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Setting off for America


The moment the world changed forever
John Julius Norwich Writer
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Now I think we do come onto the war and we were staying in our little house at Bognor and I remember one summer Sunday morning when my mother had gone into town, which she regularly did to buy lobsters and prawns and seafood from a whole bunch of fishermen who used to stand out on the beach with their morning catch so they were as fresh as anything could be. There was one called Billy Welfare who my mother always went to to buy lobsters and prawns. And she did this and then we were walking back and somebody I think tapped us on the arm and said, 'Listen to this' and there was a car with its radio on. Very few cars had radios in those days. It wasn't our car, it was another car. And we stood and it was Chamberlain talking saying this country's at war with Germany. And I remember my mother got into our car and started driving home and burst into tears and said, 'That's it, the world is never going to be the same again.' And of course she'd known the First World War behind her. I remember her telling me that by the end of 1916, every man she'd danced with was dead. It was unbelievable. And she saw this whole thing happening again, you know, and possibly this time I was going to be one of the casualties and anyway, it was... it put a terrible damper over our Sunday, I remember that.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: World War II, Neville Chamberlain

Duration: 1 minute, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018