De Francia, Peter (2 of 20). National Life Stories Collection: Artists' Lives.
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2000-02-24, 2000-03-23, 2000-05-15, 2000-07-20, 2000-08-11, 2000-09-28, 2000-10-04, 2001-02-14
Interviewee's home in London
De Francia, Peter, 1921-2012 (speaker, male)
Roberts, Melanie (speaker, female)
Peter de Francia [PedF] continues to discuss his escape from Belgium, moving onto his time in Britain; the consensus being that the group of students all felt that they should be trained as fast as possible to survive any possible invasion of Britain. [2.03 inaudible re being sent to ....] Having joined the army PdeF was finally moved from an anti-tank artillery unit to counter intelligence in the South Eastern command, which was responsible for planning the Normandy landings, because he was thought to know about the Normandy Coast. As a Corporal, because he did not want a commission, he interpreted aerial photographs. He talks about the HQ's environment and gives some amusing insights into what went on there. Peter de Francia returns to talking about his time at school where he went to the Lycée Pascale and then to the American High School in Paris as his father wanted him to have an English and a French education. He remembers nothing of his time at the Lycée Pascale, but remembers finding the High School much easier and more 'laid back'. PdeF remembers being happy at school, particularly enjoying biology and history. Fellow pupils were from a varied international community and included girls. Students numbered about one hundred and fifty. He did not think of it as being typically American but cosmopolitan. PdeF goes on to give details of facilities, his involvement in sport and a particular teacher that made an impression on him. He refers to there being no social contact with the staff. A trip to the battlefield of Verdun made a particularly strong impression on him. He describes the fact that there was more metal around Douamont than earth, all of it deposited at the time of the first world war. He talks about soldiers bones being assembled in an ossuaire which acted as a particularly grim monument that tourists stared into. Intrigue was his response to this as a child. In terms of friendships Peter de Francia played with both boys and girls but remembers their being a preponderance of boys at the school. Although art was not taught at school his parents organised drawing lessons for him which took place at the Louvre or in his parents' apartment. PdeF talks about his teacher, a young artist, describing the way he was taught by him and feeling that he must have been naturally skilled as a child. He remembers that this young artist was the first person to bring sexual possibilities to his attention through discussing his girlfriend. PdeF's parents did not talk about sex to him. Talking generally about sexuality in the media, PdeF raises the curiosity of the obsession with sexuality in this country given that it is a profoundly unsensual culture. PdeF remembers reading newspapers as a young person suggesting that he is still an obsessive paper reader. In relation to his parents reading habits, he suspects their reading matter was fairly reactionary although he thinks his parents were essentially a-political. He does remember his father being interested in a Father Couglin who he describes as a proto-fascist. Peter de Francia remembers going to museums a lot, often on his own, where he saw a lot of art. He comments on having a very good visual memory even though his name memory is poor. He particularly comments on an Austrian painter, Boeckle.