Sam Beard remembers Lt Oliver Churchill
Sam Beard (1920 - 2011), see photo left, recounted many stories about life in the village of Guarlford. This one is about when he was first called up for military service during WWII and, for a short time, became Batman to Lt Oliver Churchill who was then living at Worfield House, a large Victorian gentleman's residence in Worcester Road, Great Malvern. Their paths split and Oliver Churchill was later to become a member of the wartime Special Operations Executive(SOE).
When Sam Beard passed away, the Guarlford History Group wrote a short account of Sam's life for the Parish magazine.
Here is Sam's short story:
Worfield House - Home of the Churchill Family
Worfield House, 50 Worcester Road
Worfield House in Worcester Road, Malvern, was the home of the Churchill family. I met Oliver Churchill at Norton Barracks early in 1940. He was our platoon officer and he asked me if I would be his Batman. This meant I would be paid an extra 7/6 per week, so I accepted.
Lt Churchill was an internationally known artist whose main occupation in Civvy Street was building design. He used to drive an SS Lagonda motor car and would give me a lift home from Norton Barracks as far as Newland. I lived at Madresfield at this time. I walked to his home in Malvern from Madresfield to get a lift back to Norton Barracks. When I arrived at his house I saw an open patch of ground at the side, I made my way along this area looking for the back door. I was met by a young French maid who came up from the lower area at the rear; I told her I was looking for Mr Churchill's back door and she escorted me to some steps where I was told to wait while she informed Mrs Churchill. She came back to me saying I was to go to the front door. At the front door I was met by Mrs Churchill, I could see there was a party going on in the house. She asked me to come in and I entered an imposing room with an enormous crystal chandelier. There was a large gathering of ladies and gentlemen; the ladies in exquisite jewellery and gowns and the men in evening suits were smoking fine cigars. I was clad only in my army battledress complete with shining boots and gaiters.
Mrs Churchill welcomed me and gave me a drink, I refused the proffered cigar. I was introduced to the assembled party and was finally left with Lt Churchill's group. I remained with this group for the rest of the evening not daring to say much. I was well supplied with wine and sandwiches. Mrs Churchill joined the group and coaxed me into conversation asking pertinent questions that I could not avoid answering.
The time came to leave, Mrs Churchill saw us to the door and instructed 'Do not forget, next time come to the front door, Beard'.
Unfortunately an order was made that junior officers must share one Batman between six of them. Before I left his service Lt Churchill asked if I had a job to go to when the war was over. He said he would need a chauffeur/valet that was prepared to travel world wide. He was posted out and I never heard of him again. The whole family left Malvern.
The elder son Peter (Oliver's brother) was a leader of the French Maquis, and married Odette (of the film Carve her name with Pride fame) the famous British Agent. Yet, Malvern has no plaque to honour this courageous man.
I will never forget the kindness that was shown to me a mere Private in the British Army, this of course reflects the standards of the true British gentry.
Sadly there are few of the British Gentry remaining; they are in decline much like all that was once good about Britain. Maybe if Peter Churchill had been a musician he would have received the recognition he deserved from Malvern.
9th December 2005
More about the Churchill family
Stevens Street Directory records that in 1940 Worfield House, now 50 Worcester Road, was the home of retired art historian and diplomat William Algernon Churchill (1865 - 1947) whose three sons served with distinction in the Second World War.
Sam Beard (now deceased) recounted to the Guarlford History Group that in 1940, Worfield House had been the home of Lt William Oliver Churchill, and his wife. Sam became his Batman and Oliver would drive him to Norton Barracks in his Lagonda SS. After he was posted out Sam never heard from him again, but we now know that Oliver joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) serving in Italy and survived WWII. You will find an account on Wikipedia.
His brother Group Captain Walter Myers Churchill DSO DFC served with the RAF and was sadly killed in action in Sicily in 1942. He had started the engineering firm Churchill Components in 1937, based in Coventry, to supply parts for aero engines, but in 1941 the factory had to relocate to Market Bosworth, because of the bombing. The company trades today as JJ Churchill
Oliver's brother Peter Morland Churchill also served with the SOE in France; despite being captured by the Nazis he survived WWII and after the war married the SOE agent Odette, who was the subject of a film of the same name made in 1950. A distinguished family.
Sam was born at a time when there was still a social divide between the working classes and the gentry in Malvern, and this comes across in his account.
Research by Angus and Rosemary McCulloch
Last updated 8th April 2018