On May 5th Yvonne turns 100 and to celebrate this milestone we publish here a report she has recently written about her childhood. Yvonne has had a remarkably full life; the daughter of an Admiral, graduate of Oxford, wife of a District Commissioner in colonial Africa, mother of five, teacher and, latterly, very active member of the Stratford sub Castle community.
In the Shadow of Jutland
Three weeks before that famous encounter with the German Fleet in late May 1916 I was born. My father was, at that time, a Rear-Admiral with the First Battle Squadron up at Scapa Flow, so I conveniently made my debut in Edinburgh: a fact which has always given me an illusion of having all the qualities of the finest Scottish hero, an odd illusion for my Mother was Irish and my Father English, born in Australia, but sent back to England to join the Royal Navy, aged 13. His father had sailed for Australia in 1853 and there carved out a fine career for himself, but his children considered the world their oyster. On his death my grandmother returned to this country.
The aftermath of Jutland filtered through with the awareness of my belonging to interesting parents. First of all there was no such consciousness for in 1917 my father was appointed C in C East Indies and I, together with my sister 7 years my senior and my brother 11 years older, were left in the care of a lovely warm person who ran a ‘Dame’s School’. She remained a friend till the end of her days. I called her ‘Mummy R’ and didn’t think much of my parents when they returned from foreign parts.
The next assignment was Queenstown (now Cobh in the Irish Republic) where my father had to see to the handing over to the Irish Republic of the ‘Treaty Ports’ which had been in the care of the Royal Navy. One wonders at the seeming lunacy of appointing a man whose wife was Southern Irish Catholic. It was a time of great disquiet: there were no child companions for the four year old; my friends were Flags (my father’s First Lieutenant, later killed in WWII), a small white terrier and the sentries who guarded Admiralty House. My snobbish Nannie, whom I heartedly disliked, forbade me to go down the drive and talk to the soldiers. They made me bows and arrows. My mother could only attend Mass at the nearby Cathedral with the Bishop’s ‘safe conduct’. In later years much time was spent in the south of France to save my mother the discomfort of English winters, but as my father pointed out, if you had a pleasant home in Monaco, everyone called by: it was almost as popular as a star resort.
but this whole experience had serious debilitating effects on my mother’s health and it was only in subsequent retirement that I caught up with my father’s friends. Lord Jellicoe, whom he first knew at the turn of the century, taught me to play rounders; Admiral Washington, of the family of George U.S.A, (later killed in WWII, serving in a humble post), invited me to tea and had ordered a special Gunter’s cake which he knew I liked. When offered a second slice, I refused out of ‘politeness’. What a disappointment to both of us ...... a left over of Nannie’s coaching ???
Our son, Jonathan Gaunt Fox has some of his grandfather's memorabilia; shrapnel from his cabin, the ensign flown from his flagship, etc.