I should have stepped out of my pew and followed the casket down the aisle. It did not occur to me that this was what I was supposed to do, and (we were in aristocratic England) no one prompted me. Given time I might have reasoned it out, I suppose, but there wasn't time, and I didn't. I had followed Mohammedan funerals in North Africa, but I don't think I had ever been at a Christian funeral before. At the church nobody had spoken to me. I had arrived with John Withers and he had shown me the front pew where I was to sit; that was all. I wandered into the street with the crowd. I watched my cousin Sunny Marlborough and his son Blandford getting into a car and being driven away, and still nobody spoke to me. Then a cousin, an old lady whom I had not seen since I was a child, came towards me. I remembered who she was : Lady Blanche Conyngham. She spoke to me in a kindly manner, and one of her remarks would stay in my memory. " I believe," she said, "you are interested in the cinematograph." I walked off down the street in my top hat bought for the occasion and my rented coat and striped trousers. So that was that. One phase of my life was over. I was no longer Peter Spencer: I was now Viscount Churchill.
My father was quite well-off when he died but I did not expect that he would have left very much to me in his will. He had a second wife and two children. I had not thought about his will until he died, and then I had hoped that he would not (but knowing him as I did I had expected that he might) continue the feud beyond his death. He did not disappoint my expectations. Formerly the family estates had been entailed, which meant that no part of them could be disposed of; everything had to be passed on from one heir to the next. Fortunately for my father but unluckily for me the entail had ended with my father, so that unlike his father and grandfather he found himself able to do whatever he chose with his inheritance ; it no longer had to be passed on to the next in line. He had sold the estates and the houses he had inherited, and had bought other property. Now I felt sad to think that he had not made the gesture of leaving me one single relic or picture or object of family history.
I t was of course no surprise to me that I had succeeded to a title without estates, possessions, money or any of the things which had been attached to it in previous generations, including my father's. Nothing had come to me from my forebears but that title.
I decided as a first step to see what the leaders of the political parties in England had to say. First it was the Conservatives: "Those reds! Why should we help them?" This kind of talk depressed me. If by "reds" they meant Communists, there was not a single Communist in the Spanish Government. The Republican regime was well to the Right of the British Labour Party. Then it was Labour leaders I talked to: "Public opinion in Britain is not ready to do anything about Spain", they said. Who was I to say they were wrong? Then it was the Communists : Harry Pollitt, the General Secretary of the Communist Party, immediately asked me if I would help to raise a regiment for the International Brigade which was being formed with headquarters in Paris with the object of fighting in Spain. To this request I said no. The British Conservatives had been more right than they knew. Owing to the blindness of the governments of the West, Stalin had been allowed to step in as the noble saviour of democracy in Spain, and he had instructed his followers in various countries to back the Spanish cause. So, in England, it was only the `reds' who were favourable to the legally elected Government of Spain. Still, I wanted to do something, and there were plenty of others like me. Finally, a group of us - three well-known medical men, a famous scientist, several trade unionists, and one communist - formed a committee for the purpose of collecting money for medical supplies to be sent to the Spanish Government forces. We called it the Spanish Medical Aid Committee. I had already talked to a prominent Labour leader, who later became a peer, and he had told me that the British public was not interested in Spain. When I told him that I wanted to collect money to send medical supplies he had smiled and assured me that I would get nowhere with such an idea. He knew the British public. He had years of experience. I had none. "I'll try, anyway," I said. "If I can't do more I'll send a box of bandages to Spain." As it turned out it only took a few weeks to prove how wrong he was about the British public; or had he been asked by the British Government, as later I thought might have happened, to play down Spain as much as possible?
When we got to work it soon appeared that our Medical Aid Committee provided one of the few outlets in England for popular feeling about Spain. Except for the communists recruiting for the International Brigade very little was being done in England at that time. Our committee put appeals in the newspapers and money began to pour in from the very beginning. Although the British Press had muzzled itself on the Spanish situation, so that to get anything like accurate news you had to read foreign newspapers, plenty of people in Britain were thinking for themselves. The next twelve months were the beginning of a real political education for me. I learned about the practical workings of political parties, and something also about international politics in action. I began to speak at meetings up and down England. I soon saw how strong popular sympathy was for the Spanish people who were struggling not only against Moroccan troops and generals in revolt, but against the power wielded abroad by Juan March, the Spanish financier, who was already installed at Mussolini's side in Rome.
The Medical Aid Committee soon produced results, and before long we had not only collected medical supplies but also had a team of doctors and trained nurses, ambulance drivers and medical orderlies, all of them volunteers.
As far as I myself was concerned I had worked hard to put the thing over but soon there was no need to put it over. Popular enthusiasm was pushing us. Now I found myself at international conferences in Paris, and I was beginning to find that I was not afraid of being a public speaker (extemporary speaking is something nearly all actors dread) and that people really seemed quite ready to listen to me. I had to go through some tough platform ordeals, though, such as being heckled by opponents at meetings in London ; but the knowledge of popular support, and above all the fact that I believed in what I was doing, made me forget about what is usually known as self-consciousness.
In August, when our first medical aid unit left for Spain, I went with it. There was some discussion in our committee, I can remember, as to what name I should go under in Spain or whether I should go at all. It was clear that many of the excellent members of our committee, although fully in support of the Spanish cause, still had lurking suspicions as to the fate of a full-blown aristocrat presenting himself in the Catalonia of the Civil War, where the F.A.I., the popular organization of the anarchists, was very much in evidence. I found the English mentality interesting. We seemed to have no scruples in allowing young nurses and doctors and medical students to go into the danger and presumed turmoil of Spain, but when it came to sending a real live lord it was another matter. I appreciated their concern for me but I took a different view. First, I didn't feel like letting all those young people go to Spain if it was unsafe for me to go myself. Secondly, there were my own feelings. If the people I was trying to help were so stupid as to bump me off on account of so unsubstantial a thing as a title, then my ideas as to what human life could be about were so far from the mark that it might be as well if I were put out of my misery quickly before the title became a millstone around my neck.
Peter Churchill - he did not use his title in Spain - found a suitable flat to be used as offices and rest centre. Later, a second base was found in Valencia. There was a political problem. At that time, each political group had its own militia, and the strongest political influence in Catalonia was the Anarchist Federation (FAR The POUM (Workers' Party of Marxist Unity, an ultra-left party of former Communists and former followers of Trotsky, led by Andres Nin) also had its base in Barcelona. But the Unit decided to link with the United Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSUC), which was affiliated to the Communist International and included both Socialists and Communists, and with the Socialist trade union federation, the UGT, with which groups the SMAC and the members of the Unit were more in sympathy.
Where should they set up the hospital? Churchill lead been one of the youngest staff officers in the 1914-18 war and, using his experience, he took a Michelin map and chose Granen, about eighteen kilometres behind the Aragon front, near Huesca. Granen was the railhead for Barcelona and Lerida, and also a road junction. It had good access to the whole front, and if they had to retreat there was more than one way out.
Churchill and Sinclair-Loutit drove to Granen to find suitable accommodation for a hospital, going in Cochrane's car, which was "liberated' by Anarchists during the expedition. They were helped by Churchill's friend, Stanley Richardson, who had joined him on the way and was a fine interpreter.
Stores and staff were beginning to arrive. Among the first new faces were those of Peter Spencer (Viscount Churchill) and of Stanley Richardson, whom the London Committee had recruited after our own departure. It is impossible to remember these two without remembering also some of their more outrageous goings-on. They are both dead so they cannot answer back. I had known Stanley at Cambridge. Without question he was a talented poet. He was also wildly gay and oddly innocent. Indeed I believe him to be unique in that he really and truly was once afraid that he was going to have a baby after a series of country walks he had been taking with a Rugby blue. I was amazed to see him arrive with Churchill even though they, quite evidently, had shared interests. Lord Churchill had been one of the aristocratic supporters of the Committee. Stanley Richardson I had not seen since Cambridge where he had been a brilliant Spanish scholar and had since become a superb interpreter. Despite their talents I doubted whether, either separately or together, they were suited to the current atmosphere of Barcelona. I was not entirely right, as I later found that Stanley went down surprisingly well with macho types, especially big, ferocious, pistol-toting anarchists while the left-leaning Viscount certainly pleased the communists. Stanley helped me to get a feeling for Spanish semantics; without him, my understanding of the language, and of Spanish ways of thinking, would have been dangerously low. For someone of Stanley's temperament it was not possible to be in a city like Barcelona and to go to bed early. In Catalonia, with his perfect Spanish, he would pass as a Castillian; he and Peter Spencer went out one evening, only to come back, at most a couple of hours later, after a brush with a Militia Patrol. The Militia must have been intrigued by their very bourgeois appearance. Stanley told me privately, "It was all Peter's fault, he tried to come over big. He should have left it to me, I could easily have managed them." It seems that they had discovered a Café with a night life that suited them. I told Stanley that we had not come to Spain for specialised pub-crawling to which he replied that he would certainly not go out with Peter again...
Peter Spencer had a very special background. He had been one of King Edward the Seventh's Pages-of-Honour, and his father had been Master of the Robes at King George the Fifth's Coronation. Peter himself had then been a very young General Staff Officer in the Great War. His gift to me was a post-graduate course in map-reading. I had started with my father, done a bachelor's course in the OTC but with Peter I was with a master. When we were trying to site the Unit's first hospital he taught me how to squeeze the last bit of truth out of a map. It was Lord Churchill who found the Grañen site of our first hospital with its road and rail support, its river and its favourable position on the Huesca front.
I often think of Peter with pleasure when I open a map, but otherwise I feel less charitable. When he was going back to London from Barcelona, I lent him a set of keys to my flat. He did not in any way leave it as he had found it; we were not to meet again until sometime in the 1970s. I learnt later that the Committee had much trouble with the expenses he incurred while traveling. He not only had to go everywhere by First Class, he could only use the best hotels and he also needed a cash float for which no accounting was ever vouchsafed. As in fact he would have been some sort of Great Uncle to Princess Diana I regret he did not survive long enough to enliven the journalistic treatment of that family's affairs.
Once in Spain we soon learned the truth of the situation. From the first moment on Spanish soil we found ourselves liable to be bombed at any moment by German Heinkels or Italian Capronis. The memory of those early days had remained vivid, particularly my first sight of the front line, at Las Casas, a small village on the Aragon Front. As we came near to the front trenches in the sunlight under the olive trees we passed close to a road on which a party bringing up rations in the dark had been caught by machine-gun fire the night before. Now, in the bright sunlight, the dead were lying there. It is one thing to see dead soldiers but these young girls, who had been bringing food to their men; were lying there in their clean bright clothes with their shining well-brushed hair spread out in the dust amongst the spilled soup and scattered blood-stained rice and the newly baked loaves. It was a sight not easily forgotten in those pre-blitz days. And the marching columns on their way to the front: they, also, were impressive. It was a whole people at war-you could see that. There were grandfathers and young boys, strong-handed peasants, clerks and teachers in horn-rimmed glasses, burly farmers and thin-faced shopkeepers-every type you could imagine. I was glad, looking back, to have lived through those days in Spain. It was a revelation to see how a people would respond to such a situation. Strangers helped each other and petty jealousies seemed to have been forgotton. And the quarrelling and the grabbing? They, too, had disappeared. The cheerfulness with which backbreaking work was done and suffering endured was amazing. I had never seen anything like it before. It seemed too good to be true. It was true but it was too good to last in a world such as ours was turning into. The longer I was in Spain, the more I realized that faith in human beings as a whole is not faith misplaced.
For a year after that I was in Spain all the time, except for occasional flying visits to England to speak at meetings. I had discovered the knack, it seemed, of getting more money out of a meeting in England than most of the other speakers. Perhaps it was because I was telling what I had seen, and talking about what I knew. In the end the Spanish Medical Aid Committee had five fully equipped and staffed base hospitals behind the lines where, of course, we treated the wounded of both sides, and we needed a steady stream of money to keep them going. It came in. Our funds were all subscribed by sympathizers in Britain. Running our growing organization in Spain kept me busy. Around us, things were beginning to go surprisingly smoothly, with all the public services in the cities under the control of the various trade unions. Soon there was an American medical unit in Spain as well as ours, sent out by a committee which had been formed in the States on the same lines as our own.
The hideous game of war went on, but the dice were loaded. Democracy could not win in Spain. What more tragic irony could there be than the fact that it was the Western democracies who had helped to load the dice? A policy known as "non-intervention" had been agreed to, under promptings of the British Government, by the United States, France, Germany and Italy. This was to be carried out under the League of Nations. This farcical agreement resulted in a blockade of the Spanish Government ports, preventing arms and often even food from reaching them. Ships of all four powers patrolled the coast and `observers' were placed on merchant ships calling at Spanish ports. It was amazing that Germany and Italy, who were already helping Franco and therefore in the war themselves, should have been invited to take part in this agreement, but they were, and so they were able to go on helping Franco under cover of their part in the blockade, while America, England and France carried out their part conscientiously. From our convalescent hospital at Alboroyo on the shore near Valencia I used to watch a German patrol ship, operating under the League of Nations, come close inshore, flying the swastika, to halt every ship entering the harbour and search it for arms. Every night the same ship would signal hits and misses to the Heinkel planes that used to come over and bomb us. That was how "non-intervention" worked. Apart from the military aid given to him by Hitler and Mussolini, "non-intervention" probably influenced the course of the war in favour of Franco more than any other single factor.
It was the second year of the Spanish Civil War when Indalecio Prieto, who was then Minister of War, asked me to go on a mission to Turkey. Prieto seemed to think that I might be able to find a way to get military supplies through the blockade set up by non-intervention. A foreigner, he thought, particularly an English lord, would have a better chance than a Spaniard. He got the idea, probably, because, a little time before that, I had managed to be of use in another situation. The Spanish Government had bought some aircraft from England and had paid for them. Then, before the aircraft had left England, non-intervention had gone into effect and the Spanish Government had been unable to get either the planes or the money paid for them out of England. I knew that I could not get the aircraft but I thought I might have a try to get the money. If I could talk to someone in England with sufficient influence and intelligence and goodwill it could be done, I thought. I went there and I was lucky to meet a remarkable man. Gordon England, later picked by Winston Churchill to be in charge of aircraft construction during the war, was then heading an aircraft manufacturing firm. Here was a rare combination : a man of business with a world vision, who could see the world as something beyond a business proposition. One talk with him in London ' and my mission was accomplished. The planes were re-sold without loss and the Spanish Government got its money back. Prieto, by the way, was not a Communist; nor were any of the ministers who held vital positions in the Spanish Government.
Met Leah Manning and Peter Spencer Churchill and they suggested my going to a new hospital near Madrid. I was almost decided for it then heard from Esther about various intrigues that go on there, etc. so decided to stick to my plan of going to England. Leah Manning said if I decided later to come back to let her know. And so to bed early. Air raid alarms and anti-aircraft gun firing.
Back in Spain after this mission I saw that the Russians had really begun to move in. I returned to find Russian secret police trying to check on everyone going in and out of Spain. I began to notice ominous signs, and slowly I learned, by observing the relatively few Russians in Spain, what Russia had become under Stalin. Spain opened my eyes to this as well as to many other things. The tragic and farcical but at the same time effective hypocrisy of "non-intervention" had to be experienced at the receiving end to be believed. Its results? Practically no arms reaching the loyal Spanish forces, while military help of all kinds kept pouring in to the other side from Germany. Russia and Mexico were the only two countries openly favourable to Spain. The meagre and grudging help given by Stalin had so many strings attached to it, made so many demands for power in Spain, that the Government was in an almost helpless position. Already Stalin had driven his hard bargain with Spain by demanding that the gold reserves of the Government should be held in Russia in return for what had turned out to be military help of a miserably inadequate description. There was also evidence which I myself saw of the Russian leaders in Spain being more occupied in "liquidating". Left-wing political parties which did not accept direction from Moscow than in helping the Spaniards to win the war. It had been in Spain that I first saw displayed the true nature of Stalinism. Later in the century the whole world would see it. The enormous divergence between the communist ideals of Marx and Engels and the realities of the Stalinist police state would become very plain. But it was not so then or for some time after. In those days little was known for certain except by people who had actually lived in Russia, and not by all of them. I kept my mouth shut when I listened to the talk of enthusiastic "fellow travellers," and there were many of them in those days: honest, sincere, intelligent people.
It was so often the intelligent and the honest who were caught. Years later I would listen with impatience to people who boasted that they had never been involved. It never impressed me to hear that they had been unwilling to commit themselves where the human struggle was concerned but had kept to the safest paths where retreat was always easy. It hardly seemed something to boast about.
Meanwhile, in Spain, the Russians were most friendly towards me and towards the Medical Aid Committee. They gave me a house, one of the houses the Spanish Government had allotted to their mission. They also put a car and chauffeur at my disposal. These I accepted gladly as a help in the Medical Aid work. The house was useful as a home for convalescents, and the car freed one of our own vehicles. It did not take me long to find out that twice a day the chauffeur made a report on all my movements, and everyone I saw. When first I had the car and chauffeur I was doing nothing else from morning until late at night but work with the Medical Aid. I was representative of the London committee and there was a lot to be done. The chauffeur was with me practically all my waking hours. Later this turned out to be useful when I had another activity that I didn't want known. This activity concerned some of the British-particularly, it seemed, the Scotsmen - who had joined the International Brigade in London with enthusiasm and good faith to fight Fascism in Spain. Some of these Britishers who had gone to Spain were communists, but in Spain they had come across things that were being done in the name of communism which had made them think, and some of them had spoken their minds too freely. From then on they found that their lives were in danger, with death threatening not from the enemy but from their own side. A few of them got in touch with me secretly and told me their story. I knew the truth of it well, from experience, and saw no reason why I should not help them if I could.
In each case speed was essential as these men were being tracked down by the newly formed secret police. There was one of the English nurses whom I knew I could trust. With her I organized the job of getting these men out of Spain. Our medical supplies were shipped to us as regularly as possible by merchant-vessels touching at Spanish ports and running the blockade. One of these skippers, known as "Potato" Jones, had hit the headlines of the world Press. When these ships came in I went aboard, regularly, to make arrangements about the delivery of our supplies. I was most careful, now, that my chauffeur should always go with me. Seamen touching at Spanish ports had passes issued to them enabling them to get in and out of the docks and on and off their ships. These passes were stamped by the harbour police, and signed by the captain of the ship. In order that none of my visits to the ships should go unreported or unexplained I took the chauffeur with me each time, and everything I did was as open as daylight, except the fact that sometimes when I left a ship, besides bills of lading I had with me passes for my fugitives as members of the ship's crew. While the chauffeur and I were safely out of the way the English nurse guided the fugitives to our villa, and when I got back they were out of sight in the attic. Sometimes they had to stay there for several days. Then, during the night, I used to smuggle them into an ambulance, drive it close to the docks, and they would slip off and present themselves at the dock gates with their passes as seamen returning to their ships. It was simple and it worked. We got quite a number out that way and we were never discovered.
The males were worse than the females. Lord Peter Churchill was a good public relations figure, a fair administrator, and a friendly person; but I was worried that his fairly obvious homosexuality or bisexuality might run the unit into legal trouble, although I knew little of the laws in Spain. Kenneth Sinclair-Loutit, the official leader of the unit, was a likeable medical student and an obvious secret party member, but I did not think that he would be a good leader. He had a weak streak. O'Donnell, the chief administrator, who had made the bad speech in Paris, was even worse when I met him. I thought him stupid, conceited, and erratic. I certainly did not like the idea of his being in charge. The quartermaster, Emmanuel Julius, also seemed second rate and rather schizoid. The only surgeon, Dr. A. A. Khan, who was studying in the UK for the FRCS, was reserved, non-political, and rather worried. Of the other two male doctors, one was an American, Sollenberger, and the other, Martin, a former member of the Royal Army Medical Corps. I took a poor view of them both. In addition there were two other medical students.
I spent two summer holidays with her in Valencia, helping her to get supplies up to the hospitals and, much later in the war, up to the Ebro Front. Just up the road from our Villa, Peter Churchill, our treasurer, shared a villa with the Soviet airmen. Peter was an agreeable, but incalculable person, making strange and unaccountable forays into Turkey and other South European countries. How he got in and out, I never knew, but anyone who has read his autobiography will recognise that he is a strange and elusive person.
Esther and Joan had arranged to meet somewhere, and Esther was late, and Joan had come to look for her, and so Joan and I had met, and almost at once the odd, fierce process had started, and for Joan and me the mutual tearing down and building up, the ruthless reconstruction that, strangely enough, was love.
Joan and I each had to change the other or life together would have been intolerable, and life together was what we wanted. We knew that, almost at once. Each had to change the other and the pace was furious and the change was great. And why the furious speed? Did we know how short the time would be? Joan, beautiful, vulnerable, impossible and fantastically loyal, with a child's clear wisdom, and the confused values of a contradictory grown-up, was about the most human person I had ever known in my life. There would be only eight years for me to know her. Almost at once the difference in our ages seemed to operate in reverse. It was Joan who taught me many things about myself and the world that I did not know, and I who brought Joan back to some of the happy contradictions of youth from a forced and false maturity, the result of a war¬time of apprehension, prison, cruelties and betrayals, in enemy¬dominated France. We were now at the beginning of eight years of life-eight years that we lived together until the sudden unbelievable illness and death. It seemed hardly possible that it was eight years. The time was pitifully short when you looked back on it but there was also a timelessness about it from the very first moment. It had been a strange beginning when, as soon as we were happy, some of Joan's possessive friends had tried to break up our happiness, and even friends of mine had joined in the compulsive drive to separate us. We had no right to be happy. We had both been alone when we met, and when you are alone your friends have a kind of vested interest in you. Besides, Joan was supposed to be a semi-invalid, living in Vernon in the Seine valley in a house that she had arranged for herself, recovering from war strain, a special person whose friends felt that she belonged to them. What was this sudden dashing off to Italy and back with me? To escape them, of course, was the answer but they didn't know that. And I, who was I, older, and a stranger, from Hollywood of all places? What did I know of this special after-the-war France to which she belonged, this original, private, St Germain des Pres intelligentsia, guarding itself from, and yet flirting with, the post-war influx of travelling American intellectuals? What was I doing in Joan's life? And, worst of all, she was laughing now, and so was I. Yes, it was some of those English and American friends of Joan's who had given us the most trouble. French friends were more understanding; also, as soon as I opened my mouth they knew I was no stranger. And then Joan was a woman and I was a man and the psychological effect of that on