WW2 Secret Agent Relates His Experiences
Bram Grisnight was twenty years old when he parachuted into German occupied Holland in September 1943. Last year, he related his experiences as a Dutch secret agent to journalist and historian Bram de Graaf and these were published in Holland. Bram’s story was so interesting that this year the book, Spion van Oranje (Spy of Orange) has been reprinted. He was one of the young men who lived and trained at ‘Glenlea’ (now Tappen House), Dulwich Common, codenamed Huize Anna, during WW2.
The book tells the story of Bram’s experiences of combat and capture and then imprisonment in Ravensbruck concentration camp. Bram, was one of the eighteen (out of 34) agents to survive the war. His mission was to liase with the Dutch underground but the Germans had detector vans that could pick up radio communication and after a gunfight he was captured.
Today he is aged 94 and still in good health. Although Bram has waited over 70 years to fully tell his story, he did, in the early 1990’s tell some of it to a Dulwich Society audience and in return the Society presented Bram with a watercolour of ‘Glenlea - Huize Anna’ by local artist Audrey Macleod. The picture still hangs on the wall in Bram and his wife Ann’s house in Holland. Ann Grisnight (neé Stone) was a former JAGS girl, who, as a sixth former, met Bram while he was at Glenlea. They were re- united after the end of the war and married at Emmanuel Church, West Dulwich.
There was great public consternation at the removal of the metal stretcher railings on the Dog Kennel Hill and other Southwark estates, possibly because attention had been drawn to them when Brian Green was interviewed about their historical significance by BBC London News only a few months before. The peacetime use of the stretchers, which had been used by Civil Defence during WW2 for air-raid victims, as railings, was an ingenious piece of re-cycling in a period of great austerity. However, over the 70 years since they were fitted many of the stretchers had rusted and been replaced with copies.
In the restoration of the pre-war Dog Kennel Hill Estate the railings have been removed and will be replaced with modern ones. The residents were consulted on this in 2013 and it was agreed that a short run of the original stretcher railings would be restored and retained. These will be fitted on the walls in Quorn Road, the site of an air raid during the Blitz in September 1940 which resulted in many deaths and casualties. The Dulwich Society placed a memorial plaque to the civilians killed there, on the railings. This plaque will be fitted to the restored railings together with an information board about the use of the stretchers during WW2.
Dulwich Estate CEO to retire
John Major’s announcement of his retirement at the end of the year as Chief Executive of The Dulwich Estate follows the completion of a number of the Estate’s development projects. These include the new pavilion at the Herne Hill Velodrome, the Half Moon Hotel, the Crown & Greyhound, and the doctors’ surgery, shops and flats at the former Dairy Site in Croxted Road.
John has been Chief Executive since January 2003 - the first non-surveyor to hold the post. Under his leadership, the value of the Charity has nearly tripled to over £300 million. During this period, the annual income distribution to the Beneficiaries increased from £4 million to almost £7 million.
He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales and after qualifying in 1977, he worked abroad in the Cayman Islands and Hong Kong. On returning to the UK in the mid-1990s, he joined a ground handling company operating at airports throughout Europe, spending two years in Madrid and then, from the UK, oversaw operations in Europe. He has two grown-up daughters (one of whom lives in Australia) and a grandson. John, who lives in West Norwood hopes to assist a charity in his retirement.
The Never Ending Game
Four friends from their schooldays at Dulwich College, now approaching their fiftieth birthdays, continue to play the fantasy role playing game Dungeons and Dragons they started when they were 12 years old! One series ran from 2000-2009 amounting to 68 monthly sessions, the next from 2009 to 2015 which reached 65 sessions and the ‘game in progress’ from 2015 has reached 25 sessions. The second series was set in Parsantium, the city created by Richard Green and published as a role-play source book by Ondine Publishing.
Restaurants in Dulwich and TripAdvisor
In the last issue we bemoaned the fact that Dulwich, East Dulwich, Herne Hill, Peckham and Crystal Palace make up what can only be described as a culinary desert as far as TripAdvisor is concerned. TripAdvisor’s score depends on the number of favourable reviews it receives. Susan Badman, our Secretary says, “Basically customers in Dulwich need to get reviewing and putting up reviews of local restaurants on TripAdvisor and Hardens.”
It was not always like this. Older members will recall Chez Nico back in 1976 in Lordship Lane. Fantastic food - but when the restaurant was ‘discovered, the outside menu was taken down and a notice was inserted in the frame. “We do not serve prawn cocktails, steak well-done and we only serve lamb pink - if you want to see our menu, read the reviews”. The owner-chef, Nico Ladenis (born 1934) of Greek extraction soon abandoned Dulwich and went on to win three Michelin stars in 1995, by which time he had opened a number of restaurants under the Nico brand including the Grosvenor House Hotel. He was famous for erupting from his kitchen and berating a customer on the receipt of a complaint.
Nico handed back his stars in 1999 stating that “you cannot fool around in a restaurant if you have three stars and I want to make it more relaxed.”
Sadly, there is no Nico Ladenis in the Dulwich area today.
Lloyds Bank West Dulwich Closure
Online banking has succeeded in doing what the bombs and V1’s of WW2 did not manage to do - close Lloyds Bank in West Dulwich (see photo opposite). A decline in the number of people using the bank caused the branch to close in September. It issued an explanation which showed that 6% fewer customers were using the branch compared with 12 months earlier and that the branch had 52% fewer customers than a typical Lloyds Bank branch. Only 12 customers used it on a weekly basis and 239 on a monthly basis. However, for business customers the branch enjoyed 7% more counter transactions than other typical branches. The profile of the ages of its personal customers reveals that 28% were aged up to 34; 39% aged 35-54; 33% aged over 55.
Music for Advent
The excellent DULWICH CHAMBER CHOIR, conductor Richard Mayo, will perform Handel's MESSIAH on Sunday 3rd DECEMBER, 7pm, Christ's Chapel, Dulwich, SE21 7DG Tickets on the door: £20, £15 concessions
Dulwich Christmas Cards
Two new designs of Dulwich scenes on Christmas cards are on sale at the Art Stationers, Dulwich Village. A water colour of the Village by Avril Sleeman and the winter scene photograph of Dulwich Park reproduced on the cover of this Journal. The popular Dulwich Scenes 2018 calendar is also available.
A Villager’s Notebook
WW2 Secret Agent Relates His Experiences