One of Tim’s grandchildren, Rory Chambers, is a photographer – and here are some of the images he took during the event:
I learned many things from my father, Tim. But the last lesson was not to have a funeral – but instead to let the dust settle and then have a wonderful memorial service. In his case, it was a service conducted by The Venerable Ray Pentland CB, Honorary Chaplain to the Battle of Britain Fighter Association. He did the service with a twinkle in his eye and some delightful situational humour. Perfect. Tim would have loved it.
Representing HRH The Prince of Wales and the Chief of Air Staff was Air Vice Marshal Simon Ellard, Air Officer Commanding No 38 Group. The honour guard bore the Standard of No 1 Squadron, with which Tim was serving when he was shot down in August 1940.
And representing his later time in Russia were nine nonogeneraian Russian veterans of the ‘Great Patriotic War’, a time when the Soviet Union was our ally – and Tim went around to Murmansk, both as a CAM shipfighter pilot and to teach the Russians to fly Hurricanes. And fly with them. The photo on the Order of Service dates back to that time.
Despite ongoing tensions with Vladimir Putin, these extraordinary people were spontaneously applauded into the church, which was dressed with glorious floral arrays by our daughter Gaia.
Rather than have one eulogy, we offered a 5-part tribute, with me kicking off, then Gray, then Tessa (who accompanied Tim on so many of his diplomatic adventures over the years, notably the trip to Russia with Princess Anne), then Lydia Elkington (Gray’s daughter) and finally Gil Chambers (Tessa’s oldest son), reading one of Caroline’s poems, this one about Tim’s wife of 70-plus years, Pat.
This was followed by an appreciation of Tim and his generation of Battle of Britain pilots by Dilip Sarkar, who has published extensively on the period, by Churchill’s account our finest hour.
Our daughter Hania later added a further brilliant facet to our collective portrayal during the reception in the garden of Cottor’s Barn, next door to Hill House, where the Chambers have periodically roosted for many years. She told one of the defining stories of Tim’s life as a father, grandfather and then, with Hania and Jake’s son Gene, great-grandfather. He taught many of us to drive, in the old Landrover up on Little Rissington airfield – and he taught us to shoot, shotguns, air rifles, bows and arrows. When it came to teaching Gaia to shoot a rifle, he chose to do so in his huge greenhouse out behind the barn.
Gaia: “What if I miss?” Tim: “Don’t!“
The music included Elegy on the RAF March, two hymns (Morning has Brokenand Lord of all Hopefulness), a wonderful a cappella rendering, with trumpet interlude, by Gaia’s husband Paul Eros of When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano(Tim loved vocal groups like The Ink Spots and The Mills Brothers), The Last Postand Reveille played by the Royal Air Force Trumpeter, and then – playing us out of the church – Vera Lynn singing Wish Me Luck. That one really brought tears to my eyes.
But the unquestioned highlight of the Salute was the flypast by a Hurricane Mk 1, R4118 UP-W, flown by Stu Goldspink. This is the only Hurricane from the Battle of Britain that is still airborne today. He flew it across from Duxford, Cambridgeshire. Our huge thanks go to James Brown and David ‘Rats’ Ratcliffe for making that possible. The aircraft left with a final waggle of its wings as it headed back east, the Merlin engine fading into the distance as we headed into the church.
A worthy, moving and yet playful celebration of the most important man in my life – and, I suspect, in those of a fair few others.
[With huge thanks to cousin Toby Adamson, Pat’s nephew, for many of the photographs used here, and to Hill House neighbour Nick Cole, Church Warden at St Peter’s Church, for so deftly smoothing our way.]
Our cousin Toby Adamson took some pictures of some of the Russian veterans of the Great Patriotic War who came to Tim’s memorial service on May 11 2019. First those images, then one taken by our friend Nigel Palmer, together with some fragments of several of veterans’ stories he gleaned during the reception after the service:
Nigel Palmer, a friend we have known since the 1960s, representing the Palmers of Icomb, took the photo below of the group, with their poster of Tim. But he also quizzed them on their wartime experiences. The stories were extraordinary. As Nigel put it:
“The woman in the cheerful red beret joined the Partisans after her village was surrounded on the second day of the war. She was 12 years old, and served throughout the war behind the lines. She told me that she was the only person in her village who had survived the war. The other lady, as I’m sure you know, although very unlined, was the same age as your father. She came through the siege of Leningrad, 900 days of hunger and cold during which over a million people starved to death.
“The short sailor with the matelot shirt and clear blue eyes, centre-left, was on a motor torpedo boat trying to protect the convoys. At one point there was a slightly chilly breeze, and I asked if he was OK. He ripped open his jacket, showed his bare arms and apparently said ‘when you have been on a motor torpedo boat on the Barents Sea in January, you can never feel cold again.’ Amazing.”
Went across late to The Vaults in Leake Street, under Waterloo Station, to hear Jim Al-Khalili in conversation about his new book, Sun Fall, as part of the Nesta Future Fest. Bought a copy, which he signed for me. Fascinating – and who should we bump into over drinks before the session started than my old colleague and friend Jonathan Shopley and his wife Andrea, plus their daughters. Haven’t seen them for a while, but due to see Jonathan and Andrea in a few days at my father Tim’s memorial service.
A Bank Holiday it may have been for some, but Louise and I flew to Helsinki yesterday, though she didn’t get in till much later. Took part today in Neste’s annual summit, featuring speakers like the company’s CEO Peter Vanacker, Christiana Figuieres of Global Optimism and Nick Haan of Singularity University. A growing sense that we are all at a real inflection point. Then we worked with Peter, Simo Honkanen and Salla Ahonen on our new project.
The story of my recent involvement with Extinction Rebellion is told today in Ethical Corporation and on Medium. The ripple effects of the protests have been profound and will spread for some time, long after any remaining graffiti have been removed.
Across very early to Tower Hill and then on to Hermitage Wharf, downstream from Tower Bridge, to see Gavin Starks and take part in a workshop on the dock with Alan Schwartz and others (including Geoff Mulgan, Bryony Worthington, Irene Ng and Ben Cotton), exploring next steps with Alan’s Universal Commons initiative.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) have been making considerable ripples today, among other things having shut down Waterloo Bridge – just outside our Somerset House offices. I went down to talk to some of the protestors this morning, after a fantastic meeting with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency – and was blown away by their mild manners and gentility. Loved seeing children doing chalk pictures on what would normally be a very busy London thoroughfare.
No great surprise to hear that some folk, accidentally or not, have smashed a door at Shell’s HQ building on the South Bank – doors I often went through in the 1990s. Not ideal. But the truth is that the oil industry has strung out this game for too long – in a strategic process that Alex Steffen calls “predatory delay”.
Very impressed by the cover story in this weekend’s Financial Times Magazine, titled ‘Survival Tactics’. It’s behind a pay wall, but if you haven’t yet read the piece, I strongly recommend it. As the Wikipedia entry for XR notes, we must all now move well beyond our comfort zones.
I liked – and was very impressed – by XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook when she came into Volans a few weeks ago. Our missions are closely aligned – and we are looking into how we might help them build bridges, rather than blocking them, to the business world.
Covestro have launched the videos we filmed outside Essen back in January. Thank you Baratunde for making it so easy. The full range of videos can be found here. I’ve almost warmed up now. Speaking of which, take a look at the interview with Gator Halpern of Coral Vita, talking about how coral reefs are being forced out of their comfort zones – and what he’s doing to remedy that problem.
I began this blog with an entry reporting on a visit to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, on 30 September 2003. The blog element of the website has gone through several iterations since, with older material still available on this site.
Like so many things in my life, blog entries blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional. As explained on the Home Page, the website and the blog are part platform for ongoing projects, part autobiography, and part accountability mechanism.
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