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Who was Dick Perceval?

Dick, or John Richard Perceval, to give him his full name, was born in 1909 to a wealthy family, who lived in a house called The Grange in Farnham. The family was distantly related to Spencer Perceval, who was Prime Minister from 1809 – 1812, until he was assassinated in the House of Commons. Dick’s father was Sir Maj General Edward Maxwell Perceval and his mother was Lady Norah Perceval. He had a brother Max and a sister, Diana.

Dick's father, Edward Diana, Norah and Dick The Grange, Farnham

The journals start in 1925, when he was a pupil at Charterhouse School. He left school in 1926 to study German Language for a year at Berlin University, and the journals provide fascinating insight into the nightlife of Berlin at that vibrant time. Whilst there, he falls in love with a woman called Frieda. On his return to Farnham, he begins to seek work as a journalist or in publishing, but his dream is to write fiction. He believes that if he becomes a great author, he will be able to afford to marry Frieda, even without the approval of his family. He begins to write novels, which are all very romantic and based on his own life. None of them were published.

When Dick was 22, and working for Colour, an arts magazine in London, he met Sorina Eiche, a German woman, who is married with three sons. They began a complicated and tempestuous relationship and, following her divorce, her re-marriage and second divorce, Sorina and Dick finally married in 1936 in Singapore. There will be much more information about Sorina throughout the series – she was a feisty character and full of secrets.

Dick’s career as a journalist was disrupted by WW2, and, as he was unemployed at the time, he volunteered to join the Gunners. After 6 months of manning anti-aircraft guns at Enfield Lock, he was invited to a mysterious job interview in London. As a result, he was recruited for Bletchley Park, where he worked in Hut 3 as part of the Enigma team. His war journal, which was mostly written there, is a fascinating account of life in Bletchley at that time.

Following the war, Dick worked in political intelligence as part of the Control Commission in Hamburg. He returned, with Sorina, to the UK in 1950, where he took up a job with the BBC Monitoring Service. Following the death of Sorina, he married Sheila, who he had been in love with for a while. They retired to Hove in 1970, and his later journals record their life there.

The journals end in 1976, soon after he had surgery for lung cancer. However, Dick Perceval lived until July 1997, mostly at 3, Rochester Gardens in Hove.

Dick Perceval’s journals were found in 1998, on North Gardens in Brighton. How they came to be there is a mystery.

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Patrick Perceval
Patrick Perceval
Apr 23, 2020

I am a cousin of Dick's and knew his nephew Sir David Cooke.Both David and his sister Amanda Cooke are now dead .I don't know when Shiela Perceval died.Perhaps the diaries were put into a skip when she died.I would be fascinated to read them if you could e-mail me a copy.Please do not hesitate to ask for any more information on the Perceval family.Max was an older half brother.

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