Sitting in the front row of the audience, he turned to see refugees standing around him, the feeling of raw emotion suddenly rising and filling his being as the magnitude of one man’s efforts had resulted in simple, raw, exposed humanity – life.
I suspect that you have heard about or may even remember seeing the moment that Nicholas Winton is met with an audience of his rescued refugees, as they rise to greet the man. The moment will likely be branded into your mind; it’s truly unforgettable.
There is something about a mild-mannered stockbroker from Maidenhead who not simply changed lives, but made them possible, that resonates with anyone possessing a pulse.
The new film One Life currently on release, is the remarkable tale of this man set a little more than nine months before WW2. I hope that it is a reminder to you that however small your own actions and power may seem, they can be life-saving.
Winton visited Prague in December 1938 at the suggestion of a friend and met with Warriner, Chadwick and Wellington who exposed him to their urgent work attempting to help key individuals flee Europe out of the thousands gathering in makeshift camps all hoping for help. He was fortunate to have never met the Gestapo (I so want to mock by writing gazpacho) and his life was never particularly endangered, but he was deeply moved by the plight of refugees who were fleeing Hitler’s Nazis following the night of mayhem ‘Kristallnacht’ on 9th November 1938 which followed the Munich Agreement in September which ceded Sudetenland and the subsequent full invasion in March 1939.
A time before email, social media and mobile phones, live images from anywhere on earth beamed into the palm of your hand. A trusty typewriter, filing cabinet and antiquated telephone system along with waiting (and pushing) to see those possessing the ability to grant permission. The challenge of bureaucratic lunacy and soulless governance has a modern familiarity, but in 1938, refugees under 18 were not permitted into Britain.
Winton and his mother pushed the wheels of the Civil Service into agreeing a process for granting permission to hundreds and potentially thousands of refugees fleeing extermination in Europe. They raised funds (£50 fee for each refugee), completed the paperwork and placed children with willing people having taken out adverts in newspapers. Some 669 children were spared annihilation in Europe, eventually finding refuge here in Britain after a perilous journey through hostile nations before war broke out, ending any viability of a visa.
Winton’s part in the story may never have been acknowledged had his wife not found his scrapbook from the period, detailing names of children and their foster families. It is highly unlikely that any of the children would have escaped had he and his mother not taken the action that they did.
Today we see horrors around the world with alarming frequency. In my December round up, I stated that “the world is currently safer than it ever has been for many of us”. By way of some context… our world was changed by the attacks in the US on 11th September 2001 which resulted in 2,996 deaths largely on the day itself. Pearl Harbour, which was the catalyst for the US joining the war saw 2,403 deaths on 7th December 1941.
The second world war itself lasted six years and conservatively resulted in 70 million deaths. That’s equivalent to 22 deaths for every minute of the war, a staggering 31,934 every day.
We can draw many lessons or conclusions from Winton’s story; but for me it’s a reminder that action takes many forms, being sufficiently resourced and able to provide solutions to great challenges is key for most of us. Our ability to respond has untold impact. Of the millions that ultimately died, Winton and his collaborators saved 669, each one significant and priceless.
Below is the trailer for the rather wonderful new film released by Warner Brothers.
There is no Downton Abbey Christmas special, but if you enjoy a period drama vaguely based on events then Boxing Day offers up A Very British Scandal. Obviously, I have not seen the production, it has some top-drawer stars and is likely to be a hit for the BBC. So what has a period drama got to do with your financial planning? Well, it’s a story that has some useful messages. If I were a betting man (I’m not) I imagine that the focus will be on sex and power with a nod to things that have changed and some that have not.
I’m curious to learn if we ever witness the end of the story, or more accurately the end of Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll who died in 1993 at the age of 80 and buried not many miles away in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey. She would have been 109 this month!
HIGH SOCIETY SCANDALS
However the story is retold by Sarah Phelps, it would be fair to say that the Duchess was a very wealthy individual, one whose life was full of high society life and celebrity. She was born to Scottish millionaire George Wigham who was Chairman of Celanese Corporation, still listed on the NYSE and possibly held in your portfolio (a tiny fraction). Her first marriage at the age of twenty was to American Investment Banker Charles Sweeny (23) whose family had a home locally in Wimbledon. Sweeny later went on to form the Eagle Squadrons of American pilots volunteering to fight in the RAF. It is alleged that the wedding dress designed by Streatham born Norman Hartnell caused such a stir in Knightsbridge that the traffic of the day was gridlocked for 3 hours. The couple divorced in 1947.
Her second and last marriage in 1951, aged 38 was to twice divorced Ian Douglas Campbell, the 10th Duke of Argyll and 9 years her senior (casting improved its actor age gap to 13 years). Suspicious of her infidelity the story unfolds in a scandalous divorce in 1963.
It will be interesting to see how the story is retold given its previous framing by men in power, many of whom it is alleged knew the Duchess very intimately. A decade or so later her memoirs “Forget Not” were published. Quite what happened thereafter is significant as the Duchess mismanaged her investments and finances (or someone did) and in 1978 at the age of 65 she had to sell her Mayfair home and elected to move into a suite at the Grosvenor House Suites. Unable to pay her bills, aged 78 she was evicted in 1990.
PENURY – CASHFLOW EXHAUSTED
Whatever one’s view of the Duchess and the blatant hypocrisy of various powerful men, there are obvious lessons about choices and financial management that need to be remembered. Appearance is often not reality. How people say they live and how they actually live are often rather different. This is a familiar story, as old as storytelling itself. Your financial plan needs to be robust enough for changes in your circumstances, but a great financial plan has considered and will continue to address the issue of an affordable lifestyle.
Claire Foy and Paul Bettany star in the BBC’s “A Very British Scandal” a 3-part drama starting on Boxing Day 2021 at 9pm. It will be shown on consecutive nights, but all three as a “box set” are also available via the BBC i-player from 9pm on Boxing Day. Here is the official BBC trailer.
You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email email@example.com
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