Grant, Anthony (1 of 2). The History of Parliament Oral History Project
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Interviewee’s home, Oxshott
Grant, Anthony, 1925-2016 (speaker, male)
Warren, Jemima, 1982- (speaker, female)
Part 1: Sir Anthony Grant [AG] talks about happy, quintessentially middle class childhood. Two parents, no money. Father was an academic. Comments on the impact on AG’s family of the First World War, remarks that father never regained health. Sent to St. Paul’s School in 1938. Tells story of family reaction to the declaration of the Second World War. Describes cricket match and sounding of the first air raid siren. Mentions evacuation of St. Paul’s School to Wellington College. [00:03:57] Describes interest in military service and difficulty of getting into the Navy. Comments on the Officer Training Corps and gaining of rank of sergeant. Tells story of visit by Field Marshal Montgomery [FMM] when FMM revealed that Germany had invaded Russia. Mentions going to Reading to swear the Oath of Allegiance. [00:06:38] Describes taking the Oath of Allegiance. AG was accepted as a cadet and began University Short Course at Brasenose College, Oxford. Describes short course and mentions that Brasenose was based in Christ Church College. AG took rooms in Meadow Buildings. [00.08.16] Tells anecdote about meeting Lord Lindemann. [00:09:05] Discussion of AG’s parents’ jobs. AG’s father was a Professor of Physics. Mentions that mother studied English. Father volunteered to rejoin the army but was not fit enough. Describes father’s view of education. Father died in 1943. Describes father’s funeral and impact of his death. Describes father’s interest in mathematics. Discussion of father’s influence. Describes relationship with mother. Discussion of younger sister, sister’s children and grandchildren. Describes marrying local girl, Sonia [SG]. SG died in 2009. Had two children, Julian and Isobel. Describes Julian and Isobel’s lives. [00:15:54] Discussion of birthplace. Born at Surbiton. Describes being wheeled by nurse to look at fields. Remembers house lived in at age five. Describes moving to Teddington and starting at kindergarten. Describes how AG’s father wanted the best education for him and enrolled AG in a Roman Catholic school run by nuns. Remembers the state school opposite and the rivalry between the two. Recalls affection between AG and one of the nuns, Sister St. Benedict. Describes the different arrangements for Catholic and Protestant pupils at the school. [00:20:31] Discussion of next school. AG went to Denmead School, remarks that was badly behaved. Went to Kingston Grammar School, remarks that he enjoyed sport. Then went to St. Paul’s School. Discussion of AG’s academic prowess. AG had good school reports, but sport was greatest joy. Describes grandfather’s interest in cricket. Mentions enjoyment of football and rugby and disappointment that he was an adequate, not a natural, player. Describes friend Stuart Westgate [SW] who was a brilliant sportsman and tells story of SW asking AG for answers in exams. Describes knowing Denis Compton. [00:25:12] Discussion of education at St. Paul’s School. Recalls ‘Matric’ and ‘Higher’ exams. Describes doing well in Maths and regret that did not pursue English. Recalls studying anything of use to a military career. Mentions studying science and law at Oxford. [00:26:45] Discussion of University Short Course [USC]. Describes USC as a mixture of subjects. Describes first experience of politics as demonstration at Christ Church College against awful food. Mentions wrote an article for ‘The Brazen Nose’ magazine. Describes going into the army and the usefulness of AG’s school and university experience. Mentions basic training at Bovington and decision to specialise in tanks. Tells story of going to the War Office. Describes hellish training, respect for discipline and first meeting with Sergeant-Major. Mentions Pre-OCTU training (Pre-Officer Cadet Training Unit). Discussion of Sandhurst. Explains that some of those rejected from training were killed on D-Day. Describes training and sports at Sandhurst. Mentions famous Physical Training (PT) instructors at Sandhurst. Describes Sir Matt Busby and C. B. Holmes. Tells story of rugby match. Tells story about the Regimental Sergeant-Major [RSM] at Sandhurst. [00:36:14] Discussion about duration of time at Sandhurst. Describes gaining commission and stationing in Morecambe. Describes hearing stories about the war in Europe. Mentions posting to Far East via a sea journey from Liverpool to Bombay. Remembers battle course in Snowdonia and posting in Pune. Describes first experience of race problems on a street in India. Mentions Operation Zipper and the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. [00:41:36] Mentions going to Singapore and Malaysia. Describes being sent into jungle to capture Japanese prisoners of war. Describes conditions in Singapore under the Japanese. Remarks that AG’s regiment was disbanded and that AG went back to the Carabiniers stationed on the North-West Frontier. [00:43:53] Describes responsibility for train journey from Madras to Bombay. [00:45:40] Describes four day train journey to North-West Frontier. Mentions Partition of India and appointment of Mountbatten as Viceroy of India. Describes heat. Mentions posting back to Singapore. Mentions murder of Gandhi. Describes train journey from Peshawar to Delhi and seeing Sikhs murdered. Describes the trial of Kempeitai members. [00:51:36] Mentions promotion to captain and appointment as Adjutant of the GHQ. Describes first trial as Adjutant. Describes trial of the Christmas Island prisoners. Describes meeting a man AG had prosecuted years later in London. Mentions that AG got good write-ups from his commanding officers [COs][00:56:00] Describes decision to pursue career in law. Qualified as a solicitor in 1952. Describes early career. Describes partnership in a City law firm. Mentions dissatisfaction with Attlee government. Mentions role as Young Conservatives chairman. [01:00:13]Discussion of meeting wife. Married in 1963. Describes becoming involved in 1950 general election campaign. Tells story of resignation of [Ian] Harvey as MP for Harrow East. Describes selection of Commander Courtney in Harrow East. Describes selection of AG in Hayes and Harlington. Long description of AG’s campaign in Hayes and Harlington in 1959 general election. Mentions that Arthur Skeffington held the seat. Mentions being put on candidates list. Tells story of Harold Macmillan visiting Hayes and Harlington and endorsing AG. Tells story of Commander Courtney scandal. [01:08:32] Mentions Pat Bishop wanted to resign as MP for Harrow Central. Describes speaking at Conservative Party conference in Llandudno. Mentions Sir John Fletcher-Cooke and Jill Knight. Describes selection for Harrow Central. Describes election addresses and importance of photographs to election campaign. [01:13:35] Mentions 1970 general election and first ministerial job. Describes role as Conservative whip under Willie Whitelaw [WW] and WW’s views of Conservative whips’ office. [01:16:12] Discussion of experience as new Member in the Commons. Tells story of Mark Carlisle and Francis Pym. Mentions 1964 general election and appointment of Alec Douglas-Home as leader of Conservative Party. Describes Conservative leadership campaign in 1963 and support for Alec Douglas-Home. Describes Conservative leadership campaign in 1965 and regrets support for Edward Heath. Mentions appointment by Heath as junior minister. Discussion of House Magazine article about AG and cartoon. [01:22:57] Describes abolition of Harrow Central seat by Boundary Commission. Mentions considered retirement. Describes view of role of MP. Mentions creation of Cambridgeshire South West seat. Mentions considered becoming Member of the European Parliament [MEP]. Describes MEP selection meeting. Describes selection in Cambridgeshire South West. Describes differences between Harrow Central and Cambridgeshire South West. Describes favourable view of parliamentary system. [01:28:25] Discussion of representation of constituents. Tells story of return to the Commons as MP for Cambridgeshire South West. Compares being MP for Cambridgeshire South West and MP for Harrow Central. Describes decision to leave the Commons in 1997. Tells story of discussing career with Peter Hordern. [01:32:37] Discussion of AG’s unfavourable view of current role of MP. Remarks on the professionalization of politics. Mentions position as Vice-Chair for Conservative candidates. Remarks on the MPs’ expenses scandal. Mentions role of Michael Foot and Margaret Thatcher in expenses system. [01:37:02] Discussion on balance between constituency and ministerial role. Remarks that cannot be a full-time MP and a minister. Comments that MPs no longer resign. Tells story of 1975 European Community referendum campaign with Labour MP and Woodrow Wyatt.
Life story interview with Sir Anthony Grant (1925-2016), former Conservative Member of Parliament.