Colvin, Howard Montagu, 1919-2007

by J Mordaunt Crook

02 Jan 2018

Extract relating to military intelligence work:

Colvin’s wartime experience could hardly have been predicted. A First in Modern History from London University did not prevent his being drafted, in 1940, into dish-washing duties at RAF Wilmslow. From this he was rescued by the Deputy Under-Secretary for Air, Sir John Abraham: his daughter just happened to have been a friendly secretary at UCL [6]. Transferred to aerial photography, Pilot Officer Colvin was now to be trained in photographic analysis at Medmenham, Bucks., under the direction of Glyn Daniel. Stuart Piggott was a fellow student, John Piper a nearby resident. Then out he went to Malta, where he worked for two years under siege conditions, interpreting aerial photographs from the depths of a bomb-proof tunnel. ‘To watch’, he later recalled ‘—as we did almost daily throughout the first half of 1942—sixty or seventy Stukas diving through the massed fire of more than one hundred [anti-aircraft] guns was to experience both the Awful and the Sublime.’ [7] Then the siege lifted. From summer 1943 he was back again at Medmenham; in autumn 1946 he returned to Bloomsbury as an Assistant Lecturer in History.


6. Obituary by Richard Hewlings in Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, Newsletter, 94 (2008), 1–4.
7. Quoted by Sir Keith Thomas, at ‘A Public Memorial Gathering’, 19 April 2008 (for a note of those attending, see The Times, 21 April 2008).

(See: List of humanities scholars who worked in military intelligence in the Second World War)

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