Cases of Coincidence
"Not A Lot Of People Know That."
U3A and U-96: Cases of Coincidence
Recently (as I type) one of television’s freeview channels offered, consecutively, Lawrence of Arabia and From Here to Eternity – both of which can boast, admittedly tenuously, a Campbellian association. The female lead in the latter was Deborah Kerr who, at the time of the film’s production, was married to Squadron Leader Anthony Bartley, which meant that she was the niece (by marriage) of three Old Campbellians: Sir John Bartley (OC 637), Frederick Bartley (OC 638) and Herbert Bartley (OC 963).
I have reached the age when I can justify spending time watching old films, and at which membership of U3A dons the garb of respectability. The latter is a passport to new areas of interest and knowledge – such as the fact that the Treasurer of the Belfast U3A is also an Old Campbellian!
Although the rest of my group are probably unaware of it, whenever I attend a meeting, I am seated within 50 yards of the birthplace of an OC famously linked to the film industry. An Ulster History Circle blue plaque was placed on his later home in Bangor, but William MacQuitty (OC 1402), who produced A Night to Remember and penned the autobiography A Life to Remember, was born in a small semi-detached house (5 St John’s Avenue) in the Rosetta area of Belfast. The temptation to add ‘Not a lot of people know that’ serves to highlight the fact that Campbell College has many surprising associations with the film world.
Producers and Directors
There are probably very few who possess as comprehensive a familiarity with and knowledge of the industry as Robert Simpson (OC 8369). Equally absorbed by the film world is Iain Johnstone (OC 4386), who deputised for review presenter Barry Norman in the era of Film 82. In a long career in the industry Iain has, inter alia, worked on several documentaries with Steven Spielberg, has written biographies of Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, and co-wrote Fierce Creatures with John Cleese.
Other Campbellians much involved as producers and directors in the film world include Andrew Eaton (OC 6124) – whose family suffered tragedy during his time at Belmont – who has produced Genova (starring Colin Firth), A Cock & Bull Story (with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) and Rush, which features the rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Nick Hamm (OC 5956) has worked with such stars as Robert de Niro and Dustin Hoffman and directed The Journey, which portrayed the evolving relationship between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, and Dancing Queen, a romantic comedy featuring the late Rik Mayall – and pleasingly filmed in my home town of Scarborough.
George Jackson (OC 2695) and Basil Tweedie (OC 2649) were two of the College’s most outstanding sportsmen, between them excelling at rugby, cricket, hockey and athletics, in addition to representing the school at other sports such as fencing; Tweedie’s 1940 shot putt record of 45 feet (13.7m) still stands! They both left Belmont in July 1940. Jackson was dead six months later, drowned as a Leading Airman of The Fleet Air Arm, en route to Trinidad. His transport ship, Almeda Star, was sunk on 17 January 1941 (which, coincidentally, was Tweedie’s 19th birthday) by U-96. Ironically, this was the same U-boat on which the 1981 film, and more recent television series, Das Boot, was based!
Pilot Officer Basil Tweedie survived only until 10 May 1942. He had arrived at Campbell in September 1934. Six months later Victor McLaglen won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Informer, and it is to be wondered how many of his school-friends believed the boast of 13-year-old Basil that McLaglen really was his uncle!
In the opening scene of Lawrence of Arabia, Peter O’Toole (as Lawrence) asks for a message to be passed to ‘Captain Gibbon’. There is every reason to believe that this was the future Headmaster of Campbell College! Most of the film is based on authentic characters, and it is an unusual, indeed unlikely, name for a scriptwriter to have chosen at random. Temporary Captain William Duff Gibbon was also based with The 9th Worcester Regiment (Service Battalion) in the same location as Lieut Lawrence at the time.
In June 1915 Gibbon had embarked for Gallipoli where he was to be wounded and invalided home. One of those who travelled with him was the Regimental Quartermaster, Lieut C H Inwood, who was to send his son Ralph (OC 1875) to Campbell in September 1923 soon after Gibbon’s arrival at Belmont. In July 1916, after his recuperation, Gibbon was despatched to join his Regiment in Mesopotamia where he will have encountered Lawrence.
Gibbon was mentioned in despatches on five occasions and was awarded the Military Cross in February 1916 (for his action in Gallipoli) and in March 1917, as Acting Lieut-Colonel, received the Distinguished Service Order for leading his men at the Battle of Kut on 1 February where, although the future Headmaster will not have known it (until perhaps later in his Campbell career), Second Lieut George Mitchell (OC 1009) of 45th Rattray Sikhs was killed on the same day.
At the end of the War, in late 1918 and early 1919 Gibbon was chosen for very sensitive and secret work in Transcaucasia, in areas of immense destruction, poverty and destitution. In April 1919 he led the charismatic Armenian General, Antranik Ozanian, on a four-week resettlement trek, initially to Tiflis (now Tbilisi).
It may be asked why Gibbon was elevated as a Temporary Captain directly to the rank of Acting Lieut-Colonel, and why he was also chosen for such a dangerous mission. The answer is probably: nepotism! One of those who travelled to Gallipoli with Gibbon - and under whom he served for the rest of the War and into 1919 - was Brigadier-General Walter de Sausmarez Cayley who was in Command of the 39th Infantry Brigade, of which the Worcester Regiment formed a unit.
Cayley was a close relation of William Duff Gibbon as, on 7 November 1906, the latter’s youngest sister - Jessye Eyre Duff Gibbon – had married Cayley’s brother, Brigadier-General Douglas Edward Cayley! It is therefore probable that General Walter de S Cayley felt it perfectly appropriate to hand the vital and historic Armenian mission to the brother of his sister-in-law! His faith was not misplaced. William Duff Gibbon MC DSO was a man of impeccable and dependable character, whose only misdemeanour in life had been a fine of one shilling, with 6d costs, as a student at Oxford University for riding a bicycle without lights!