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Caught up in a military coup in Turkey


Mother reacts to news of my shooting
John Julius Norwich Writer
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And then I remember, my mother I knew to be in Athens, staying, as I assumed, at the Grande Bretagne Hotel, where she always stayed when she was there, and I thought, she's going to read about me in the papers, and she's going to panic and think I'm dead, so I've got to get through to her and reassure her. It wasn't very easy in 1958 doing long-distance calls between Beirut and Athens, but I managed it. And she... the telephone switchboard in the Grande Bretagne Hotel is in the main foyer, the hotel's main lobby, and I got through to the switchboard assistant and said, 'Could I speak to Lady Diana Cooper?' And the assistant said, 'Oh, she's just over here, I can see her from here. I'll get her.' So the line was appalling, and I screamed out, 'Look, I've been shot, but I'm all right.' 'What? You've been shot?' 'Yes, yes, but I'm all right.' 'He's been shot! Mademoiselle, aidez moi, mon fils a été fusilier!' And eventually I think I got the message through, that I was okay, but it was quite a funny moment. Anyway, that was the worst that happened during what was delicately known as 'the events', les événements, of 1958. And then, from one moment to the next, everything sort of quietened down again, literally within 24 hours. It was quite odd how quickly peace was resumed.

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: Athens

Duration: 1 minute, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018