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News > ODs Around the World > Looking back - John Doff (1944S)

Looking back - John Doff (1944S)

John Doff (1944S), the oldest living OD in the UK, gives a short account of how he joined the College during world war 2, comparing it to the current covid-19 situation.

It’s interesting to read so many comments comparing the current perplexing situation with the upheavals affected by World War 2, and it is thanks to those earlier upheavals that I found myself at Bishops.

n May 1940, aged 12, I was a long-standing pupil at a French lycée in Casablanca, Morocco where my father had been running a successful import-export business. France had collapsed, Morocco was about to be taken over by a Vichy government, and I found myself on a Japanese ship which 10 days later stopped in Cape town - so we got off!

With help and advice from my father’s Unilever colleagues, a place was found for me as a “new boy” in School House. You can imagine the culture shock. Years in a French milieu, and now fagging! But young people are hugely adaptive, and although cricket and rugby were totally unknown to me, I muddled through - even passed Matric in Afrikaans! My mother died and my father went back to Morocco once the Americans landed there in 1942.

For the last two years of my time at Bishops various Unilever managers were responsible for my welfare, a somewhat disorientating state of affairs but I ended up with two good friends: Eric “Jannie” Liefeldt and John Forbes (both 1944S). John and I spent a fascinating summer hitchhiking along the garden route in 1946. Eric joined the army straight after school and we met up again during my last year at UCT. About five years ago out of the blue, I got a letter from John to learn that he and his family had suffered horrendous traumas in Zimbabwe, but that he was happily retired in Constantia

I left South Africa in January 1948. I began a career in advertising, and I can remember Frank Reid tracking me down at my agency in St.Martin’s Lane. I worked closely with Justin Cartwright (1960W) in the 1970s, and we had side by side debenture seats at Twickenham during those maddening times that England was consistently beaten by Wales!

I managed to visit South Africa some sixteen years ago, and of course, visited Bishops where I was shown around and lunched by the Marketing Department no less. I can only comment that what I saw was a completely different school. The resident psychologist’s office was pointed out to me! So, when I read your interesting pieces about the activities of young ODs I can only be impressed by the current magic of this evolving institution. 

So, as I self-isolate myself in my apartment I send you sincere thanks for taking the trouble to enquire as to my situation. Sending emails and FaceTime are the only way I will be communicating until the end of this year it would seem.

Best wishes and thanks


 
John Doff (1944S)
 

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