Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Children Of Katharine Livingston Timpson: Helen Rosamund Timpson


Rosamund as a young woman

This is the fifth in a series of five blogs that will explore the life of Katharine Livingston Livingston Timpson’s children. If Katharine was Clermont’s forgotten daughter, her children are the forgotten grandchildren. Whereas Katharine’s sisters Janet and Honoria had no children, Katharine had five children. They lived their lives aware of their Livingston legacy but free to pursue lives outside of the Hudson Valley. I owe a tremendous debt to Robert Timpson, one of Katharine’s grandsons, for the information he has provided on his father and his father’s brothers and sisters. Also, to Yanni Moller, a great-grandson of Katharine’s who has also provided a great deal of information on that generation.

Helen Rosamund Timpson was born, along with her twin brother John Alastair, in 1915 at Woodstock House on the ground of Blenheim Palace. She was tutored alongside her brother by their Flemish nurse, Zelly. Rosamund developed a love of the French language.

Rosamund developed a love of gardening at young age. She spent much of her youth at Appleton Manor., the house her mother had purchased and renovated toward the end of her life. Rosamund was deeply fascinated by the work being done on the house. The house contained elements as old as 1190 C.E. and further additions and modifications from the 16th and 17th century.

She lost her mother at the age of 17 and her father when she was 21. This seems to have instilled a bit of an independent streak in Rosamund. She traveled to America three times. In 1936 she sailed alone on the Europa and in 1938 she sailed alone on the Queen Mary. In 1937 she sailed on the Berengaria with her brother Alastair to attend the wedding of her brother Robert.

When World War II broke out Rosamund joined the Red Cross. She was first assigned to the Lord Chamberlain’s office. This was the central clearing house for information on wounded, captured and missing British soldiers. When her brother Theodore was captured at Calais, it was at first thought he was killed in battle. Rosamund was able to use her position to find that he was captured and spread the news to her family. Her experience in at the office would have given her a deep understanding of the brutal war her brothers were fighting in.

She was later assigned to a hospital for wounded soldiers who had been returned to England. Here she met Jean Cellerier, a French speaking Swiss national of Huguenot descent. They married in 1946 after the war ended and had one daughter Louise.

Rosamund's tea plantation in Kenya

The family moved to Kenya where Rosamund ran a tea plantation in the White Highlands near Nairobi, an area set aside for European settlers. Rosamund and her daughter Louise learned to speak the local language, Kiswahili. They lived in Kenya during troubled times. Between 1952 and 1960 the Mau-Mau Uprising saw various Kenyan tribes unite to fight the British army and colonists in their country. During this time Rosamund frequently kept a loaded pistol close to hand including keeping it in the soap dish when she was bathing. The reservation of the White Highlands for Europeans ended in 1961 and the government forced the sale of the tea plantation. The family bought a cattle farm in Kenya, which Rosamund largely ran, but in 1963 they were again forced to move when Kenya won its independence from Britain. They left Kenya for Rhodesia.

Rhodesia was also facing turbulent times. In 1965 their government issued the Unilateral Declaration of Independence. The white minority government of the country declared themselves independent from British government. This was in direct conflict with the British decolonization policy of leaving their colonies independent with majority rule. The British government and the United Nations refused to recognize the UDI government. Nevertheless. the UDI government continued to rule until 1979 then an agreed upon settlement saw a brief period of direct British rule followed by the country becoming independent and majority ruled as Zimbabwe. Its not clear when Rosamund left Rhodesia/Zimbabwe but it may have been as late as the end of the UDI government in 1979.

In Gillitts, Durban, South Africa she created a market garden farm, selling fruits and vegetables to consumers. Jean died in 1972 and Rosamund continued to keep herself busy in business. She co-ran a hotel called the Lord Milner in Matjiesfontein. The hotel had started life as a health resort for Europeans suffering from respiratory ailments. By the time Rosamund joined the hotel it was a place where visitors could experience a true Victorian throwback hotel experience, about three hours outside of Cape Town. The hotel is still in operation.

Rosamund in 1969

Rosamund maintained a keen interest in many things outside the hotel as well. She was interested in gardening, world affairs and cricket. She attended church once a week. Even though she was unqualified she acted as the pastor of the chapel in Matjiesfontein.

Rosamund passed away in 2004 and is buried in South Africa. She was a strong woman who had led her family through many difficult situations. She sent spectacular Christmas cards to her family every year featuring photos of the stunning landscapes that she lived in or the beautiful animals who inhabited the land with her. She never lost faith in her own abilities to start over and succeed, which she had to do many times.   

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Children of Katharine Livingston Livingston Timpson: John Alastair Timpson


Alastair rowing on an African lake during an R & R leave. Note the bandages on his hands covering blisters from his work in the desert. 

This is the fourth in a series of five blogs that will explore the life of Katharine Livingston Livingston Timpson’s children. If Katharine was Clermont’s forgotten daughter, her children are the forgotten grandchildren. Whereas Katharine’s sisters Janet and Honoria had no children, Katharine had five children. They lived their lives aware of their Livingston legacy but free to pursue lives outside of the Hudson Valley. I owe a tremendous debt to Robert Timpson, one of Katharine’s grandsons, for the information he has provided on his father and his father’s brothers and sisters. Also, to Yanni Moller, a great-grandson of Katharine’s who has also provided a great deal of information on that generation.

Woodstock House

John Alastair Timpson and his twin sister Rosamund were born at Woodstock House on the grounds of Blenheim Palace in 1915. They would be the last children of Katharine Timpson and her husband Lawrence Timpson. The children had a Flemish nurse who cared for them deeply. Zelly, taught the children French and some Flemish which eventually allowed Alastair to become fluent in German as well, a skill that would come in handy later in his life. As they grew older they spent time at their mother’s house, Appleton Manor in England but frequently visited a holiday cottage Katharine had purchased in Coq Sur Mer called Beguinage.

At the age of 13 Alastair entered Eton and upon finishing his studies there attended Trinity College, Cambridge University. He achieved notable athletic success while at Trinity, in rowing, riding, and skiing. Perhaps his greatest athletic feat came in 1936 when he ran from Cambridge to London and back in 23 hours and 2 minutes, a distance of 106 miles. He won several bets which added up to nearly £250, which would be roughly $25,000 today. According to the Canberra Times his last refreshment along the way was an iced orange squash, a concentrated fruit juice often mixed with alcohol although it can be, and most likely was in this case, mixed with water to make a refreshing drink. 

An example of a Railton similar to the one Alastair drove 

His college years were not all positive though. His mother died when he was 17 followed by his father when he was 21. Perhaps feeling a bit untethered from his home and family with the death of his parents, Alastair left Cambridge in 1936 and bought a Railton. He traveled through Europe and North Africa. He also tried to strike it rich gold mining in South Africa. In 1940 he married Phoebe Houston-Boswell, with whom he would have four children, Nicholas, Gerald, Rupert, and Veronica.
Alastair's children at Christmas 1953


Alastair was made a captain of the Scots Guards and volunteered for service in the Long-Range Desert Group. During the war patrols of approximately 20 men would operate behind enemy lines, observing the German and Italian movements and reporting them to their headquarters. They occasionally engaged in sabotage or ambushes as well. It should be noted that his soldier-servant at this time was Thomas Wann, formerly the goalkeeper for the Aberdeen Wanderers.

In the days before GPS the LRDG navigated with celestial instruments
Alastair and his men’s job during 1941 was incredibly dangerous. They met it with a sense of humor as when Alastair took his first ride in the group’s plane, an unarmed WACO I. He loaded his pistol in case defense was necessary at which point the navigator turned to him and shouted “Don’t shoot the pilot. He’s doing his best!”

Alastair (r) with a corporal of the LRDG

Humor aside, the mission of the Long-Range Patrol Group also took a tremendous grit. They travelled hundreds of miles through the desert with temperatures bottoming out at 0°F at night and rising to 120°F during the day. Scorpions and other animals that loved to bite or sting unsuspecting soldiers. They traversed sand dunes that were nearly impossible to read. Alastair once fractured his skull when his jeep drove over a dune that dropped sharply away on the other side. His soldier servant, Wann was paralyzed for the rest of his life.

Thomas Wann in Alastair's jeep prior to the accident that would paralyze him. You can also get a sense, based on his size, of why Alastair jokingly referred to him in his memoir as his "quarter-ton soldier servant."

Even though they did their best to remain camouflaged they were occasionally forced to engage in fire fights with German or Italian soldiers. Men were killed. Men were captured. On one occasion Alastair and another solider found themselves in the camp of a group of Bedouins who had allied themselves with the Germans. Alastair pretended to be a German officer, using his fluency in German that his lessons with Zelly had allowed him to gain, to prevent being taken prisoner. Another time while doing a road watch to count German vehicles a large section of the German Army set up camp around a bush Alastair and another soldier were hiding in. They attempted to slip away in the dark but were spotted. As they ran the Germans fired at them and Alastair and the other soldier were separated. By hiding and running through a wadi Alastair was able to make it to his rendezvous point in time to prevent any more soldiers from heading toward the German camp. The next day Alastair took a jeep out by himself and rescued the soldier who had been separated from him the night before.
The LRDG on the move across hard sand. Often their tire tracks were followed by German or Italian planes and led to bombings or straffings if they could not hide quick enough. 

After a year in the LRDG   Alastair returned as a company commander to the Scots Guards. On April 25, 1943 he was wounded by an Italian hand grenade. He recovered from that wound in time to take part in the Invasion of Salerno. After two months of fighting the Scots Guards had suffered thirty-seven officers wounded including 16 killed. At the Battle of Monte Camino, Alastair was wounded again. On the night of November 11-12, 1943 an artillery shell landed a direct hit on Alastair’s company headquarters. Several men were killed, and several were severely wounded. Alastair would spend the next six months in hospitals before he recovered enough to be sent home. His war was over as shrapnel left his right arm nearly useless. Alastair was awarded the Military Cross, England’s third highest military medal, for his service in the army.

After the war Alastair engaged in several financial ventures as a stockbroker and travelled extensively. One business trip took him to Beirut for the company Cazenove, where he was attempting to set up a Beirut stock market. Unfortunately, the Suez Crisis, during which Israel, Great Britain and France invaded Egypt, made British citizens unwelcome and he had to leave quickly. He owned a large house called Great Waltham in England at this time.

Alastair married Aline Hunter Blair in 1964. Together they moved to Chelsea. When Alastair retired, they moved to the village of Castle Combe in the Cotswolds. Alastair loved to garden and spend time with his family.

Perhaps it was his many brushes with death during the war or perhaps it was a character feature deeply ingrained in him, but Alastair was a tremendously caring man.  During the war, he was offered several jobs that would have kept him relatively safe but consistently chose to stay with his men. This extended to his family after the war. He was infinitely compassionate, encouraging and embracing of his family.

Alastair died in 1997 at the age of 82.



N.B. Alastair left behind a manuscript detailing his service in the LRDG which was published posthumously as In Rommel’s Backyard: A Memoir of The Long Range Desert Group. Edited by Andrew Gibson-Watt.

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Children of Katharine Livingston Livingston Timpson: Robert Clermont Livingston Timpson

This is the third in a series of five blogs that will explore the life of Katharine Livingston Livingston Timpson’s children. If Katharine was Clermont’s forgotten daughter, her children are the forgotten grandchildren. Whereas Katharine’s sisters Janet and Honoria had no children, Katharine had five children. They lived their lives aware of their Livingston legacy but free to pursue lives outside of the Hudson Valley. I owe a tremendous debt to Robert Timpson, one of Katharine’s grandsons, for the information he has provided on his father and his father’s brothers and sisters.

Bob as a school boy

Robert Clermont Livingston Timpson was the third child of Lawrence Timpson and Katharine Livingston Timpson. Born in 1908, it is believed that his parents gave him such a historic name as a way to stake out a claim on Katharine’s right to inherit Clermont and possibly to spite Katharine’s new stepmother Alice. Robert was of course the name of generations of Livingston men including Robert the first Lord of Livingston Manor, Robert, the builder of Clermont, Robert the Judge, who helped to host the Stamp Act Congress and built the first gunpowder mill in New York and Robert the Chancellor, who helped to draft the Declaration of Independence. Clermont, of course, had a double meaning. It was the name of the house but also the name of Katharine’s grandfather who had given the house to her in his will before she sold it to her father for $1.

Blenheim Palace

Bob, as he was known, was the first of the Timpson children born in England. He grew up at Woodstock House on the grounds of Blenheim Palace. He was educated at Eton where he won athletic competitions in swimming, running, and rowing. Also, a very clever young man, Bob won the Eton Physics Prize.

Woodstock House

For college Bob came to America to study at Harvard. Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised Lawrence Timpson in a letter that his son, James, a year older than Bob, would look out for the Timpson boy on campus. Bob graduated Harvard Phi Beta Kappa in Physics.

After graduation, Bob chose to pursue a career in business rather than science. He began his work on Wall Street and after a few years married, Elizabeth Johnson Hutton, the daughter of the owner of W.E. Hutton and Company, a large brokerage firm on Wall Street. He was later made managing partner of the firm. Bob and Elizabeth had three children together: Sarah Livingston Timpson, Lawrence Livingston Timpson, and Robert Clermont Livingston Timpson Jr. (who has provided so much help and information for these blogs)

When World War II began, he spent evenings in 1940 and 1941 listening to the radio's grim reports from Europe, knowing that both his brothers were in combat in the British Army.  In October 1940, before Pearl Harbor, he registered with the Draft Board, but after Pearl Harbor in 1941, he applied to the Navy like many gentlemen.  But then he got a call from an Army General who had combed the Harvard files and found that Bob had a background in electronic echo ranging, the physics that underlies radar.  He was promised a Captain's commission, although when he entered active duty in April 1942, four months after Pearl Harbor, he found himself a 2nd Lieutenant Radar Officer, 1st Fighter Command, posted to Mitchel Army Air Force Field on Long Island, which was the headquarters for the defense of the U.S. East Coast.  In October 1943 he was promoted to the rank of Major.  His duties used his talents in physics, meeting with very smart scientists at MIT and in Washington, trips to climb mountains up and down the East Coast to explore the best locations for radar towers, and eventually building and staffing 26 of them.  One was sited atop Green (Cadillac) Mountain on his beloved Mount Desert Island.  Not bad duty. 

A map of the radar coverage of the East coast

Defending the U.S. from a German attack might have been improbable since German planes could not fly roundtrip that far (3800 miles to New York), but Germany had been planning to build aircraft carriers (never completed), or they might have made a “morale symbolic” one-way bombing flight (just as the U.S. had done in reverse with the famous Doolittle Tokyo Raid), supposedly to build spirits in Germany and damage them in America.  After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor without warning,  the U.S military was obviously sensitive both militarily and politically, and took every possible step to build impenetrable defenses.   

His wife Elizabeth said that this was the happiest time of his life, and that his friend Arthur Omberg of Bendix had always said he should have stayed in high-tech work. Elizabeth was a hero in her own right. With the UK facing food shortages during the war and after she was known to pack cartons of canned goods and ship them to the Timpsons in England who found themselves in need. The Timpsons suffered less than many of English people but the help from America was certainly welcome.

After he completed the radar network, he knew that his posting had had little hardship and no combat and was very aware of his brothers' very brave front-line service.  For whatever reason, in 1944 he volunteered for a mission to New Guinea and the Northern Solomon Islands.  He embarked in a twin-engine C-47 flying at an altitude below 10,000 feet, bouncing through turbulent weather. Crossing the U.S the plane stopped at Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Kansas City, Wichita, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Boulder City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  Crossing the Pacific was twice that distance and entailed 3 days of island-hopping. 

In New Guinea, conditions were tough, very hot and very humid, with limited fresh water for bathing or laundry and frequent fungus infections, but the mission was important and had been commissioned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff:  to find out why U.S. planes were being shot down by friendly fire despite IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) equipment which was supposed to identify them as friendly. Robert found out the problem and that was addressed, but he was also asked to evaluate some captured Japanese radars, and to scout out some Japanese-occupied islands about their defenses.  For these missions his plane came under enemy fire, and so he received a commendation for exceptional service.


After the war he bought and moved into Grasmere which had been built by Richard Montgomery and Janet Livingston Montgomery shortly before the Revolutionary War started. At Grasmere Bob lived with his second wife Louise Clews who had been married to the Duke of Argyle previously. She retained the title of Duchess of Argyle when she divorced him but had to give up the title when she married Bob. Bob also started his own business on Wall Street, Robert Timpson and Company.

Bob Timpson in 1954 wearing his Eton tie

During his time at Grasmere Bob was only a short distance from Clermont but he remained distant from Alice. Only rarely visiting her. He was better acquainted with his aunts Janet and Honoria.  

Bob’s marriage to the former Duchess lasted about a decade before it came apart. Louise kept Grasmere and Bob moved to South Africa. He married a third and final time to Hilles Morris. In 1964 Bob suffered a great tragedy when his brother Theodore, who was visiting from England, drowned while the two were swimming together.

After a decade in South Africa Bob moved to Southampton, Long Island, New York. He retired from business in the late 1970’s. He passed away at the age of 80 in 1988 survived by his wife Hilles and his three children. He is buried at Tivoli at the St Paul’s Church, down the road from Clermont, in a grave next to his father Lawrence Timpson and his grandfather John Henry Livingston

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Children of Katharine Livingston Livingston Timpson: Katherine Livingston Timpson


This is the second in a series of five blogs that will explore the life of Katharine Livingston Livingston Timpson’s children. If Katharine was Clermont’s forgotten daughter, her children are the forgotten grandchildren. Whereas Katharine’s sisters Janet and Honoria had no children, Katharine had five children. They lived their lives aware of their Livingston legacy but free to pursue lives outside of the Hudson Valley. I owe a tremendous debt to Robert Timpson, one of Katharine’s grandsons, for the information he has provided on his father and his father’s brothers and sisters. For this blog I also owe a debt to Yanni Moller, Kay’s grandson, who provided a tremendous amount of information on his grandmother.

Kay Timpson

Katherine (Kay) Livingston Timpson was the second child of Lawrence Timpson and Katharine Livingston Livingston Timpson and their first daughter. She was born in 1903 and like her brother Theodore spent the first few years of her life at Maizeland in Rhinebeck. She was three when her parents moved the family to England.

Kay was raised as a proper English girl although as she grew up, she continued to see herself as an American. She lived with her family at Woodstock House on the grounds of Blenheim Palace. As a teenager she was a frequent visitor to the Palace where it was hoped she would marry the eldest son and heir of the Duke of Marlborough, this marriage was not to be though.

Kay with her pony, Daisy

Kay grew into a tall girl with pale skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. She was also very charming. She was presented to the King of England at the age of 19. He commented on how charming she was only to receive a stiff rebuke from his wife. This was followed by a full London season where she was introduced to a number of eligible young bachelors.

Kay as she was presented to the King

Kay’s family frequently vacationed at the seashore, particularly Woolacombe beach, but she much preferred when they visited London. Kay had grown very fond of theater and opera. Eventually the love developed into a desire to perform herself. She performed at the Oxford Playhouse under the name Katherine Livingston.

Kay at Woolacombe Beach

After her time at the Playhouse she moved to Paris for three years. Already fluent in French, she learned Russian from the many White Russians who had fled to Paris to escape the Russian Revolution. She became so fluent that during the Cold War she was placed under police surveillance. Paris at the time was also the home to several expatriate Americans, the lost generation, who used between war Paris as their muse. These included painters and writers, like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. With her love of literature and art Kay would have fit right in, although there is no evidence she spent time in such lofty company.

Kay as an adult

From Paris she moved to Florence having already visited at least once while her grandfather John Henry Livingston was living there with his third wife Alice and their two daughter Janet and Honoria. She modernized her home outside of Florence and immersed herself in Italian culture, particularly Italian opera. Her time in Italy overlapped with the rule of Benito Mussolini. Kay was a fan of his attempts to modernize Italian infrastructure.

Speaking of fascists, during a visit to a cousin in Germany, Baron von Bocklinsau, she saw Adolf Hitler give a speech. She found him to be somewhat deluded.

Shortly before World War II began, she returned to England and lived in Cornwall, eventually moving to Chelsea. After the war she became involved in politics When she felt politics was heading in the wrong direction, she would visit the House of Lords and let the peers know her feelings.

The Spur

Kay was an unusual woman for her time. She was confident and independent. She was an intellectual interested in art, literature, and music. All of which she actively participated in. As mentioned, before she had performed at the Oxford Playhouse. At the age of 27 one of her poems was published in the magazine, The Spur.

Kay dressed flamboyantly possibly in pants, while leaning on a car she may have been driving

Since her passing in 1993 at the age of 90. Kay has been fondly remembered by her daughters; Flavia and Deirdre , and five grandchildren.

Kay's daughter Deirdre Katherine Livingston Moller

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Children of Katharine Livingston Livingston Timpson: Theodore Livingston Timpson


          This is the first in a series of five blogs that will explore the life of Katharine Livingston Livingston Timpson’s children. If Katharine was Clermont’s forgotten daughter, her children are the forgotten grandchildren. Whereas her sisters Janet and Honoria had no children, Katharine had five children. They lived their lives aware of their Livingston legacy but free to pursue lives outside of the Hudson Valley. I owe a tremendous debt to Robert Timpson, one of Katharine’s grandsons, for the information he has provided on his father and his father’s brothers and sisters.


Theodore and his brothers Alastair (r) and Robert (l)

Theodore Livingston Timpson was born in 1901. He was the first child of Katharine and Lawrence Timpson. He lived at Maizeland, a mansion in Red Hook, NY, with his parents. Maizeland was first occupied by David Van Ness. He was an officer in the Revolutionary war and held several political posts after the war. There is a story that Aaron Burr hid at Maizeland for a brief time after his duel with Alexander Hamilton. Van Ness’s nephew, William, had been Burr’s second at the duel. It became the Timpson home and Theodore's grandfather was once visited by President Chester A. Arthur at the mansion.


Maizeland 1902

Theodore’s time at Maizeland was short though, as his parents departed the

United States, when Theodore was only four, to start new lives in England. Katharine had fallen out with her father, John Henry Livingston, and space was the only answer.

Theodore at Eton
          Theodore was first schooled at Stone House School in Kent, when he reached the right age, he was sent to Eaton College, a famed boarding school in England. During World War I, Theodore left Eton to attend the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Sandhurst can be considered the West Point of England. At Sandhurst Theodore was trained physically and mentally to be an officer in the British Army.

Theodore at Sandhurst
After graduating Theodore was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to Ireland for eight years. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1922. He married Catherine Mabel Levers, known as Mollie, in 1928. 
Together they had two children, Richard born in 
1932 and Diana born in 1936.
He was then transferred to Lucknow in India. He rose to the rank of captain and company commander in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India and later in Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar). He was known as a kind officer. If his men worked hard he worked harder. He was fair and served with integrity and enthusiasm. His company was happy and successful because of Theodore's leadership. His wife Mollie had a "gay and charming personality" which helped to highlight Theodore's positive aspects. After returning to England he was once again dispatched for foreign service, this time to Palestine for three years.


Theodore playing polo in India

Shortly before World War II began Theodore returned to England to become major and second in command of the 1st Battalion Queen Victoria’s Rifles. In 1939 the battalion was being trained as a motorcycle reconnaissance battalion with the battalion broken up into three companies with ten Bren guns and most of the men armed with revolvers.
The Rifles training on their motorcycles

          The battalion was warned for service over seas on April 20, 1940.  On May 10 a large German army invaded France and supported by German aircraft quickly began to push the French, British and Belgian armies west to the English Channel.

          On May 21 at 10:30 pm the battalion was ordered overseas. Early in the morning of May 22 the battalion loaded onto the S.S. Canterbury to cross the English Channel. The battalion landed on the quay at Calais. Even before the battalion’s baggage was offloaded wounded British soldiers were being loaded onto the ship to be brought back to England.

          The town’s air raid siren was screaming almost constantly. The sky was full of planes as German planes battled British planes flown across the English Channel. Both sides lost planes and pilots. On the ground Nazi tanks pushed forward against the British and French defenses. Theodore’s battalion arrived in the middle of this. His battalion was severely under equipped with only 10 Bren guns and 5 antitank guns for each of the three companies. In addition, 1/3 of the men were armed only with pistols. Nevertheless, the battalion was spread out to cover six roads leading into Calais. The battalion took up positions in and behind the city’s 17th century defenses wherever they could. Theodore set up the battalion headquarters at a gate in the walls that guarded the Dunkirk road.

Artillery damage to Calais
          By May 24 Calais was surrounded and the only escape could be by sea. British and Polish destroyers bombarded targets on land and took wounded men off the quays. French naval gunners turned their coastal defense guns inland to bombard the rapidly closing Germans.  German artillery rained down on the town. Late in the day most of the French gunners spiked their guns and escaped onto French ships.

On the 25 of May the Queen Victoria Rifles beat off an attack by the Germans at the outer ramparts of the town. They then moved to defend three bridges that led into the town. Despite a determined attack by the Nazis led by Panzer tanks, the Nazis failed, and the Rifles held the bridges. A German plane flew over head and dropped leaflets calling on Calais to surrender. Late on the 25th the defenders of Calais began to fall back again. Theodore was tasked with supervising the crossing of a canal by boat for members of his battalion. Later he was ordered to begin moving men into the sand dunes between the town and the ocean.

Damage on Calais' streets

          At 4:00 pm on May 26 the French commander surrendered his forces to the Nazis. The order every man for himself was given as the German Army overran the town. Soon the Queen Victoria Rifles were ordered to lay down their arms and surrender to the Nazis. Of the 550 members of the Queen Victoria Rifles who marched into Calais almost all were killed, wounded or like Theodore taken prisoner. The town had fallen and nearly 4,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner, reports of French captured reached up to 10,000 soldiers, but by holding out as long as they had, the defenders had bought time for the evacuation at Dunkirk. Operation Dynamo, as it was known, eventually evacuated 338,226 soldiers.

          Theodore would spend the next five years as a prisoner of war in prisoner of war and reprisal camps. Occasionally he was able to correspond with his Aunt Janet, John Henry Livingston’s youngest daughter, nine years his junior. At the end of the war Theodore’s camp was liberated by the Russian army. He was sent home but a report he wrote on the siege of Calais ended up in the Russian archives until it was returned to the family in 1997. After his release he was “mentioned in orders” for gallant and distinguished service at Calais.

          After the war Theodore returned to his family in England. He was at that point an honorary lieutenant colonel, a reward he had earned in 1946. During his time in the prisoner of war camps his rank had been frozen. Many of is classmates at Sandhurst had risen to the rank of general so the lieutenant colonel rank was something of a disappointment to him.  

    Mollie nursed him back to health on a farm in the English countryside. By 1958 they was living in a fine house in London. Sadly Mollie passed away. Theodore remarried to a woman named Eleanor. In 1964 they made a trip to America, renting a home in Nantucket, to visit Theodore's family and to visit the Hudson Valley sites of his youth. 

    Tragically Theodore drowned near Durban, South Africa while on a trip to visit his brother Robert.  


As mentioned above a tremendous thank you to Robert Timpson who provided much of the biographical information on Theodore as well as access to the report Theodore wrote on the battle of Calais.