The third child of Dr. Francis, he was born on March 30, 1914, at 4 London Street, Folkestone, Kent, where, too, his brother and sister had been born. He recalls a blissfully happy household even though WWI broke out soon after his birth. In May 1917, he remembers an air raid warning causing his father to despatch his mother and sister to the kitchen quarters to "look after the staff" while he took D. by the hand out into London Street in time to see a flight of Gothas coming in from the sea very low over the Junction Station following the main line towards Folkestone Central. Between these two stations is a long high brick viaduct and the timing of the raid was clearly to coincide with a down passenger train due to cross the viaduct. It is his opinion that the Gothas intended to drop their bombs under the engine to blow it off the track, over the side of the viaduct and with the carriages still coupled, into the Gasworks below, causing an explosion and fire sufficient to put the viaduct and the only remaining rail link to the Harbour out of action for a very long time, the alternative rail link from Dover having already been blocked by a major landslide. Fortunately, with great presence or mind, the driver had held his train back at Folkestone Central Station and the Gothas missed the train and bombed only the carriage approach road. D. was promptly taken home for his father to phone the Hospital about casualties which might need his help.
He recalls, in 1924, his father driving the family, in a newly acquired Bean car, to Wittersham to visit Great Aunt Mary, widow of the Rt. Hon. William. A young cousin was present, perhaps Alice Mary.
He remembers summer holidays of 1921-25 with Granny Hester at Woodland House, Boxmoor. In July 1925, he was collected from Sunningdale Preparatory School and taken to Charterhouse where Eric was in his last quarter. It was O.C. Day and the gathering included Granny Hester, her 4 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, and 2 grandsons.
In 1925 he travelled back from Boxmoor to Folkestone in the Bean. The roadside lunch break just happened to be taken outside the works of the Bentley Motor Co. in Cricklewood to the glorious sound of a Bentley engine on the testbed, a sure sign of where his father's interest lay.
After Sunningdale and Charterhouse, he was a Pupil Apprentice with Leyland Motors Ltd., at Leyland, Lancs, qualifying as a Chartered Engineer, F.I.Mech.E and F.I.Prod.E. On completion he worked in the Chief Engineer's Dept. on special projects which included the first Leyland twin-engined power for the Matilda tank delivered to the tank builders' works within 14 days of order. He also gained practical experience of trolleybus design, construction, operation and maintenance to enable him to represent Leyland in setting up a trolleybus installation in the City of Canton, China, with a fleet of 70 vehicles. With Enid in Hong Kong, only 60 miles down the Pearl River and a brother-in-law commanding H.M. gunboat on that station, he thought it would be home away from home. Part of the training in electrical engineering was at Witton works of GEC, which also provided the opportunity of spending happy weekends with the cousins, William and Norah, of Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham.
The Japanese invasion of China in 1937 prevented the shipment of the order to Canton, alas. Shortly before the outbreak of WW2, he joined a Manchester based Army Field Workshop, a Territorial unit, but his application was delayed in the War Office because his father's birthplace was Bombay! That little difficulty was not overcome until Jan 1940 when he was Commissioned as a Lieut RAOC and reported to the same unit, which was under orders to join the BEF in France. In Feb the destination was Finland, in March, France again, in April, Norway, in May the Cherbourg peninsula, without ever leaving Manchester! In June, without a clue as to destination, the unit sailed from Glasgow and arrived early next morning in Belfast Lough, followed by a period in every one of the six counties, until posted to NW Kent in June 1942 as Major to form, train and command an Army Tank Workshop REME. It was here that he met Kathleen Lydia, daughter of Thomas Edward Crane, whom he married on January 19, 1943. At the end of Sep 1942, the unit moved to King's Lynn to link up with 25 Tank Bde.
Visiting a civilian Doctor's surgery, he was asked if he was related to a Dr L. who many years before had joined the practice as a young doctor, had married the daughter of the house and devoted the rest of his life to the practice. Regrettably, he had to profess ignorance, but R.H.L.'s Account records him on as Thomas, son of David of Torrs. He died in 1766 but is not forgotten!
From King's Lynn to Liverpool outward bound for Algiers, then ferried by Hunt class Destroyer to Bone from which by road through the Atlas Mountains to Medjez-el-Bab and Teboursouk. The arrival of Churchill Tanks of 21st & 25th Bdes enabled the initiative to be seized from the Panzers by dint of superior mountain climbing ability and improvised packmule companies to keep the Churchills supplied. Amongst the Panzer units were 12 of the then very new and formidable Tiger tanks with 88mm guns, and it fell to him to recover one of these from the battlefield and provide safekeeping and a Technical Report on it. He also had to parade it from time to time for HM King George VI, Winston Churchill, Generals Alexander, Anderson, Alanbrook and Eisenhower amongst many others. Still under his command, it was brought back to UK and was paraded on Horseguards Parade at the rear entrance to 10 Downing Street, where it was offered as a present from General Anderson, Cmdr. 1st Army to Winston Churchill, who was, alas, very ill at the time in Morocco.
He was then appointed Assistant Director of Tank Design, based at Chobham, with the rank of Lt Col., responsible for the special armoured assault equipment with which the invasion beaches were to be cleared of mines and other obstacles, so that the sea-wall could be breached and exits opened from the beaches, enabling tanks and other following vehicles to get straight off the beaches and well clear into Normandy. The GOC of 79 Armoured Division, Maj Gen Sir Percy Hobart, returned to UK the following morning and made time enough, before breakfast, to visit him at Chobham and report that all the special armoured assault equipment had performed successfully. Then he had breakfast, then set off to report to the War Office.
On 12 Mar 45 Kathleen was delivered of a fine baby boy, David Anthony, to his great joy. On demob he was invited to join Le Grands, an engineering firm of Southall and Rochester. Four years later he joined the APV Co. of Wandsworth & Crawley and in 1953 became Chief Engineer of Telcon and Submarine Cables Ltd. of Greenwich and Erith, responsible for setting up in a very short time a complete new plant for the manufacture of the first transatlantic telephone cable and for re-equipping the Cable Ship Monarch to lay it. When SCL later acquired the Cable Ship Ocean Layer, he evolved a radical redesign of her layout and propulsion machinery which, having diesel propulsion in place of steam, would have provided more space for the stowage of submarine cable prior to laying, improved speed on passage, better manoeuverability in cablelaying and less fuel consumption.
The scheme was approved by the Board and put in hand for conversion on completion of the ship's current contract, laying a transatlantic telephone cable for the French. Calamitously, within 50 miles of the French coast and what would have been the end of the contract, the ship caught fire and had to be abandoned. That put an end to the ship and the conversion scheme, alas.
In 1963 he joined the staff of the Engineering Employers London Association, later becoming Assistant Director, retiring in 1979.
D. then set up his own Industrial relations Consultancy which he maintained until retirement in 1984.
• Lidderdale, Robert Halliday, An Account of the Lowland Scots Family of Lidderdale, 1950 unpublished manuscript.
• Lidderdale, Halliday Adair, The Descendants of John Lidderdale 1783-1845, 1988 unpublished manuscript.