All posts by Barry Linfield

The Linfields of Southern Africa – Part 1

My cousin, Bill Linfield, of Harare, Zimbabwe, joined the Group last summer when he and his wife, Merle, visited us. I asked Bill if he would write an article on his branch of the family, which he has kindly done. It follows this introduction. However, Bill is a modest man and has not included much about himself, so I have taken the liberty of trying to rectify the situation.

Bill’s father, Roy, was my father’s brother and I first met Bill in the 1950s when he came to Europe as a teenager. However, I did not get to know him properly until my wife and I together with my two daughters, Kate and Caroline, stayed with him and his wife in Zimbabwe on holiday in 1992. We had a tremendous time, particularly as Bill flew us by light aircraft to many places throughout the country. One such flight took us over Victoria Falls and I can say that this was of the greatest experiences of my lifetime.

However, I digress. Bill himself was born and brought up largely in Zimbabwe and was one of the few locals to join the British South Africa Police, as it was then known, in the 1950s. Most recruits came out from the UK. He rose to be a Superintendent (I believe) and one of his jobs was Protection Officer to Ian Smith during the time he declared UDI in the 1960s. Bill learned to fly whilst in the Police so when he retired, prior to Independence, he took up flying as a career. He now works for a multi-national construction company, flying people all over Africa. He is also Commandant of the Police Air Wing in Zimbabwe which is a volunteer force who assists the Regulars with problems such as game poaching.

Recently, Bill took delivery of a new aircraft for his employers but had to collect it in Germany. He and the aircraft’s former owner then flew it from Germany to Zimbabwe, landing in various out of the way places en route. I think this would be a good subject for another article!

Both Bill’s sons are successful farmers, however they live with the constant threat of the loss of their property if President Mugabe pursues his declared policy of breaking up large acreage and redistributing it.

Full Circle

My great great grandfather, WILLIAM LINFIELD (1822-1892), moved to Worthing from Croydon in the 1850s. I imagine that the south coast was becoming a booming area in those days, shortly after the railways had been built.

He had three sons and a daughter, and I am descended from the youngest son, FREDERICK CAESAR (1861-1939), who became Mayor of Worthing in 1906-1908. He was mentioned, with the rest of his family, in Malcolm’s recent article on the typhoid epidemic in Worthing.

F C Linfield had two sons and two daughters. Sadly the daughters died in infancy but the two sons, W F and H J, survived and both served in World War I. My great grandfather, F C Linfield, had political ambitions and unsuccessfully stood as a Liberal candidate in Horncastle on two occasions. He eventually became MP for Mid Bedfordshire in 1922. Because of these ambitions F C Linfield, together with his eldest son and family, moved to the London area around 1916. I am not sure whether this move was entirely due to politics or whether F C Linfield’s business interests were not going well. He lived in a large house in Worthing which my father said was called The Grange but I believe it was known later as Woodside.

When they moved to London they took a house in Balham. My great grandparents lived upstairs and my grandparents with their three children lived downstairs, in somewhat smaller accommodation than The Grange.

My grandfather, W F LINFIELD, married MARY ROY in 1909 and they also lived in Worthing where their three children, FREDERICK ROY, PHILIP CAESAR (my father) and PAULINE MARY were born in 1910, 1911 and 1916.

I believe my grandfather worked for his father in the family business whilst they were still in Worthing. But when he came home from World War I he went into the restaurant business on his own account. Originally one restaurant was opened which provided hot lunches for office workers in London and this was followed by a second. My grandfather’s brother, Uncle Jack, came up from Worthing with his family to run this. Unfortunately, probably due to the Depression, the business failed and my grandfather had to get a job with the London County Council. My grandmother also went to work as the restaurant manageress of Selfridges. Presumably she had picked up the required skills in the family restaurant! Due to the failure of their own business my grandparents were very keen for their children to gain secure employment and my father was persuaded to join the Midland Bank in 1928. Around this time my father met Lloyd George at a dinner he attended with his grandfather.

His brother, Roy, was more adventurous and joined the Merchant Navy. I believe F C Linfield’s father-in-law had been a mariner so perhaps it was in the blood! Roy’s career at sea did not last long, probably due to the aftermath of the Depression. He then joined the British South African (Rhodesian) Police and went to live there of course. However he soon fell out with his superiors because he wanted to marry and they refused permission. He did marry though and left the service. I am not sure what he did in South Africa at this time but he and his wife, Alice, had two children, Pauline and Bill, born in 1938 and 1939. Roy joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war and obtained a commission straight away due to his Merchant Navy training.

My father’s career in the bank proceeded without any mishaps and he married my mother, Joyce, in 1937. She was the daughter of a prominent local shopkeeper, William Chapman, and my father went to school with her brother. When they were married my parents went to live in Purley only a stone’s throw from Croydon, the town my great great grandfather had left nearly a century before, although I do not think they realised this at the time. Purley was chosen because new houses were being built there and my parents liked that particular location. My sister, Christine, was born in 1939 and my great grandfather F C died aged 78 years in that year too.

Shortly after the outbreak of war my father joined the Royal Navy as an ordinary seaman and after initial training was put on a convoy going to South Africa! Here he was able to meet Roy’s wife and family who were living in Durban together with some of my mother’s relatives. I think he found South Africa a marvellous place after wartime Britain with its shortages. His ship returned via Egypt where luckily he was able to meet Roy for the last time in Alexandria. Shortly after, Roy’s minesweeper went missing. My father always believed it was a victim of a submarine. Just before Roy’s death and my father’s trip to Africa my grandfather died of natural causes at home. So you can imagine how my grandmother must have felt when she lost her eldest son too.

In Egypt my father’s ship collected prisoners of war and on the way home to England they rioted armed with kitchen cutlery. Fortunately the incident was put down quickly. After his return from Africa my father was sent to King Alfred at Hove to train as an officer. He was commissioned shortly afterwards and went onto minesweepers, initially as a navigator and later his own command. During this time he went to Iceland where he bought some chickens (oven ready) and some curtains, presumably my mother had given him instructions! Food was easy to transport as his ship was a converted trawler with a freezer!

D-Day saw my father stationed in Weymouth with orders to sweep the American beaches just before they landed. My mother and sister were allowed to go down and visit him just beforehand. On his return to Weymouth, after carrying out the required sweeping and picking up some wounded Americans, he was told that they did not have a berth for him as they had not expected him to return!

After this he went back to his old base, Harwich, and saw the rest of the war out minesweeping round the British coast. Some of his colleagues went to Germany in 1945 but his old coal burner could not make it. He told me one of the flotilla’s ships came back from Germany with a Mercedes car on the deck and enough carpet for an entire house. My father’s only souvenir was a name board made for our house out of

the timber of his ship when it was broken up in 1946. Our house was called Little Grange, after my great grandfather’s Worthing house. My father returned to the bank and I was born in 1947. Apart from having me it must have been a bit of a culture shock, having had his own ship, to go back to being a bank cashier. The pay was a lot less too. My father did try to stay in the Navy but they were not interested. He managed to serve in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve though and thoroughly enjoyed his two weeks naval training each year.

His sister, Pauline, who I have only briefly mentioned, worked originally for the Daily Herald up to and during the War and then went to South Africa where she worked for the South African Argus as a journalist. She returned to the UK with my grandmother in 1952 and worked for the Argus in London. She remained in Britain until she died in 1986 having never married.

My father eventually became a bank manager in the 1960s and was a keen Rotarian and Member of the Chambers of Commerce in the Merton and Cheam areas. He was also Chairman of the Board of Governors of Merton Technical College. He retired in 1971 and died soon afterwards in 1978.

After my father’s death my sister and I kept in touch with our Uncle Roy’s family in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and in 1992 my wife, two children and I went for a superb holiday in Zimbabwe as guests of my cousin Bill.

I digress though as the point of this story is that back in 1976, having spent all my life in the Croydon area, I relocated to Worthing with the company I was employed by. By chance I returned to the town my great grandparents had left sixty years earlier. What I did not know then was that I had retraced my great great grandfather’s journey when he went to the south coast one hundred and twenty years earlier.