Catrin Jefferies interview

Mrs Catrin Jefferies is the widow of Mr Michael Glyn Jefferies, only son of Norman and Megan Jefferies. Norman was a beloved husband and father, an RAF navigator, a prisoner of war, and alumnus of LSE. Catrin Jefferies has generously given a scholarship in Norman Jefferies' name for an undergraduate studying economics. We spoke to Mrs Jefferies to find out about more about the scholarship and her late father-in-law.

What was your motivation for giving this gift?

My late husband died in 2009, leaving me money, some of which consisted of money he had inherited as the only son of Norman and Megan Jefferies, his parents, who had pre-deceased him

Can you tell us a bit more about Norman Jefferies (right, in RAF uniform), in whose name you have generously given this scholarship?

Norman was born on 21 February 1919 in Blaina Gwent. He lived nearly all his adult life in Abergavenny and died on 10 August 2003.

He was a pupil at Nantyglo Secondary School from September 1930 to July 1937. He left school for University College Southampton, to study Economics, but his studies were interrupted when he joined the RAF during the Second World War. He was a navigator in war planes before he was shot down over Germany and became a Prisoner of War for nearly three years at Stalag Luft III (the camp of the Great Escape fame). Initially known as Pilot Officer Norman Jefferies, he was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant Norman Jefferies 6450 whilst a POW.

After the War, Norman went to LSE where he graduated with a BSc in Economics. Later he lectured in Economics at local colleges/schools. He was also the local president of the NUT at one stage in his career.

Before joining the RAF Norman married Megan Harwell, who was a fellow pupil of his at school, on 7 May 1942 at St Saviours Church Paddington, by special licence. After the war the couple had one son, Michael Glyn Jefferies, born on 21 November 1947, who became one of the senior partners of Hugh James Solicitors, Cardiff and then Head of Legal at the Welsh Rugby Union before his death from cancer at the age of 61 on 30 August 2009. He was the last of their line.

Megan Jefferies, also born in Blaina Gwent (2 March 1918—19 June 2003), also served during the War in London as a civil servant/stenographer. She later worked as a medical secretary for the North Gwent Health District, as it was then known. Her only sister Madge Harwell 1913-1996, late of Blaina Gwent, was an Air Raid Warden during the War and then a teacher in local schools.

Norman and Megan were devoted to each other throughout their lives. Norman spent the last few years of his life nursing Megan who suffered from Alzheimers. To the end he remained good humoured and resilient. His great interests were rugby, gardening, reading, debating and snooker. Megan's interest was in looking after Norman and Michael

What impact do you think LSE had on Norman Jefferies' life?

Norman talked about LSE on many occasions. He was very proud to have been able to go there to do a degree in economics, a subject that was very dear to his heart. While in Stalag Luft III, amazingly, he continued his economics studies with the aid of various books sent to him by his wife, Megan, and also taught economics to some of his fellowPOWs. His letters to Megan during his time in Stalag Luft III have survived.

Below are extracts from some of them, which you may find of interest:-

16 October 1942

My dearest Megan, I had two letters from you yesterday... I hope you have had some more of my letters now, darling. I know what it means getting letters. I live for yours and the time I come back to you. Except when a letter comes from you, one day is much the same as another. They all run into each other. I read a lot. There are not enough books on the camp and I wouldn't be able to get enough from the university to do all my degree work. But there are a good number of economics books here and I am doing as much as I can, so that when I come back to you there will not be very much more reading to do. It keeps my mind fresh. I am feeling a lot better than when I came down first. Although I was uninjured I was quite shaken up. My pilot, H. E. Brown was killed when the plane crashed and has been buried at Krefeld Central Cemetery. All the other members of the crew, apart from myself, had broken legs. So we have a lot for which to be thankful, darling. To come out of that with only a black eye is fortunate. We all stuck to our jobs until the end, but Brown's action and work were superb and a Beau Geste....I hope to be with you soon, darling

All my love to you always

Norman xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

17 November 1942 PC

My dearest Megan, how are you, darling? I am very well and making the best of everything. The weather is getting a lot colder, but I have enough clothes to keep me warm, don't worry. Megan, I am alright. I am going hard at my economics and languages. By studying hard I can sometimes make the days seem to go quickly. Sometimes they drag. You are always in my thoughts. I'm missing you a lot. Gosh, will we celebrate the day we are together again! Think of what you would like to do and we'll do everything to make it possible. Keep your fingers crossed darling, the day is not far away

All my love to you always

Norman xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

22 November 1942

My darling Megan, I got your Christmas card, and I know, darling, with how much love you have sent it. It has brought me a lot of cheer for Christmas. Keep your fingers crossed, darling, that this will be the last Christmas we spend away from each other. I want you to send me an economics book. Write to the Secretary of the London School of Economics, Houghton Street, Aldwych and ask her for the full title and publisher of the standard work on economics by Ludwig von Mieses, the forward of which is by Prof Lionel Robbins, then send this work out to me, darling. It will be a big help to me, Megan. I am reading well in my economics, but I want a book as advanced as this to take me up to degree standard pure theory. Ask her also to advice a book on statistics and please send what she advises...... I am missing you, darling. Keep your fingers crossed that we will be together again soon. I love you so much. Give my love to your Mum and Dad andMadge and all at home. Enjoy yourself at Christmas, darling. My thoughts will be with you all the time

All my love to you always

Norman xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

3 December 1942

My dearest Megan, I got some more letters from you, to-day...... My studies are going furiously with the books I have here. Send the standard book by Ludwig von Mieses on economic as soon as the Secretary of the London School of Economics, HoughtonStreet, Aldwych, lets you know the full title and publisher. Working for my degree helps to make the time go quicker, although not quick enough. I am missing you, my darling. Keep your fingers crossed we will be together again soon. I love you so much. You are in my thoughts all the time

Al my love to you always

Norman xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

28 January 1943

My Dearest Megan, I hope my letters have been coming through to you regularly.....I am alright, darling, so do not worry. It is easy, I know, to say that but, please try not to worry. Things are much the same as usual here. I am continuing to read my economics and once in a while I read a novel for relaxation and to safeguard my style, which I feel would become too much like a text-book if they were the only things I read. I am reading Hadrian the Seventh by Fr Rolfe and finding it most interesting and as far as I have gone with it a really delightful study. All these things do help to occupy my mind. It is good that I can do that, darling, because I am missing you so much. Keep your fingers crossed it will not be long before we are together again..... I am always thinking of you, Megan, and that keeps me near to you so much.

All my love to you always

Norman xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

14 February 1944

My dearest Megan, how are you? I hope you are well and getting things ready for when I come home, darling. The Christmas cake you made sounded very exciting........I told you there was no change in the address of this camp but there is a slight change. After STALAG LUFT III you now have to put (TEILLAGER, BELARIA) in the brackets. The change has done me a lot of good. Although the living conditions are the same, the view is incomparable with that of the other camp. Being able to look out over the countryside, as we can for miles from here because we are on a hill, has put lightness back in my step and freshness in my mind. I have a new job here too, Megan. I am lecturing in economics to several fellows who are definitely going to take an examination, and in general I am going to supervise and organise their studies. This will keep me very busy and will be very useful to them, meaning that the time they spend here will not be entirely wasted. I am still going on hard with my own work and this lecturing will be useful to me in that, helping to refresh my memory on work I did some time ago..........Keep smiling darling

All my love to you always, dearest

Norman xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Did he have any particular memories or anecdotes from his time here?

None that I can recall, save that he was generally very proud to have been a student there. It was definitely a very important event in his life and I always felt that he appreciated it all the more because it came after his period as a POW.

What do you hope to achieve through giving this scholarship?

I want someone to benefit, in however small a way, from some of Norman's money.

What do you think the value of scholarships is for students and the School?

I think it is nice to "pay back" something to an institution that has been good to you. In doing that, I hope that students who benefit from scholarships feel that the wider public has concern for their welfare.

What advice would you give to a student starting university life?

He/she should make the very most of the opportunity to work hard, and play hard. Never again will he/she have such freedom of thought, movement, leisure etc. at such an exciting time of his/her life. This should be the chance of a lifetime to learn beyond the curriculum, and to relish and embrace the difference between fellow students, and people of the world generally.

What made you choose to give a scholarship for undergraduates?

I think that some additional money can be very welcome to undergraduates of all ages, particularly in this economic climate, however small the sum.

If there was just one thing you would like your scholar to know about NormanJeffries what would that be?

That he was a remarkable man who retained his enthusiasm for life, learning, humour, free-spirited thinking and reading, and open minded discussion, to the end of his days. Three things sustained him in days of considerable adversity when he was a POW—his love of Megan above all else, but also his colleagues, and his studies of economics.