Tag: Joe Stirling

Joe’s obituary published in The Guardian newspaper 23rd May 2020

Delighted to announce that Joe Stirling’s  obituary, as submitted by local writer Tom Carver, has today, 23rd May, 2020, been published in a UK national newspaper, The Guardian.  Probably the first national to carry a photograph of my book cover; its been a long time coming!  So pleased that Joe’s remarkable story has now reached an even greater audience.  Joe would be thrilled to see his obituary, alongside other luminaries, inside a national newspaper…..

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Joe’s memories of VE Day

 

1-15Joe and Jean on wedding day

On this special 75th anniversary of VE Day, I would like to share the short passage from Escaping Hitler (Pen and Sword Books 2016), written directly from  Joe’s  memories of that time, spent in Bramley near Basingstoke, serving with the Ordnance Corps and where he met his wife to be Jean Skitmore.  I remember sitting in Joe’s living room hearing his wartime stories, simply feeling grateful that a training injury meant he was unable to go to Europe and fight.

“On 1 May 1945 the BBC announced Hitler’s suicide. The finish-line was in sight. The following evening radio programmes were interrupted with the news that the German Army had surrendered in Italy. Two days later troops capitulated in Denmark. For two days no one knew what was happening. By Monday 7 May expectant crowds were gathering outside Buckingham Palace but still the news did not come. In fact, the British were waiting for Russian and American confirmation of the Nazi defeat. At 7 p.m. Winston Churchill broadcast on the BBC, declaring that the following day would be ‘Victory in Europe Day’. The Nation could allow itself a ‘brief period of rejoicing’, but should remember that Britain was still at war with Japan. After five years people were ready to party. The morning papers led with photographs of vast crowds, many dressed in red, white and blue, celebrating in London the previous evening. That morning the same crowds cheered and sang as King George, Queen Elizabeth and the two princesses Elizabeth and Margaret alongside Churchill, waved enthusiastically from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Bramley barracks held a celebration parade. The Commanding Officer made a speech, thanking everyone for his or her valuable contribution to the victory, even if they hadn’t been involved at the front line. That afternoon Joe joined a group of comrades on the train to nearby Basingstoke where they danced in the street and invaded the public houses, the overjoyed landlords honouring the servicemen with a free first drink. It took some time to walk the six miles back to base late that evening, the men having either missed the last bus or more likely having spent every last penny on best beer. Jean and her friends stayed on base holding their own celebration. Young ladies didn’t frequent pubs.”

Images show Jean (centre) celebrating with her colleagues at Bramley camp & Joe and Jean on their wedding day in 1946.

 

Joe Stirling Obituary in The Guardian

Written by Norwich writer Tom Carver, this moving tribute to our very own Joe appeared yesterday, 27th March 2020,  on the Guardian Online ‘Other Lives’ feature. I am grateful to Tom and to the Guardian team who put this piece together, allowing even more people to appreciate the remarkable life of this amazing man.

Joe is much missed by family, friends and former colleagues but his story remains relevant, inspiring and poignant in these difficult times.

Keep safe and well everyone.  We will beat this.

https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2020/mar/27/joe-stirling-obituary

The piece continues so it is well worth clicking on the link.

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Joe’s funeral, a beautiful occasion

Yesterday, 6th March 2020, Joe’s family hosted a wonderful afternoon of memories, tears and smiles, with well over a hundred people squeezing into the tranquil Woodland Hall at Green Acres Woodland Burial Park in Norwich.  There was someone from every part of Joe Stirling’s long and remarkable life, family members of all generations, civic colleagues including the current Norwich Lord Mayor, Rabbis from the Norwich Synagogue, people from business, his former committees, Lions Club International, the travel industry and from the Nursing home where he ended his days.  The humanist celebrant gave a wonderful summary of his life including a mention for Escaping Hitler, commenting on how much joy the experience of working on his life story had given to Joe in his final years.

The guests and well -wishers were invited back to the Sainsbury’s Centre at the University of East Anglia for a drink, a buffet and to share many memories of ‘knowing Joe Stirling’.  The beautiful spray of yellow and white flowers, created by Elizabeth’s Florist of Unthank Road, that had graced the coffin, were brought into the hall where they took centre stage on the sumptuous buffet table.  There were photos of Joe and his family on the walls and it was so good to become reacquainted with many people whom I had interviewed when researching Joe’s life.  Joe was a special man and there are many who will miss his friendship.

Joe requested that instead of flowers, friends might like to contribute to one of his favourite international causes, UNICEF.  If you would like to add your name please call Gordon Barber Funeral Home in Norwich on 01603 484308 and ask how you can help.

REVIEW OF 2019 Presentations about Escaping Hitler & Lady Lord Mayors

On Thursday last, 21st November I gave my final talk of 2019, sharing stories from the remarkable life of Joe Stirling with the members of Horsham St Faith’s Ladies’ Group.  It was a splendid evening in the historic Mission Hall and the ladies were generous in buying copies as Christmas presents.

Having just reviewed the success of 2019, I can reveal the following statistics for the year:

55 talks in total around Norfolk (Many to members of Women’s Institutes)

24 concerning Escaping Hitler (Pen and Sword Books 2016)

28 about my second book, The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich 1923-2017 (Pen and Sword Books 2018)

2 ‘When the Past Collides with the Present’, covering research findings from writing both books.

Total Sales following talks:

114 Escaping Hitler

98 Lady Lord Mayors

This is remarkable and looking forward I can report that I currently have 37 talks in the diary for 2020, and 5 for 2021!  I am so grateful for the continuing interest in both my books and for the many evenings and afternoons spent in community halls, church halls and hotel dining rooms over this past year.  My highlights must include speaking at the Time and Tide Museum and the Royal Assembly Rooms, both in Great Yarmouth,  Norwich Castle Museum, the Noverre Suite at the Assembly House in Norwich, Fakenham Racecourse and How Hill near Ludham. Always good company, sometimes tea & cake (or even lunch!) and always a great reaction!  And my thanks go to my followers on WordPress and Facebook for their loyalty and interest.  MAY I WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON. Phyllida Scrivens, Norwich, UK.

Joe Stirling is 95 today!

Happy Birthday Joe!  Today, 18th October 2019, Joe Stirling, the subject of my biography Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future (Pen and Sword Books, 2016) is 95 years old.  I first met Joe in 2011 and never imagined our friendship would last as long as it has.  I visited Joe this afternoon in his Norwich Care Home to find his two lovely daughters, Jane and Johanna, sharing his day with him.  We had tea and cake with candles, gifts and a loud rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You.’ Joe continues to keep a keen interest in how my writing and public speaking careers are progressing and is always proud to hear about it when I have share his life stories with new audiences in Norfolk.  Many Happy Returns Joe!

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Joe’s friend Marian becomes Sheriff of Norwich May 2019

I am delighted to announce that Joe Stirling’s friend Dr Marian Prinsley became the new Sheriff of Norwich last Tuesday at a traditional ceremony in City Hall.  I was thrilled to be invited by Cllr Judith Lubbock, my chapter 15 in The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich, to attend the 2019 Mayor-Making ceremony at Norwich City Hall last Tuesday.

I met up with several of the former Lady Lord Mayors who feature in my second book and was delighted to discover an overlap with my first biography, Escaping Hitler, as Dr Marian Prinsley from the Jewish community in Norwich was made Sheriff. Marian is a good friend of Joe Stirling, the subject of this book, and I have met her on several occasions. Marian made an excellent speech which uncovered some close parallels with Joe’s experiences. Both were from Jewish families; Joe’s ancestors from Germany, and Marian’s from Russia. Both came to England escaping possible persecution when they were 14 years old, both marrying and settling in Norwich. The following day I visited Joe and told him all about the Mayor-making and he was delighted to hear that his friend Marian was now wearing his gown and hat, as worn by him in 1975-6. I wish both Vaughan and Marian an excellent year of civic service.

 

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The new Lord Mayor of Norwich, Vaughan Thomas, with his wife, Lady Mayoress, Vivien Thomas, and the new Sheriff of Norwich, Dr Marian Prinsley, with her husband, Peter Prinsley, on the City Hall steps. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY (EDP)

New illustrated presentation from Phyllida Scrivens launched in Norwich

Last Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, I was excited to launch my brand new talk.  I spoke to the members of the popular Out & About Club, a social Club for the over 50s, held at the Congregational Church on Chaplefield, Norwich.  Joe and I have many friends there as we have spoken about his life on two occasions, and last year I delivered my Lady Lord Mayor’s presentation.

This new talk is called ‘When the Past Collides with the Present: remarkable true stories of coincidence, luck and fate while researching biography in the modern age.’

I include those ‘behind the scenes’ stories discovered while researching for Escaping Hitler, The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich and other biographical work.  I show original photographs (some shown here), all illustrating personal moments of “Can this really be happening?”, “Where did you find that?” and “Are you sure that is true?”   As a biographer, I find that once you put yourself and your discoveries ‘out there’, people come back to you, generously offering finer details, corrections, fragments of stories to add to your research, people you thought you would never reach. The unexpected connections, many because of our wonderful research tool, the internet.

The talk seemed to go down well.  I look forward to sharing it further with other Norfolk groups, such as the Women’s Institute, History Groups etc., starting with the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth on 1st March.

http://www.events.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/public_events.aspx?id=5605

Maybe join me there?

 

 

Tonight is the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht – remembering the Sterns

Tonight, 9-10th November 2018 is the 80th anniversary of the so called ‘Night of Broken Glass’, when Hitler’s Nazi Party instructed the brownshirts to burn the synagogues, break the windows of all businesses and many homes, loot the contents and most devastating of all, arrest all Jewish men and boys over sixteen years old, incarcerating them in political concentration camps.  Alfred was sent to Dachau, a notorious camp in the cold Bavarian Alps.  All Jewish children were immediately expelled from their schools and life would never be the same again.  Joe Stirling has vivid memories of that terrifying night.  I want to share with you some illustrative photos along with the stylised prologue from Joe’s biography Escaping Hitler (Pen and Sword Books 2016), based entirely on Joe’s recollections, told to me when I first interviewed him in December 2011.

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No. 10 Hintergasse, Nickenich (taken in 2013) The Stern family lived in the upper flat of this house

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Ida and Alfred Stern taken in about 1936

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The Hintergasse Nickenich in early 1930s

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Ida and Alfred Stern on their wedding day in 1923

Visitors

 

It happens so quickly. Loud hammering on the door at around four in the morning. Günter instantly awake. His father’s heavy footsteps on the wooden stairs. The boy creeping from his body-warm bed, joining Mother at the top of the staircase. More banging. Raised angry voices. The door swinging open, rusty hinges straining under the force. Three or four men bursting over the threshold. Uninvited. Invading their home. Strangers, from Andernach or even Koblenz, clutching cudgels and brandishing revolvers.

‘Alfred Stern? Get dressed. You’re arrested.’
‘Arrested? What have I done?’
Günter flinches as his father takes a violent blow across the face. Two menclimb the stairs, pushing past woman and child. Roughnecks turning out drawers and cupboards, throwing contents to the floor, trampling over china and glass. Ida and Günter stunned, silent, shaking. Her husband pushed through the door and onto the cobbles of the Hintergasse. Ida’s throat opens and she screams out:

‘Where are you taking him?’

No reply. Just the muffled sound of Alfred’s anguished objections to being treated as a criminal. He fought bravely for his country. He was wounded four times. He was awarded the Iron Cross. Soon his cries and the marching feet are no longer audible and the night is still once more.

 

(Extract from the opening of Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future by Phyllida Scrivens.)