My dearest brother George was a quiet, gentle man who above all else loved his wife Linda, his sons Alex, Tim and Jason, their wives and all eight grandchildren. George was born in the beautiful city of Prague in October 1935, a time of rising tensions across central Europe. A second child to our parents Franta and Marta. Our sister Hana had been born in 1933.
Our father, who had been a very young soldier in World War I was again called up, but after the Czech army was disbanded as a result of the terrible Munich Agreement in 1938, our father came home and said that the family had to get away. He and two friends flew to London and started to set up homes and businesses and to get visas for their families. Eventually, our mother left Prague with Hana and George, then not quite four years old, in late August 1939, on the very last train allowed to travel through Germany. They arrived in Harwich just a day or two before war was declared.
father believed that the English public school system would provide the best education
George did not talk much about his early years. He seemed to have minimal memories of Prague, and his ability to speak Czech dissipated quite quickly. The family moved around a lot during the war years, eventually settling in Finchley. George did remember collecting bomb debris with his oldest and closest friend Charles Robbins. Our father believed that the English public school system would provide the best education in the world, so at the age of eight, George was sent off to a prep school and then aged eleven to Framlingham College in Suffolk. These were not particularly happy or memorable years for him. In 1948, at the age of twelve, he was able to go to Wembley with Charles for the London Olympics, and the boys enjoyed many days there writing down all of the results in the programme. In the middle of the Olympics I arrived on the scene, but sensibly that did not stop the daily trips to Wembley.
After Framlingham he was immediately called into National Service and chose to join The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. I think he quite enjoyed his time in the army, and I do remember his tales of driving tank transporters with three gearboxes and ten gears in each gearbox.
Our sister Hana married in 1955. A few months later, as our parents and I were on our way home from a long weekend in Bournemouth to go and have lunch with Hana and Jeoff, to which George and our cousin Hana Bandler were also invited, our car crashed and tragically, our mother was killed. George and Jeoff had to go to the hospital to formally identify our mother. He always described that day as the worst of his life.
took to sailing like a duck to water
George began to study mechanical engineering at Battersea Polytechnic. While a student he enjoyed playing rugby and travelled around on a very heavy Czech scooter called a Contessa. After completing his degree he obtained a job at Napier engineering, and eventually graduated to driving a Hillman Minx. George joined Maccabi sports club and the sailing section in particular. He took to sailing like a duck to water (so to speak) and it wasn’t long before he and Charles had bought their own Enterprise sailing dinghy, which they kept at Burnham-on-Crouch. Our father married again and he and Mila took George and me on a couple of summer holidays. Our 1961 Prague visit was difficult for our Dad, who was quite distressed by conditions in Europe and the state of some relatives. Unfortunately, he died just after Christmas that winter from major heart failure. George took me to Burnham the following summer for a week’s holiday. It was a most memorable week.I was introduced to sailing and we had a really lovely time together.
George made many new friends through Maccabi, but most importantly he met Linda Fishburn, the love of his life. Together they ran the sailing section and put on several great dances and events at Maccabi. George and Linda married in November 1964 and he joined Simms Group Research and Development, later part of Lucas Industries, as a project engineer. When I finished boarding school in 1966, our step-mother decided that she did not want me staying with her, so George and Linda very kindly and generously offered me a home. I had also decided to study engineering at Battersea and bought a Vespa scooter to get me there, so following in big brother’s footsteps!
the Queen’s Award for the environment
Alexander was born in November 1967 and I think I was more anxious than his parents! But he came home from hospital to a loving household. I always remained welcome at George and Linda’s home as it started to fill up with Timothy and Jason, and they moved home to Trevelyan Crescent. George’s career blossomed and he led successful teams at Simms, specialising in fuel injection systems for very large engines, as well as winning the Queen’s Award for the environment.
As I said at the beginning, above all else George was a family man, and spent as much time as possible with Linda and the boys, including many weekends sailing at Burnham, and lovely summer holidays towing the sailboat and camping in the south of France, graduating from tent to farmhouse to villa over the years. As the boys grew up, trips to North America and to Prague took place, and when Alex moved to Australia, new adventures and trips became possible.
George retired just before the millennium and as each son found a life partner, George and Linda welcomed Gila, Amanda and Yvonne into the family and were even more delighted when grandchildren started to arrive. They continued to go to St Tropez in the summers, and started to spend several weeks during the winter months in Sydney although on occasion they found the very hot weather tough to cope with.
George stayed in touch with his work colleagues at Lucas through their pensioners’ club, the Cavaliers, eventually becoming its Chairman. He and Linda hosted many lunches for his old friends and colleagues.
quiet, generous and kind man, who was a pillar of support, strength and guidance
About ten years ago he was first diagnosed with the beginnings of leukaemia, and he began chemo treatment at UCH some five years ago. He was an exemplary patient and whenever any of us went with him for his regular injections or transfusions, we could witness how much the doctors and nursing staff respected and cared for him. He was brave, uncomplaining and incredibly patient during his treatments, which were never pleasant or pain free. Throughout, he continued to do his very best to support and look after Linda. He outlived all of the medical expectations for a man of his age, but eventually the cancer defeated him.
Spending time with him on his trips to UCH became for many of us a very valuable way to have good and memorable conversations with this quiet, generous and kind man, who was a pillar of support, strength and guidance to me and to all of his family.