Up to December 1938, I had been at
Bradfield College. near Reading, where I had covered numerous subjects including Classics
and History, but ended with French and German. My father was a fairly senior Army officer,
but impoverished, and in consequence I had to get a scholarship if I was to go to
Cambridge University. My first try in 1937 failed, but my second in 1938 was successful,
giving me a scholarship in French and German to Clare College.
I remember staying in Whewells Court, Trinity College,
for the exams, learning to face the freezing Cambridge weather. This was because my father
had studied in Trinity during the First War, as a Sapper reading engineering between
wounds in France, and one of the Fellows was a close friend.
||I left school in
December 1938, and took a nine months gap, crossing the North Atlantic in an icebreaker in
March, driving an ancient car (maximum manageable speed 40 mph) from Montreal to
Vancouver, and returning to New York in a Greyhound Bus, via San Francisco, Los Angeles,
South Carolina and Washington.
Old Faithful' 1928 Overland Whippet
War broke out soon after my return, but
my father said there was no room for all the great number of volunteers, and told me to do
a year in Cambridge first. So I arrived in Autumn 1939, my room being on the Backs side of
Old Court. I switched to History for my first year, managing a 2.1. We were very air-raid
Having come from a conservative-minded Public School, I
did the obvious and switched to the other side of the political fence. Pre-war poverty and
apparent economic mismanagement took me into the Socialist Party, and the need for
national planning during wartime led me to favour centralised economic planning for quite
a long time, until personal administrative experience taught me otherwise.
with the Socialist Party was that it was clearly dominated by Communists, who reminded me
alarmingly of the Nazis; my pre-university studies in Bavaria had provided a major warning
about dictatorships. So my friend Francis Noel-Baker and I broke away and formed a
separate Labour Party. This lasted until all hell broke loose in May 1940, when inter-alia
my father was killed by a Stuka dive-bomber, sailing away from Dunkirk.
I had been in the Bradfield Officers Training Corps,
and had become a member of the CUOTC. Soon after we went down in May 1940, we were
recalled to guard Cambridge and its environs. Not all of us were adept with our weaponry
After several unfortunate incidents, I myself became a serious 'friendly fire' case. As I
prepared to take over a pillbox on the Fowlmere tactical airfield, my predecessor did not
ease springs correctly and shot me through the hip. A long and dicey spell in Addenbrookes
introduced me to the blood-replacing benefits of Guinness and the charms of the nursing
While in Addenbrookes, I had been offered a place in
the major Officer Training Centre in Bangalore, Southern India, having Indian Army family
connections. So after months of re-growing my hip muscles, I was called up in Aldershot to
join a large contingent, which contained a number of Cambridge friends, travelling on the Highland Chieftain, a
former meat transport vessel.
After a further three months training at the Ahmednagar
Fighting Vehicle School in Central India, I joined my regiment, the 19th K.G.O. (King George's
Own) Lancers , and remained with them until 1945. We started with Humber and Daimler
Armoured Cars, trained in the Karachi Desert for the Middle East, were suddenly switched
to Madras to patrol 250 miles of coast threatened by the Japanese, were re-armed with
Shermans in Secundrabad, retook the south-west coastline of Burma from the Japanese,
captured Rangoon on D-Day, joined the 14th Army to our north, and went back to India.
I was then posted to command the Gunnery
Wing in Ahmednagar. But jungle sores in Burma led to an abscess on my kidney, and on
recovery I was given home leave. The chap in the India Office said "I can give you a
class B release tomorrow."
I was quite keen to command the Gunnery Wing. But I had
about 10 seconds standing there, to decide the whole of my future (rather like asking a
woman to marry you!). I plumped for release and returned to Clare College.
So at the beginning of 1946, I needed two terms to
complete my War degree, and by now it was clear to me that Economics was the most
interesting and relevant subject for my future. I left with a 2.2 in Part One, but
returned later, after seven years in the Colonial Administrative Service, in London and
Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) for a year under the Service's Course B. I had a good year
under the supervision of Peter Bauer, concentrating on general development and
Assessment of Educational Impact
I was surprised to receive an invitation to the
Centenary Conference, because I have made virtually no published contribution to academic
economics. Naturally, I have written a large number of economic and research reports
during my work, only a few of which have been published officially, although I always keep
copies. On the other hand, since retirement I have published on many subjects, all for
public impact rather than for bibliographic reference, circulating them after publication,
on the internet.
The interesting point to emerge from my relatively
limited economic education is that, for my whole active life, I have deliberately involved
myself with economic related activities in numerous guises;
from constructing public buildings and creating road networks in the districts in my
charge; to obtaining government money to establish an aircraft company to control Tsetse
flies in southern Zambia; to financing and building an auction floor for the Tobacco Board
of Zambia, when Rhodesia declared independence; to examining the economic future of the
UK/Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation's development activities in Madhya Pradesh, India; to
an assessment of foreign debt in Somalia during an agricultural sector survey of that
country; and so on.
A second point arises from the number of my
non-economic interests, many of them in scientific and biological fields, including Human
Origins. I am a Life Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. I am a member of the
Institute of Optimum Nutrition, and of the McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health. I
have published extensively on fertilisers and other agricultural matters in the Tropical
Agriculture Association quarterly. I am a member of the International Association of
Agricultural Economists, although attendance at overseas conferences is now beyond my
purse. I am a Member of Gray's Inn, a residue of my days as a Class 2 Magistrate in
I mention this point because wide interests make it
much easier for a practical economist to cross inter-disciplinary boundaries, to sort out
conflicts between specialists, and to exercise a co-ordinating role, particularly when
also involved in fund allocation. I will make further reference to this point later in
this paper, on the role practical economists could play in reducing the confused
performance of British science over the past quarter century, leading to serious economic
losses, particularly in human health, nutrition and agriculture.