Monday 7 February 2022

Veteran film, stage, screen actor and singer, Valentine Palmer, passes away at 86

Valentine Palmer as Monia in the Doctor Who serial, Day of the Daleks
 On 10 January 2022, Valentine Palmer, best known for his role as Monia in the Dr Who serial, Day of the Daleks, passed away aged 86, after a short illness.

Valentine studied music and singing at Guildhall School of Music in London and was awarded the King George VI Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and subsequently appeared in almost 100 of Britain’s best loved TV series, including two episodes of Dr Who, Minder, The Saint, The Professionals, The Sweeney, Emmerdale, Dixon of Dock Green, Crossroads and The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Valentine as Lord Willoughby in The Six Wives of Henry VIII

He also played leading roles in numerous West End musicals including: Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Tommy Steele, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Dora Bryan, The King and I with Peter Wyngarde and Oliver with Helen Shapiro.

He also wrote, produced, and directed his feature film Fanny Hill which was a commercial success. As a result, he later worked in Hollywood as a script editor and later, in the UK, as a screenwriting coach.

In addition to the performing arts, Valentine also worked in the field of business and communication coaching as head of production for the company, Motivation Video, for 10 years with big-name clients like IBM and BP, and he set up his own company, The Academy of Communication, which he ran for 20 years.

Valentine was also an established writer and was commissioned to write the screenplay for The Singer as a vehicle for Cliff Richard. He was also commissioned to write the book for the West End musical, Zelda, about the wife of Scott Fitzgerald. In 2012, he was commissioned to write a biography of his great uncle, Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, the only senior officer to survive the sinking of the Titanic. Titanic and The Strange Case of Great Uncle Bertie was published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the tragedy. A firm believer in the 'Titanic Switch Theory' (that it was actually Titanic's identical sister ship, Olympic, that sank that fateful night and not the Titanic as part of an elaborate insurance fraud scam), Valentine went on to write several books and deliver lectures on the subject of the great ship and the mystery surrounding its loss.

Valentine Palmer, author of Titanic and The Strange Case of Great Uncle Bertie

His final project was working as producer/writer for the documentary The Session Man, about the life and career of legendary rock pianist, Nicky Hopkins, currently in production.

Valentine with Harry Shearer (of Spinal Tap and The Simpsons) at Olympic Studios during the filming of the Nicky Hopkins documentary, The Session Man

Valentine Palmer (24/7/1935-10/1/2022) who was originally from Crouch End, London, went to Brighton College, grew up in Thornborough, Buckinghamshire, lived in Brighton then moved to Malta and latterly lived in Grantham, leaves 5 children and 6 grandchildren.

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Tuesday 18 January 2022

My dearest mother has passed away - Pat Wood 1927-2022

My dearest mum - a real character, loved by all, always glamorous, and the kindest, warmest and most generous person you could ever wish to meet - passed away on 12 January 2022 aged 94. What a fantastic life she led and what a wonderful mother she was to me! I love her dearly and will always miss her - her warm heart, her smile, her kindness, her love, and most of all, her sense of fun ♥💔

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Thursday 27 May 2021

Saturday 11 April 2020

Life highlights of Leonard Berney, my father, born 100 years ago today

Leonard Berney 
11th April 1920 - 7th March 2016
(photo: Hy Money)

  • Adolphus Leonard Berney was born on 11th April 1920 at 169 Oxford Street, London. He was named after the filmstar Adolph Menjou who his mother found attractive. For some reason, Dad favoured his middle name over his first. ;-) This is the earliest photo I have of him, aged 3.

  • A very intelligent boy, he was destined for Cambridge University but WW2 came just at the wrong time.
1939: 2nd Lieut. L Berney, Rotal Engineers, Territorial Army
  • In 1939, he and his Anti-Aircraft regiment were mobilized for full-time military service in the defence of London. He took part in countering the Blitz and the V1 flying bomb attacks.
  • On 11th April 1944, on Dad's 24th birthday, he was promoted from Captain to Major, becoming one of the youngest Majors in the Britsh Army as 24 was the youngest permitted age for the rank of Major at the time.
  • In 1944 for a period of four to five months, Dad was appointed as Instructor to train hitherto static Anti-Aircraft regiments to become mobile in preparation for the invasion of France. Based in Kinmel Park Camp, north Wales, he put six regiments on a two-week training course. With each regiment comprising 600 men, he trained a total of 3,600 men!
  • In August 1944, he was in Normandy as Staff Officer, Anti-Aircraft Defense, of XIII Corps of the British 21st Army.
  • From 15th April 1945 for a period of 19 weeks, he played a significant role in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp as documented in his 2015 book, Liberating Belsen Concentration Camp.

  • In September 1945, he testified in the Belsen Trials at Lüneburg, Lower Saxony, Germany against the men and women of the SS who ran Belsen before its liberation.
  • Following his time at Belsen, he was appointed Military Governor of Schleswig-Holstein and was released from the army at the end of 1946 with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
  • Lamenting, one day, in a bar about not knowing what he was going to do for a career, it turned out that the person he was talking to was Leslie Berker, founder of Berkertex Ltd who happened to be looking for managers at the time and so offered him a job.

  • Married fashion model, Pat Purser, (my mother) on 28th July 1951 at Plymouth Registry Office.

  • Dad became the father of three sons and three grandchildren. My parents divorced in 1963.

  • Dad went on to become General Manager of the firm which, in turn, became the UK's largest clothing manufacturer. The company was originally based in London but moved to Plymouth in around 1950.
Dad giving Reginald Maudling a tour of Berkertex in the late 1950s
  • An ardent traveller, Dad became a pilot of light aircraft and flew his own plane to many destinations around Europe and he even once flew to Canada. In fact, he flew himself to 35 countries and 183 airfields. In the 1970s, he flew me and a school friend to Deauville on the north coast of France for lunch! In total, he visited around 150 countries in his lifetime. A veritable explorer!

    Dad and co-pilot, Stephen Bruh, in Narssassuaq, Greenland having flown across the Atlantic in his Piper Twin Comanche G ASMH.
  • Dad didn't let his age get in the way of him having fun.

  • In his later years, Dad started talking and writing about his experience of liberating Belsen. He wanted future generations to know what happened there in the hope it might help prevent further atrocities. Holocaust deniers also irritated him very much.

  • Delivering his talk on Belsen at Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson on 27th Jan 2014
  • He appears in the 2015 documentaries that marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust: Night Will Fall and No Asylum - the untold chapter of Anne Frank's story.

  • On 15th April 2015, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen, Dad published his book, Liberating Belsen Concentration Camp - a personal account which gives a unique and detailed perspective of the liberation.

    (photo: Hy Money)
  • In April 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen, filmmaker Mark Gorton released tWWIItter: Leonard Berney's Story - the liberation of Bergen-Belsen which, in my opinion, is a breakthrough in Holocaust education. It imagines social media existed in 1945 and that Dad documented the liberation of the camp on Twitter.

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