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First memories of London


Going to London and a holiday in Hastings
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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We got on a train in Berlin to Oostend, to catch the boat for Dover, and it was a train which, in theory, it connected with a ferry to England. But in Aachen, which is also called Aix-la-Chapelle, they pulled us off the train and they made us wait in the waiting room while they went through the papers. Just a deliberate, the Germans call it Schikanierung, a deliberate thing to make you miss the ferry, you see. So we spent the night on the floor of the waiting room in Aachen, then we were put on some other train, having made sure that we were going to miss the ferry, and we had to wait again for the next ferry, and all that. But at least we all... with hindsight, the good thing was that at least we all got out alive, the family, because I'm an only child. We all got out alive which was the main thing. My father's two sisters weren't so lucky, my aunts, and they ended up in Dachau, we don't even know where they ended up, but they were definitely killed in one of the concentration camps. So that was you know, we got out with our lives and that was the main thing. There was a moment when I cried... no, I don't want to go to a country where I don't speak the language, and what am I going to do, I don't know English, and all that. They said, well, you'll be all right. And, of course, it was all right. Funnily enough, because I'd learnt English by rote, in the second year... in the second term of the first year in an English school, I came second in English, because all the others thought, well, we don't have to study that, we know it anyway. I actually came second in the English lessons.

But, when we initially arrived in England we breathed a great sigh relief and first of all we were a couple of weeks, I think, in some hotel in Bloomsbury, and then we found a very small flat, a one-roomed flat in Richmond in Surrey. In that sort of period, before the war, in those two months before the outbreak of war, I think I was sent off alone to a holiday in Hastings. I had this holiday in Hastings in a boarding house in Hastings. I remember that the landlady was called Mrs Tyrrell, because somewhere in my collection, I had started already with, I had a little box camera, which I think... I'm sure I brought it with me from Germany, but I don't remember taking any photos in Germany, but I certainly started taking photos then. One of the photos, which I still have somewhere, is called 'Mrs Tyrrell's Cat'. So, I had this week in Hastings and I went back to England... to London and it was a nice ordinary summer, because very few people were aware that the war was going to break out within months, almost weeks.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Tags: Oostende, Calais, Dachau

Duration: 3 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008