Sir David Attenborough - Memories of the University of Leicester


Sir David Attenborough - Memories of the University of Leicester


Sir David Attenborough
Mary Attenborough
F.L. Attenborough
Irene Bejach
Helga Bejach
Basque refugees
University College Leicester


University of Leicester, Sir David Attenborough – Memories of the University of Leicester [YouTube], 2016 <> [accessed 15 August 2020].
An interview with Sir David Attenborough, in which he recounts memories of his family life at College House on the University College Leicester campus.


University of Leicester


University of Leicester YouTube channel


University of Leicester


1 February 2016


© University of Leicester
University of Leicester, Sir David Attenborough – Memories of the University of Leicester [YouTube], 2016 <> [accessed 15 August 2020].






United Kingdom - England - Leicester


My mother was involved in the Soroptimists, which was an early feminist movement. She became a JP – sat on the Bench Magistrate. She was involved in the Marriage Guidance Council creation. And both of them were very much involved in caring for refugees. The first ones were some Basque children. At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, when Nazi planes bombed Basque cities, including Guernica. A [younger] committees were set up in which my mother was involved, to bring children out of these bombed cities, away from the bombs.

And they came and they went to a hall [in] outside called Evington Hall. And I think about 50 of them. And I remember it was - Evington Hall was disused. I remember, going to, my mother said "you must come and help me". And we went off to Evington Hall and she rolled up her sleeves and actually started scrubbing the floors. And I fetched buckets of water […] and cleaned up the place. So the Basque children were there for some months. I can't remember quite how long they were there. But anyway, my mother was much involved in that.

And then soon after that, of course, there were Jewish refugees. And my father as the boss of the Universe College was involved in a committee to get Jewish academics out of Nazi Germany.

As a consequence of that, there's a special please came through from one of the senior doctors, civic doctors in Berlin, who was Jewish, and could, could somebody in Britain provide a home for two of his daughters? Who they could come to Britain, they could then get up a ship to go to New York and stay with their uncle, who had already escaped. And so several of them […] there had been several of these before, but these two girls eventually arrived, but that was in 1939.

And very soon after they arrived, the ship that was taking Jewish children from Britain to America was sunk by a submarine – Nazi submarine. So all sailings were stopped. And the news came through and my mother simply said to the three of us boys, “Well boys, Helga and Irene, who’ve been staying with us for a few weeks, are now going to be staying with us for some months and probably years. So you’ve got, we’ve got two new sisters. How lucky we are?” And I remember thinking ‘Well I'm not too sure whether we're lucky and all that’. But we were soon sorted out by my parents. And so Helga and Irene became very much sisters. And they stayed with us until well after the war, when they eventually did make the journey. But the families continued to know one another for the rest of their lives. They're both dead now. But that was typical of my parents.


3 minutes 40 seconds


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