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Oxted & District History Society

                                                 Chairman’s Letter 2013

This is my third Chairman’s Letter – and my last, as I handed over the reins of office to Chris Pendred at our AGM in March – and I am very happy to be able to report another outstanding year. We enjoyed another fine programme of lectures arranged by Kath McCarthy which, as usual, provided us with a wide variety of topics covered by both visiting speakers and our home-grown talent – Michael Compton and Gerry Walkden as well as Ian Tolley, son of John Tolley. As before, we have been greatly indebted to Kath for her work on the programme and I am delighted that she was elected as Vice-Chairman at the AGM.

Attendance at all meetings continued to be high, averaging 65 – 70 at the lectures.  Our membership now stands at 89 and we have seen a 25% increase in income from visitors’ fees. On two occasions, we had over 90 attending with almost standing room only. Again, our thanks are due to the Minister and Elders of the United Reformed Church for enabling us to meet there, also to John Fogg-Elliott, our Equipment Officer, for his quietly efficient work with the sound and visual equipment.

Our President, Keith Louis, continues to be much more than a figurehead, producing the series of eye-catching posters for our meetings – posted in nine different locations in the Oxted and Limpsfield area – and providing wise advice whenever I needed it. Our Publicity Officer, Stuart Paterson, always very promptly submitted press reports but, sadly, these were not always so promptly published in the local newspapers and magazines. Our website continues to expand, masterminded by our in-coming Chairman, Chris Pendred.

The Summer Outing to Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham – see separate report – was another success with a nearly full coach – another thank you to Chris Pendred.

Last year’s Newsletter achieved even higher peaks than before and was a superb finale by Betty & Brian Shearing who, very sadly, decided that they had to retire from the increasingly onerous work of producing not just the Newsletter but also the programme flyers, membership cards and visitors’ receipts. Our sincere thanks to Betty & Brian; we shall continue with their work, but the Committee has decided that, whilst the other items will be produced as before, this and future Newsletters will be in an abridged format published on our website but with printed copies available for those members who do not have internet access.

My three years as Chairman would have been much harder without the support and guidance of our strong Committee and I must express my sincere thanks to those already mentioned and, also, to Moyna Bridge, our Hon Secretary, and Anna Burrage, our Hon Treasurer, for their very important work in keeping the administration of the Society in such good shape.

Finally, on a sad note, 2013 has seen the loss of two members, Stephen Miles, our former President, and Michael Compton who provided us with two excellent lectures in recent years – they will be much missed and their obituaries appear later in this Newsletter.

Trevor Burrage         


Autumn Newsletter 2013 by Trevor Burrage

Committee contacts                          
Lecture Programme 2013-14                                                
Chairman’s Letter                           
Summer outing to Strawberry Hill House
Stephen Miles CMG - Obituary
Michael Compton CBE - Obituary
Napoleon in 1813
Pearl HarbourNewsletter_2013_files/ODHS%20Word%20Newsletter%20.docx

Keith Louis..........................01884 714256

Christopher Pendred..........01883 722362

Kathleen McCarthy............01883 715611

Moyna Bridge......................01883 716257
Anna Burrage.......................01883 723204

Roy Eaton............................01883 712612

John Fogg-Elliot.................01883 712462

Stuart Paterson...................01883 714642




Vice Chairman...........


Programme Secretary

Equipment Officer.....

Press Officer...............

Strawberry Hill house.

Evening Lecture Programme for 2013- 2014

1 October 2013

15 October

29 October

12 November

10 December

7 January 2014

Reindeer in the snow by Mary Alderton & the Christmas Party

26 November

21 January

4 February

18 February

18 March

AGM & Party


Napoleon in 1813

By 5th December 1812, Napoleon had lost 90% of his army in Russia; he deserted his remaining troops and returned to Paris.

By early April 1813, Napoleon had gathered a large new army: veterans from garrisons and depots, veterans from the army facing Wellington in Spain and two years’ worth of newly conscripted young men together with guns and gunners from coastal batteries – a stupendous effort but the one thing he could not do was to improvise trained cavalry. The French light cavalry had been superb but its horses were all dead in Russia and many of their riders too.

A healthy well-fed, well-cared-for horse would carry a rider for twenty to twenty-five miles a day – far further, if need be – but must then be rested. The art of cavalry war lay as much in the feeding and looking after the horses as in the actual fighting, but this was very difficult on campaign: untrained men under inexperienced officers would ride horses to death in no time. Without good cavalry, he could not find out what his opponents were doing or, if he located and defeated them, they could get away to fight another day.

In addition to Wellington’s army marching towards the Pyrenees, Napoleon faced problems on several fronts: a Russian army had pursued him into Poland and was ready to march into Germany; his old ally, the King of Saxony, was dithering; the Austrian and Prussian armies, previously subservient, were no longer obeying his orders; though there was still a French garrison in Berlin, throughout the rest of Germany his exactions of the last dozen years had made him thoroughly unpopular – the people must be held down by force or the threat of force. Finally, his old friend and colleague, Marshal Bernadotte, had disobeyed his orders and accepted to become the Crown Prince of Sweden and was hand in glove with the Tsar. But: he had beaten them across Germany before and he could do it again.

It was still winter when three Russian flying columns rode westwards: they were Cossacks with a back-up of regular cavalry – only six thousand men in all and two horse artillery guns. Helped by French unpopularity and lack of effective French cavalry, the Russians rode where they chose and the effect was out of all proportion to their numbers: they captured French couriers with despatches; they kept French regimental riding-masters from buying horses at the fairs; Berlin became untenable; the King of Prussia came out, nervously, against Napoleon and one of the Russian columns reached Hamburg which rose in revolt. The revolt was suppressed but it took two French Corps and Napoleon’s best Marshal who were badly needed elsewhere.

When Spring came, Napoleon had rather more men and guns in the field than Russia and Prussia. He knew he must knock out one or other from the war, if he could: Prussia was the nearer and weaker and open to brute force; but he had met the Tsar, long ago at Tilsit, and charmed him: might he now be susceptible to a personal appeal? Meanwhile, he must keep Austria neutral. Reluctantly, he decided he could not afford to attack Prussia: he must keep his army close to the Austrian frontier and soften-up his enemies with a battle or two. He fought at Lutzen on 2nd May (a draw) and at Bautzen on 20/21st  May (a victory) but with  good cavalry he might have turned either into a triumph as he had often achieved in the past – now, men had been slaughtered and resources squandered to very little purpose.

He had brought with him on campaign, nominally as aide-camp, his former Ambassador to Russia: this, surely, showed commendable foresight and before Bautzen he had sent this man off to the Russian outposts asking for a personal meeting with the Tsar. After the battle, back came the aide-de-camp: the Tsar would not see him. But now, the Austrians offered to mediate; they proposed an armistice until 20th July with a Peace Conference in Prague; Napoleon agreed. Later, he thought it the worst mistake of his career but at the time it seemed well worth a try. In fact, the Austrians were just as keen as everyone else to see the last of Napoleon; their Emperor, Francis II, though wanted what was best for his subjects: he would spare them war if he could. But now his Foreign Minister, Metternich, reached an agreement with him and with the Tsar: Austria could not afford to see Prussia crushed, nor the Tsar abandon the fight; and Prussia and Russia could not see their way to winning without Austrian help. Napoleon would be offered generous terms, if he refused – as Metternich was sure he would – Austria would fight. Napoleon spun out the conference, it was extended but to 10th August only – not to 20th August as he wanted, when the harvest would be in and he could feed his army.

Napoleon tried to buy Austria off: would they stay neutral for a price? But if he won, he could easily get the price back: it was refused. Metternich now proposed that Napoleon should give up most of Germany, though not altogether his influence there. Perhaps Napoleon was tempted but, if he agreed, might not the Tsar then demand more? Quite right: that was just what the Tsar intended. Here was a chance to split the allies, whose interests were not identical (they never are), but Talleyrand, Napoleon’s ablest negotiator, was in disgrace, sulking and secretly egging Austria on. Metternich met Napoleon, whose ever-loyal Chief-of-Staff, Berthier, drew Metternich aside and hoped he brought peace: Berthier’s home and family were German. The truth of the meeting will never be known: later, each claimed he had the best of it; Napoleon had lost his temper, his rages were always calculated but perhaps this time he overdid it. The war began afresh.


The Allied Commander-in-Chief was now the Austrian Schwarzenberg, a plodder: they should fight Napoleon himself only if in overwhelming force; the French Marshals were another matter. Possibly, they had that subtle turncoat Bernadotte to thank for suggesting that, though in any case it was no more than common sense. At Dresden on 26/27th August, Napoleon won a battle against almost double his numbers but his Marshals lost four: Oudinet lost at Grossbeeren on 23rd August – a Prussian victory to hearten their nervous King; Macdonald on the Katzbach on 26th August; Vandamme at Kulm on 29th August and Ney at Dennewitz on 6th September. Gradually, Napoleon was hemmed in round the city of Leipzig: the opposing armies were too large to be commanded effectively by the means of the time – generals on church towers with telescopes  and aides-de-camp on horseback. But, in a blundering, four-day collision from 16th to 19th October, Napoleon lost three-quarters of his army. He must start all over again.

                                                                                                                               Keith Addis

Pearl Harbour 7 December 1941

At 1.00 pm Washington time (WT), 7.30 am Hawaii time (HT), the Japanese Ambassador in Washington was to present at the State Department a fourteen-paragraph Note (radioed to him in code by Tokyo) justifying the Japanese attitude. Its crux was the last paragraph, which pronounced that further Japanese-US negotiation was futile. Whilst not a formal Declaration of War (which would require the Emperor’s own seal), it was, in its entirety, everything but. Twenty minutes later (7.50 am HT), they would attack Pearl Harbour. As a precaution, Tokyo had held back transmission of this fatal end paragraph until the last moment and, in the event, it arrived too late – it took until 12.30 pm (WT) to decode and the Ambassador did not receive from his staff the final copy in presentable form until 1.50 pm (WT), half-an-hour after the first attack.

The Americans were already able to read the Japanese diplomatic code (but had not yet cracked their military and naval ones). President Roosevelt and his Secretaries of State, War and the Navy had all seen the first thirteen paragraphs the night before; Roosevelt remarked, acutely, that these meant war and they agreed to meet the next morning - as all US Pacific Commands were already aware that war was imminent, so far, there seemed no reason for any enhanced warning. Next morning, General Marshall and the American Director of Naval Operations read the decoded fatal fourteenth paragraph by 11.30 am (6.00 am HT) (an hour earlier than the Japanese Embassy!) and agreed on a general alert; this reached San Francisco, Panama and the Philippines within half-an-hour, but as radio contact with Hawaii was interrupted by atmospherics, a commercial cablegram was sent via Western Union – there was no direct undersea link and, consequently, it arrived at Pearl Harbour only after the attack had begun.

At 6.45 am (HT) that day, the Captain of an American destroyer patrolling off  Pearl Harbour thought that he saw a midget submarine; he was prepared, attacked at once and deserves credit on both counts. At much the same time, radar operators at the harbour mouth saw on their screen a swarm of aircraft to the north but any danger was dismissed – surface ships were always imagining submarines, the radar was a mobile one, perhaps less precise or its operators less discriminating than they might have been and, in any event, a squadron of US heavy bombers was expected from the mainland. Additionally, the harbour was judged too shallow for torpedoes, bombs were thought ineffective against battleship armour (1) and, anyway, the Japanese were thought to be nothing much and radio traffic analysis proved that their fleet was still in its home waters – in short, complacency reigned!

President Roosevelt was born into New York old money and brought up on the family estate on the Hudson River. He had an unrivalled understanding of domestic politics but little foreign experience, where his judgement could be naïve. Insofar as he had any ambitions there, it was for the US Navy, which he loved, for its Air Force, representing the future, and for a prosperous, benevolent United States to supersede the British and other old European Empires. To an unusual degree, even for a politician, he combined a lack of detailed scruple with an unquestioning belief in his own righteousness. And, more than most, he lived by dissimulation: as a young man he was struck down by poliomyelitis, yet to the world must not seem to be disabled; he had married a cousin (a bad sign) who was now in her own right a popular newspaper columnist; they depended on each other and on their wholesome public image – in reality, they lived separate lives and he kept a hidden long-term mistress. In Washington, he had to manage immovable Isolationist opinions in Congress and the US at large; he wanted to preserve Britain (but not the Empire) and while professing neutrality, he was doing all he could to achieve that and, in the Atlantic, waging actual (though limited) war against the German submarine fleet. When it was suggested that he might declare war, he replied merely that such declarations seemed out of fashion.

Above all, Roosevelt had little understanding of Japan and less sympathy, though probably in the end it made little difference. It was the United States that in the late 19th Century had dragged Japan from gentlemanly Samurai decadence into the modern world; the Japanese had few natural resources but by hard work and ingenuity had rapidly embraced the industrial revolution to the extent that their modern naval fleet had comprehensively beaten the Russians in 1905. In a free-trade world they might prosper (as they later did) but in the years of the Depression free trade was hard to come by, nor was that quite what they had in mind; there were abundant resources, no more than just out of reach: oil in the Dutch East Indies and Burma, tin in Malaya, coal and iron in Australia – they thought they deserved a better place in the World and were determined to achieve it by force of arms if necessary. Japan was already embroiled in a brutal war of conquest in China, against which there was more American sentiment (and fear of growing Japanese power) than solid economic interest. The US Pacific Fleet had now sailed from San Francisco to Pearl Harbour – a threat and an insult to the Japanese nation. The Japanese army and people were clamouring for war with the US; the Emperor, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Fleet Commander-in-Chief resisted initially but one-by-one they were alienated as Roosevelt tightened the screw with an oil embargo (2); the Prime Minister was replaced by a military firebrand. Whilst hypocrisy is the most elusive of the vices, to the Japanese militarist-nationalists Roosevelt was regarded as fair game to be deceived – after all, their ambitions for Japan only mirrored his for the US.

In January 1941, the US Ambassador in Tokyo had reported rumours of a surprise attack planned against Pearl Harbour; whilst it was his duty to report all rumours short of the absurd, this one was filed and forgotten. In July, the US Army and Navy formulated a joint plan against a carrier attack on Pearl Harbour but it was never activated. By November, Roosevelt was speculating that he might sustain a surprise Japanese attack, if not too damaging, as likely to bring Congress round to his own thinking but there is no evidence at all that he acted on this. But soon, war was undoubtedly brewing; Japanese convoys were sailing into the Gulf of Siam, though radio traffic (carefully provided by the Japanese deception plan) seemed to show that their main fleet was still in home waters; a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour across 3,700 miles of ocean was unthinkable, although the Philippines or Wake – or even Midway – might be at risk. To that end, the US Admiral at Pearl Harbour sent his aircraft carriers to sea in support – one thing he did right, though clearly for the wrong reason, but, in the end it was enough and the carriers were saved to fight another day.

By 7.50 am (HT), the Japanese aircraft were over the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour and their submarine fleet was in position: specially adapted bombs and torpedoes against only machine-guns – no anti-aircraft guns as their ammunition was under lock and key when the attack began! When at last the Japanese Ambassador reached the US State Department with his crisp copy of the fourteen-paragraph Note, Washington already had the news of the attack on their fleet; he was not urbanely received.

An hour or two later, the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto learned that all the US battleships had been sunk but that the aircraft carriers had escaped. Disappointed, he broke off the attack and turned away. He knew Japan could never defeat the United States in a long war; he had advised consistently against such a war and had planned brilliantly for the total destruction of the US Pacific Fleet to pre-empt that. Now he said: ‘I fear we have merely roused a sleeping giant’.

In Tokyo, the Emperor was graciously pleased to put his seal to the Declaration of War. Next day, the US Congress (a single member dissenting) authorised war against Japan and, out of the blue, Hitler himself then solved Roosevelt’s remaining political problem by declaring war on the United States.

                                                                                                                                  Keith Addis


(1)In extensive 1920 trials, battleships had proved very hard to sink with bombs: the best bet seemed to be a very big bomb exploded underwater alongside the stern. The successful British attack on battleships at Taranto in 1940 was with torpedoes.

  1. (2)The oil embargo was, perhaps, more stringently applied than Roosevelt had intended       


Stephen Miles CMG

A British diplomat who served in nine Commonwealth countries

and the USA

(Frank) Stephen Miles, who died aged 93 on 26th April 2013, was born in Edinburgh on 7th January 1920, son of Harry and Mary Miles. Brought up in Helensburgh and Edinburgh, he was educated at Daniel Stewart’s College in Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews where graduated with an MA.

During World War II, Stephen joined the Fleet Air Arm, serving in Swordfish from the aircraft carrier HMS Campania. After demobilization, he won a Commonwealth Fellowship to Harvard University where he studied British Commonwealth history for his MPA.

Stephen joined the Scottish Home Department in 1948, then moved to the Commonwealth Relations Office where he was posted to New Zealand from 1949 to 1952. On returning to England, he married (Margaret) Joy Theaker; they were posted to East Pakistan and then West Pakistan from 1954 to 1957, where their eldest daughter, Ann, was born. Judy, their second daughter was born during Stephen’s next home posting and, their youngest daughter, Susan, while he was posted to Ghana from 1959 to 1962.

Following a posting in Uganda from 1962 to 1963, Stephen was appointed Deputy High Commissioner to Tanzania from 1963 to 1965. During this posting, while Stephen was Acting High Commissioner, the Tanzanian army mutinied and President Nyerere called for British assistance. Stephen sent for an aircraft carrier with marines and two support ships, which soon rounded-up the mutineers. “The Dar Mutiny of 1964”, written by Tony Laurence (who was Signals Communication Officer on the carrier) with Sir Christopher MacRae (then First Secretary on Stephen’s staff at the British High Commission in Dar-es-Salaam), gives a full account of this history. Stephen played a vital role in face-to-face contact with the mutineers and Christopher MacRae subsequently recorded: He was remarkably cool and unruffled. Even when he came back to the office after having been held at gun-point for over an hour by the mutineers……these qualities of coolness and good humour were to stand him – and us all – in good stead in the days ahead as the crisis unfolded.

Stephen was awarded the CMG in 1964, and there is a plaque on the wall of the St Michael & St George Chapel in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Editor’s Note: Stephen & Joy contributed a very interesting joint account of their part in The Dar Mutiny at the History Society’s 50th anniversary symposium.

Stephen’s only posting outside the Colonies and Commonwealth was in the late 1960’s as Consul-General in St Louis, Missouri. From 1970 to 1974, he was in Calcutta as Deputy High Commissioner to India during the time of the war of independence across the border in East Pakistan which led to the new nation of Bangladesh. British aid and charities were much involved, helping the million refugees fleeing into India – mostly across the border into the Calcutta area.

From 1974 to 1978, Stephen was High Commissioner to Zambia at the time of negotiations for Rhodesian independence – there were many confidential and little publicised meetings at the High Commissioner’s residence which led up to the formation of Zimbabwe. His last posting took him back to Bangladesh as High Commissioner, ending on his 60th birthday in January 1980.

Stephen led an active life in retirement becoming a director of studies for the Overseas Service Unit of the Royal Institute of Public Administration from 1980 to 1983. He became a Councillor and then Chairman of Limpsfield from 1980 to 1990 and was also elected a Councillor on Tandridge District Council from 1982 to 1990.

A member of the MCC, Stephen was always keenly interested in cricket and was delighted to find it being played in every one of his postings – even in the USA – and he continued playing for Limpsfield after his retirement; he also played tennis and golf in his later years. Stephen enjoyed travel, not only to the far-away places of his postings and where his daughters now live, but also around Europe where he had never been posted. It was a life full of activity and service to his Country and his local community.                    


Walpole arrived at Strawberry Hill in rural Twickenham in 1747 to establish a summer residence and lived there until his death in 1797.  At a time when classicism and Palladianism were fashionable, Walpole wanted to create a ‘little gothic castle’.  There had been nothing like it since the Middle Ages.  Walpole and his friends used medieval tombs as sources for the design of the chimney pieces.  The house has a theatrical quality: it is entered via a gloomy hall and staircase to a magnificent vaulted gallery and the other main rooms.  There is much stained glass in the windows, collected in the Low Countries, fan-vaulted ceilings, like Henry Vll’s chapel in Westminster Abbey and crimson Norwich wool damask wall coverings.

Walpole was an avid collector of bric-a-brac, coins, medals, miniatures and enamels.  His most prized treasures were kept in the Tribune room, named after the room in the Uffizi Palace in Florence.  The design of this room was inspired by the Chapterhouse at York Minster.  Unfortunately all the contents of Strawberry Hill House were sold off in 1842 by George, 7th Earl of Waldegrave.  In one of the biggest auctions of the 19th Century, Walpole’s collection was sold over 25 days from a temporary wooden auction hall on the lawn.

The Strawberry Hill Trust, formed of local people who were determined to restore the house to its former glory, was set up in the early 21st Century.  Attracting some big-name supporters, the Trust received a £9million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2007 and has now secured a further £1.5million to complete the project.  Members of the Trust are now trying to track down Walpole’s contents, auctioned in the 1842 sale.  They have had some success in locating many of them and some have been reinstated in Strawberry Hill House on loan.

After a superior sandwich lunch at Strawberry Hill in the café located in Horace Walpole’s cloisters, some members of the Oxted & District History Society went on a guided tour of the gardens.  Unfortunately part of Walpole’s estate near the River Thames was sold off for development in the 1920s.  Horace Walpole’s gothic fantasies did not extend to the gardens.  He went along with contemporary 18th Century ideas of the ‘managed nature’ look and the plants and trees in his remaining garden are now being replanted as far as possible with those species available in the 18th Century.  Following afternoon tea, the Oxted & District History Society party returned by coach to Oxted.

Stuart Paterson  10 July 2013

4 March


Michael Compton CBE    

Michael Compton, who died on 12th July 2013 aged 85, gave several very interesting talks to the History Society; two of them related to his interest in genealogy and family history. One was a talk on ship’s surgeons based on his studies of his mother’s family’s profession. His ‘Fishing Fleet’ lecture in 2012 (about women who went out to India to find husbands from the men sent out to manage the British Raj) was partly based on his mother’s correspondence and diaries. Michael in fact spent much of his early life abroad, first in India and during the war at school in South Africa.

However, one of his most interesting contributions was that to the Society’s 50th anniversary symposium where participants described their work 50 years previously. Michael was then Curator of the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. He described how he had made the best use of the Gallery’s limited funds (and of his research into the tax laws and death duties) in acquiring a stunning Frans Hals portrait and in buying – at what would now be a knockdown price – the first David Hockney painting to enter a gallery (the artist was then still a post-graduate student). The description of how he persuaded the Chairman and members of Hull Council’s Gallery Committee to cough-up the money lost nothing in the telling (indeed, he had a fund of fascinating stories from his career and seemed able to recall them at will). It is easy to see why the Hull Councillors were persuaded. As with his lectures, his research would have been meticulous, his judgements clear and his conclusions well expressed.

Michael read History of Art at the Courtauld Institute, part of the University of London, having abandoned a course in marine architecture. He met Susan Benn when they were both students and they were married for over 60 years. He gradually made his way up the tree in his profession becoming ‘Keeper’ in charge of exhibitions, archives and education at the Tate Gallery. In 1987 he was awarded the CBE. In his appreciation of Michael, the current director of the Tate, Sir Nicholas Serota, wrote: ‘Michael Compton was arguably the first curator working in England to command international respect for his practice as a maker of exhibitions, collaborator with artists and contributor to discourse of contemporary art. In the seventies and eighties he was part of the growing exchange of ideas and exhibitions between England and continental Europe and he can now be regarded as a model for many of today’s curators’

Michael continued to take an interest in many diverse subjects. How many Art Curators read New Statesman, for example, or undertake courses in philosophy, the working of the human eye and biblical archaeology? He was practical too: he carved wooden toys, repaired broken household objects and actually painted watercolours. As my late wife Vivienne’s cousin, he gave a brilliant eulogy at her funeral. I shall miss him a lot.

                                                                                                                                 John Tolley         


Summer Outing to Strawberry Hill

This year’s summer outing was to Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, the former summer home of Horace Walpole, the son of Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole.  40 members of the Oxted & District History Society and their friends travelled by coach from Oxted, enjoying coffee and biscuits before splitting into two groups for guided tours of Strawberry Hill House.