Oral history of British science

Hilsum, Cyril (Part 2 of 25)

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Middlesex

  • Interviewees

    Hilsum, Cyril, 1925- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 2 [1:37:55] Comments on school: teacher George Bennett caning CH for messy handwriting; George Bennett sitting CH and Jack Randall separately from rest of class; story about discovering his long term influence on classmate Leonard Goss at a formal dinner in Swansea; [05:20] sitting 11 plus exam to attend Raine's Foundation Grammar School; status of Raines School, uniform; CH not getting on with headmaster J Wilkinson Dagger; CH classroom behaviour, anecdote about supply teacher dividing CH and Jack Randall, anecdote about inciting a sixth form exam strike and missing cricket match as a result; [12:40] contemporaries of view CH at school, no bullying; anecdote about a fight with a fat child, learning to run faster than he fight; origins of name of Senrab Street School; Senrab teachers, George Bennett, Mr Evans; anecdote about not knowing about decimal points at school; [pause 17:50] George Bennett writing to CH parents about his abilities; keeping in touch afterwards. [19:20] Comments on Raines School: more competition; CH competitive nature; lack of role models when he was growing up, CH ambition to work for LCC; CH preparation and subjects choices for LCC exams; story about geography teacher advising him to change subjects and go to university, taking maths, science and geography; not knowing anyone who went to university; [25:40] school subjects, CH not good at technical drawing and carpentry; anecdote about Ch being impatient in Charles Nay's woodwork classes; anecdote about technical drawing master Andrews discarding his technical drawings; CH's impatient technical drawing techniques, finding things unfair; reasons for CH's impatience, wanting to move on to next thing; [31:10] favourite subjects of maths, physics; restrictive subject choice leading him to study economics and geography, not chemistry, in 1939 until circumstances changed; long term effects of him not studying chemistry at school, in not going to Cambridge; anecdote about CH finding an easy solution for physics practical using magnetic disc and string to find north; CH scholarship to UCL to study physics. [37:45] Comments on evacuation: whole school sent to Brighton, closer to the enemy; first billet, with councillor who owned a bakery shop in Ditchling, eating many cakes; second billet in Stanmore Park road, where they had to go to bed early; evacuation to Varndean School. [43:10] Remarks on third billet: poor household living with the Campbells; kind family who looked after them well; anecdote about being overfed from kindness; heart-rending later letters from Mrs Campbell; comparison of billet families; seeing poverty. [47:35] Remarks on re-evacuation to Camberley: near to Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough and Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, leading to bombing; anecdote about being bombed with brother Sid; billeted with Mr 'Pop' Way; Mr Way's daughter Winifred and son Edward, housekeeper Miss Peters; teaching and school arrangements in Camberley, Brackendale Road and Egham; learning ball room dancing with Monica Marchment; lectures on insects; [53:10] broadening of horizons, education about people, comparison between different billets; anecdote about Pop Way's parsimony but welcoming CH mother when Blitz started. [57:25] Comments on: CH father becoming a light rescuer in London; bombing of East End leading to home being bombed and moved to Streatham; effect of evacuation on schooling, history teacher Mr Bence not called up due to gammy leg; CH reasons for enjoying school history, understanding causes of First World War; enjoying intellectual subjects and languages, anecdote about Cockney accent; [1:03:20] interest in physics at school, understanding how things work, mathematics; leaving billet in Camberley c1943, split up of CH and Sid; CH billet with posh ex-officer's house, eating meals with maid Nellie. [1:09:35] Comments on UCL: anecdote about Jack Randall's interview involving an encounter with H Flint, author of a Methuen Monograph; military deferment rules; friend Jack Zussman, who learned crystallography at Cambridge and eventually became a well known geologist at Manchester; Jack Randall and Jack Zussman both called up to navy; anecdote about Jack Randall trying to predict exam results and ending up with a third, eventually becoming experimental officer at Portsdown and leading table tennis referee. [1:16:58] Remarks on: CH considering physics at Cambridge but unaffordable; winning a state scholarship; UCL evacuation to Bangor Aberystwyth, Swansea and Cambridge in 1943. [1:20:25] Comments on being at UCL in Bangor: interview with Orson Wood about arrangements of physics and maths parts of degree, leading to major in physics; housemate Brian Bransden excelling in his general degree and eventually becoming professor of theoretical physics at Durham; lack of choices over career path, CH not making any choices until he was 57; small science group, with several women, including Pat Trezona who later worked at Imperial College; [1:25:30] sharing facilities with Aberystwyth university; strong community of theology student; anecdotes about life in digs with Brian Bransden, Leon Jacobs, and two hard drinking soldiers, one of whom had George Medal, move to new housing after problems with fleas; arrangement of college around Bangor; [1:32:20] CH approach to cross country running, anecdote about getting lost on a run; prevalence of Welsh language; compulsory radio lectures, anecdote about people signing in then leaving, anecdote about Mr Brayshaw's problems controlling class; teaching on radio, but radar more secret.

  • Description

    Interview with physicist, Cyril Hilsum

  • Related transcripts

    Cyril Hilsum interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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