Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Jack Nissenthal - The VC that never was

This is not the first time I have written about Jack Nissenthal on this Blog (key his name into the search box on the right to read these other articles).

Jack was an old C&BG boy who was truly part of WW2 History, and now by one of those amazing strokes of luck, I have just learned a bit more of his post-war activities and the true calibre of the man that should have rightly been awarded a VC.

The following article was sent to me, from the US, by Peter Applebaum MD who knew Jack and his wife post war in Pretoria, South Africa.

Read on !

My memories of Jack Nissen (as we all knew him) date from my childhood through young adulthood in South Africa. Jack and Dell had a record store and nobody could understand why they did what they did because, bless them both, they didn't have a head for business and they were right next door to a store whose owners did.

It turns out that, the way I understand it, Field Marshall Smuts had invited Jack to come to South Africa straight after the war and set up radar in South Africa. However, during the sea voyage from England, Smuts and his ruling party were voted out of office and the new Nationalist party wanted none of Smuts's ideas.

Jack and Dell, as well as their two children, became family friends. Two more modest people I would be hard-pressed to name. Always friendly, kind and hospitable. I will never forget Dell's booming cockney laugh. In over twenty years I did not hear an unkind word from either of them. When my father underwent orthopedic surgery, Jack was one of the first to visit him in hospital.

Our paths diverged in the 1970s: Linda moved to London, Jack and Dell to Toronto, and I myself emigrated to the US.

When Jack's book appeared it came as a complete surprise as they had kept completely silent about his WW2 exploits. His book was written so modestly that I had to delve a bit but it became clear to me that Jack had worked with Sir Robert Watson-Watt on the radar system which ultimately saved not only England but us all. That to say nothing of Dieppe.

It has not been my lot to meet the great and good (in South Africa the latter are in extremely short supply). Jack was, with the wisdom of hindsight, the greatest man I ever met. It was a privilege to have known him.

Peter Appelbaum