March 20th 1918, a century ago, my father Cyril was born in Saint-Malo, Brittany, a city of sailors and privateers. His mother, Julie Onraët, was born in India, of an Anglo-French family of indigo planters, and Indian Civil Service. God save the King and all that. His father, Pierre Martin, was the son of a French Admiral. Pierre Martin entered the French Naval Academy and resigned after a year, for reasons unknown to later pursue a bureaucrat career in the Suez Canal. My cousins say he was a spy for the French Government all his life. Today, my father would have been a hundred years old. Time doth fly. Above, l. to. r. my aunt Gaud, Grandmother Julie and Father Cyril.
My father witnessed most of the 20th century’s major technological changes: form horses to automobiles, electricity (he remembered when gas lighting was switched to electricity in his grandmother Wilhelmine’s house in Brittany), from sea- to air travel and so forth. Above, with my aunt Gaud, on the steamer sailing from Egypt to France every summer for the holiday.
April-May 1940. He joined the French Air Force at the beginning of the war. They flew in unbelievable contraptions as you can see behind. He trained as an observer, not a pilot. Never fired a single shot, since the Air Academy was moved South every other week retreating from the German advance in the North. I’ve already mentioned that after France surrendered in June ’40, he and a friend stole the Colonel’s car to go to England and keep on fighting. They were arrested of course. End of his war. (Good for us kids, we might never have been born) 🙂
Karachi, Pakistan. Mid 1954. L. to r. My father and yours truly. Measuring hands!
DC-3 (two engines only), Phnomh-Penh, Cambodia. c.1957. Splendid planes. My father joined Air France, the national airline in 1945. He had no particular skill, he’d started college (Political science) in Paris before the war, but all that went to the drain during the war. His brief experience in the Air Force was probably the key factor. He met my mother in the office in Paris. She was a 19 year-old typist from Brittany. A year later, in ’47, my father was appointed Sales manager for Air France in Pakistan. A new adventure was to begin.
Ismaïla, Suez canal, c. 1934 or ’36. He was 16-18. Spent all his childhood in Egypt and never learnt Arabic. Beats me. 🙂 (At least my grandmother spoke perfect Hindustani)
Conakry, Guinea, west Africa, c. 1960, with my sister Gaëlle.
Rennes, Brittany, c.1919-1920. Cyril on the left. Little boys at that time were dressed as girls, with long hair. Aunt Gaud on the right sports a very fashionable “roaring twenties” haircut.
Hong-Kong 1957. A business dinner with the local Air France manager (left), team and wives. My father is in the centre handling his chopsticks like a pro. My mother is third from the right. Is it me, or is the guy on her left, “hitting” on her? 😉
Ismaïla, Egypt, c.1938-1939. My father (a very good rider) on Royal, my grandmother’s horse. I never thought about that, but that photo was taken in front of the house. Not at the club. Would that mean my grandmother kept her horse in a stable at home? (Anything can be expected from the English, right?)
Phnomh-Penh airport, Cambodia, 1957. I’ve shown that (and other) pictures before. After 8 years in Pakistan, my father was appointed General Manager of the newly formed Royal Air Cambodge, the Cambodian airline, a joint venture with the Khmer government. Right to left: my father with H. R. H. Samdech, Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Sihanouk (1922-2012) is the founder of modern Cambodia. According to my father, they went along well.
Karachi, Pakistan. 1954. At the beach. Yours truly rubbing my gums on my father’s chin. Nothing better than a beard stubble when your teeth are growing.
1938? A “D’harcourt” style photograph. I still have the glass plate. Yes. Really. A glass plate.
Pakistan, 1955? At the beach-house. (I know, I know, silver spoons and all that) l. to r. well, obvious, I guess?
Mauritius, 1969. My father with a pink shirt. My mother a Carnaby St incarnation. My father was then regional manager for East and South Africa. Half a continent. His greatest achievement, I believe, was to open the world to commercial air traffic, immediately after the war. Along with a handful of colleagues he opened new airways, to the Orient first, then in Africa. Remember: it all began with DC-3’s and DC-4’s. Travel to Pakistan, Indochina, not to mention Japan, took days. These new airways meant post (mail). Information to be shipped. Freight. Merchandise. Commerce. And passengers. New deals to be made. A world to rebuild after the near-destruction of WWII. He was a part of that.
“At the Prime Minister”. Karachi, Pakistan, c. 1949. My father on the right, always dapper in his Humphrey Bogart white tux. My mother, 23, 24? with a typical post WWII haircut. She designed her own dresses. A good sketch artist and painter she bought the silk in the Bazaar, and handed the material and drawings to the tailor. Voilà.
Karachi, 1953-54. They had a cocktail or dinner party almost every night.
“We will always have Paris.” (Ingrid Bergman to Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, 1941).
1918-2018. A century just flipped by.