Oral history of British science
Hilsum, Cyril (Part 4 of 25)
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Interviewee's home, Middlesex
Hilsum, Cyril, 1925- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 4 [56:48] [Interview Two:29 February 2012] Comments on time with UCL at Bangor: practical classes in a former cycle shop; comparatively infrequent lectures, necessitating private study; threat of military call up in event of failure; gender ratios; deferred divinity students; little tension between UCL and Bangor students; anecdote about discussing sweet rations with current partner Anne; rationing and lunch arrangements, British Restaurant; artificiality of life in Bangor, away from home, in a partial university, Welsh speakers. [07:00] Remarks on practical classes in cycle shop: lab partner Leon Jacobs; Kater's pendulum experiment, CH calculations, trimming results to produce acceleration of gravity; description of cycle shop. [11:35] Remarks on: social life, maths and physics society; strangely peaceful atmosphere in wartime Bangor, previous practice of German bombers navigating via Ireland to Liverpool, sometimes bombing North Wales; drinking. [15:00] Remarks on student funding: London colleges scholarship; subject option circumstances which ruled out CH going to Cambridge; CH winning a State Scholarship; impressions of other less well-off students, CASH support organisation; little to spend money on, aside from eating, drinking, social events. [19:20] Remarks on: college dances, bands including the RAF Squadronaires with musicians including George Chisholm, Harry Lewis, Ronnie Aldrich; theatre in Llandudno. [20:20] Remarks on delayed return to London: original plan to return in 1944; changing fortunes of war in 1943; accommodation shortages preventing early return to London; anecdote about injuring professor JBS Haldane while putting up a shelf; returning to Bangor, physics classes in Llanfairfechan, where French students including CH girlfriend Betty lived; [25:45] change to self catering, having to shop, local social activities; return to London in late 1944. [27:20] Remarks on degree results and future options: risk of call up for low grades; option of government research establishments such as TRE and Haslemere; defence industry. [28:40] Story about interview panel with both CP Snow and Harry Hoff: CH forbidden to do PhD with metallurgist Edward Andrade on viscosity of liquid caesium; CH ordered to Haslemere to work on radio antennas; CH later meeting Roland Dobbs, who did the PhD instead. [33:40] Remarks on: passing exams; living at home in Streatham; Gower Street lodgings for women students, including Betty; story about narrowly avoiding V2 hit, that destroyed Whitefield's Tabernacle; anecdote about taking Phineas, the college mascot to VE-Day celebrations; feelings about end of war in Europe, continued rationing; last V2 attacks, Norwich heavy hit; [40:30] CH first class degree results and Rosa Morison memorial medal; letter directing CH to Admiralty headquarters Fanum House; Betty starting teaching training. [43:20] Anecdote about the appeal of good looking but religious friend Leon Jacobs to women. [46:20] Comments on early memories of future wife Betty, a French student: meeting at a dance; marriage in 1947; Betty's family background, CH having to convince family that he would not thwart her potential, offering to pay them back university fees. [49:25] Anecdote about how CH was assigned the low grade of Temporary Experimental Assistant Grade III, administrator Van Grutten promising him future promotion, but leaving before he had to promote CH. [52:00] Remarks on: purchasing engagement ring in Bravingtons with first pay cheque; CH continuing attending lectures, Dr Chalklin on crystallography; further impressions of CP Snow and Harry Hoff at interview.
Interview with physicist, Cyril Hilsum