Here, at the end of my school-days, I want to pause for a while and talk about my parents. Throughout this narrative they have made an occasional appearance, which does no justice whatsoever to their importance in my young life. All the freedom I've spoken of had a background of love, encouragement, and good humour; so that however far I wandered, I always returned to an atmosphere of loving stability.

Mum in her younger days was very attractive, and full of energy. She knew all the latest songs from the shows of the twenties and thirties, and one of my earliest memories was her voice trilling away somewhere in the house singing " Who stole my heart away " -- a hit in 1929 ! Later on, she used to welcome my friends to large teas, and take us to cinema matinees. She loved poetry, and like myself in those days tended towards tears at happy things, and yet got rather giggly on solemn occasions; this led to one terrible tea-party, where a fellow guest droned so boringly on that she and I both got the giggles and dare'nt catch each other's eye. She would take me shopping along the HIgh Street in Newquay, and even in my early teens it was all I could do to keep up with her lively walk, clicking along on high heels, wearing a tailored suit, and probably as well what she would call a "tricky little hat". She was a great friend and ally. In her late twenties, she took the leading parts in the plays of the Amateur Dramatic Society, and I remember watching rehearsals in wide-eyed wonder.

She changed in old age, and became more difficult -- as we all do. But in her young and middle life she had a sensitive insight into other people, and had many friends. She also tended to collect lame ducks, whom she treated with a patience and humour that I could never match. To the end of her days, one of the things which did not fade was her lively curiosity and interest in other people.

Dad was a quiet, steady, dependable man, and I loved and respected him. He did everything at a very steady pace, and yet got through an immense amount of work, running a single-handed practice from the house. His face at rest was rather stern, but when he smiled it lit up wonderfully, with fine brown eyes. He had a quiet sense of humour, and it gave me great pleasure if I could make him smile or laugh; it wasn't too difficult -- he was always a very appreciative captive audience. He was extremely well-read, and had a wide knowledge of history and literature, only a small part of which I seem to have remembered. In addition, being Victorian in upbringing, he had a fund of songs stretching from the music-halls of the nineties and Edwardian days , through the Great War; much of Gibert and Sullivan he knew, and a wide variety of poetry. So that when we went on long car journeys, I picked up all these songs and poetry, as well as the more up-to-date stuff from Mum. I can still remember most of them now.

In those days before TV and central heating, a family would sit around the fire together in the evening. It was too cold for a child to retire to his bedroom to play, and when I was small I'd play with building blocks or whatever on the sitting-room floor until bed-time. As I got older we three would play rummy or draughts, and Dad taught me chess when I was about eight. He and I would play, and I'm sure he bent over backwards to let me win occasionally. Sometimes, if I wasn't paying attention, he'd pinch my queen off the board and see how long it was before I noticed it, leading to loud complaining on my part, chuckles from him, and reproving remarks to him from Mum.

He was a much respected GP and surgeon, and the practice covered a wide area. Sometimes, in my teens, he would invite me to go with him on his rounds, and then I knew we were destined for some remote farm with several farm gates to open; but in spite of being made use of like this, I always enjoyed the journey and his company. And by the time I was fourteen, I would be allowed to drive the car on the farm tracks myself, which was an added bonus.

These were the two very dear people to whom I owed so much.

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Peter Mitchell’s Memoirs


    part 1

    part 2

    part 3

Early Years

Clifton College

Outbreak of War



Essex Yeomanry