Obituary to a Grandfather: Roger Allier – Civil Servant, Singer, Old Man

On Tuesday last week I got a call from my sister telling me that my grandfather had died. My grandfather, or Grand-père, had lived at my parents’ home, the hospice in Canterbury, the hospital in Margate, and a nursing home in Whitstable  in the past month. He died in the nursing home, comforted by one of the staff members, not choking and coughing horrendously as he had been for the past month, unable to swallow anything. The coughing had been painful to watch. Instead, he fell asleep and slowly stopped breathing.

Only two days before, I’d gone to see him with my sister and mum. He wanted to know where his watch was. Mum said she would bring it to him the next day, but never managed to give it to him – she had it in her bag on the day he died.

As I was leaving, I said,

“Okay Grand-père, I’ll see you in two weeks,” even though I knew it was actually three weeks; I wanted it to be a shorter frame of time to give me a greater chance of seeing him again before he died, even though I knew it would be longer. I said bye, and gave him a kiss, and then I went outside and thought, I don’t think I’m going to see you again. I think I just said bye for the last time.

When I went to see him, he didn’t look like him at first. His mouth hung open. I could see his teeth. They were pretty brown, but still all his own – a grand feat at 91. They weren’t always brown: I remember about 20 years ago, saying to him, “Grand-père, your teeth are so white!”

Surprising he had his own teeth. Also surprising he had his own life for such a long time too considering he smoked most of his life and drank whisky for much of the remainder of it.

And when he was younger, he was stung by a stonefish (twice?) which should have killed him, he was poisoned by cyanide which should have killed him, and he had stomach cancer which also could have killed him in his seventies. Instead, he got the all clear two weeks after his wife, Grand-mère, died suddenly from a ruptured aorta, just a few days before their 50th wedding anniversary.

He always said that had he known she was going to die, he would never have had the cancer treatment. In fact, if you ever asked him how he was, his ongoing “joke” response was:

“Still alive.”

Grand-père was a French Mauritian who moved to England during the 1960s, and took his family with him – a wife, three sons, a daughter, a mother, a mother-in-law and a brother-in-law.

In Mauritius, he jumped a year ahead at school,  became a civil servant, working alongside the prime minister Seewoosagur Ramgoolam travelling around the world, studying in London,  negotiating with other countries. He negotiated with Japan over the waters they could fish in, and helped kick off the fish canning industry. He even received letters form the Bank of England right up into his old age.

He also played the harmonica, taught me latin (Amo amas, I met a lass, Amas amat, I laid her flat – that’s the clean version) and also had a great voice, sometimes singing for audiences, his own favourite singer being Tino Rossi.

When I was at uni, I did a journalism course and decided to interview him for an article. I didn’t get a great mark for it, but I thought I’d share it in this blog post to document some of the history of this man…

I’m sweating. Not just from running around, searching for the right adaptor lead for the old tape recorder I am about to use in my interview. But sweating also because it’s 9 o’clock in the morning, after a late night. Not too late, but late enough to have been bitten by a couple of dogs, if you get my drift.

My Mum hastens me along. I’m already meant to be interviewing my 86 year old grandfather, Roger Allier, or Grand-père as I know him, born on the 6th March 1921 in Mauritius. He’s an early riser, and an early drinker at that, which is probably why he’s better with hangovers than I am – he can’t remember them. Soon he won’t remember much of anything else either, which is why I have to catch him early on this morning – my only opportunity for an interview. You see, it’s not a case of a hair-of-the-dog or two for him; he plucks the beast bald, throwing it sugar free biscuits to keep it from whining. Grand-père’s a diabetic alcoholic, you see.

He doesn’t know he’s about to be interviewed. My Mum knows better than to tell him too much time beforehand about such things. He would have been having a nervous breakdown by now, wondering about what I was going to ask him. Does he ponder on such menial things because his whole life he has had to think about much bigger things? I find out once I’ve managed to replace the tape recorder lead and begin the interview.

I’m sitting opposite his empty chair whilst he makes a whisky in his annex at the back of my parents’ house. They built it for him when Grand-mère, my grandmother Henrietta Allier, died at the slightly unripe age of 72. It’s great. A humble bed-sit which has a small bathroom, complete with toilet, sink and shower, and a living room come kitchen come bedroom. What more could he want? The house he used to live in probably, where he thought he would spend his old age laughing with his wife, had she not died suddenly three days before their golden wedding anniversary. That’s not to say that he doesn’t enjoy life now.

“You want one?” Grand-père asks me as he shuffles back to his chair, motioning towards the large bottle of whisky. It’s ten o’clock in the morning. I kind of laugh, unsure if he’s joking, before declining the offer. I notice he has two other large bottles behind the open one. He says he got them all for Christmas. I got him some colourful socks. Grandfathers always appreciate socks.

I wonder what he would have appreciated when he was younger, during his life in Mauritius before he moved to England. I want to know why the small black and white photo on the wall above his chair, of him and my grandmother in their early twenties, expressionless, holds more colour than his life now.

“I started as a clerk, a junior clerk,” he tells me, about his job in Mauritius. “I was able to climb up all the ladders…In the end I finished as one of the top civil servants.”

The top of his shiny head faces me as he looks at the floor, while speaking softly in his French Mauritian accent, his slow hand conducting the speed of his words. I begin to understand how successful this old man was. He learnt shorthand, and was a judge’s clerk before working his way up into the government in Mauritius, mixing with the most important people in the world.

He starts to tell me why he left Mauritius which involves the Prime Minister. I interrupt. Did he know the Prime Minister of Mauritius? He seems surprised that I ask.

“Oh yes! The Prime Minister was Dr Ramgoolam.” Lunches with Dr Ramgoolam and other members of the government and their wives were common events, but a certain lunch caused the final push for Grand-père towards England. “The Prime Minister Ramgoolam talked to my own wife after a few drinks, and he was telling her apparently his plans to take me with him on a voyage to the United States of America where I had been before.” My grandmother went mad when they got home. “Rita said, “If you do that again, we are finished. I’m not going to look after the children again!” So the only thing I could do at that time was to leave.”

At this point I look at the photo of the young pair. It’s strange to think that they ever argued. An old couple who had stayed together for so many years – I would assume that their relationship was harmonious, painless…tiffless. I was too young when Grand-mère died to have seen another side. He had travelled to America with the prime minister previously for six months – a long time for anyone to deal with, especially as Grand-mère had four children to look after, a leg operation to contend with, and a Christmas without him.

The other reason my grandfather left was because he was certain that Mauritius was about to get its independence. “I was thinking mainly of the children, of their future.”

These children, now near retirement, are Roger, 61, Gilbert, 59, Yves, 56, and Floriane, my mother, 53. “As long as the English were the owners of the place, there was an English governor, responsible directly to the secretary of state here, but Mauritius was getting independence.”

The independence of Mauritius was a positive thing. But when one dominating group leaves, another takes over bringing much change, and in this case it was Indians. I ask if this was because there were a lot of them. Again Grand-père is surprised. “Yes! Two thirds of the population!” Mauritius also consisted of Chinese, Africans and the French descendents, like Grand-père, not to mention the English and Dutch. In fact, the island is so multi-racial, it is difficult to define someone with pure Mauritian blood.

“Mauritius was very close to the island of Réunion – you know that? And Réunion was a French colony…while we, Mauritius, we were different. We had lots of Indians.” It is Réunion which his father Alcé Allier came from, while his mother Athalie Loulié came from Mauritius, and her parents from France. “So in that way I was French, came from French people: Allier and Loulié,” he says. I’ve come to learn that many grandparents love to reel off stories about their past. Some reel off the same stories repetitively. Some can only remember parts of their stories. The latter is true for my grandfather.

I’ve heard so many stories about his life in previous years from him and others, and I want to hear them again. But when I ask questions such as,
“Have you ever been back to Mauritius?” or
“What was the most memorable moment for you in your job?”, the replies are,
“I think I’ve been, I can’t remember,” and
“When Rita was still here we talked about quite a few things like that because meeting people and…but I can’t remember any of it now.” I’m still able to get quite a lot of information, yet later he worries that he’s been of no use to me. I wonder if I should get him a bottle of whisky to show how much he’s helped. I think again; this copper coloured liquid isn’t exactly oiling his synapses.

But his weakening memory doesn’t stop him from telling me about a certain occasion I’ve heard mentioned before and wish to hear about fully. His meeting with Haile Selassie. As it turns out, there’s more to it then just a handshake as I’d originally thought. At first I think it’s another dead end as I ask,
“Was there anyone in particular you quite liked?”
“Not in particular, most of them were very friendly.”
Maybe he doesn’t speak of Selassie because he doesn’t think the event is as important as I do (I’m interested in reggae and its history), or maybe because he just doesn’t remember meeting him or didn’t like him that much, or maybe I wasn’t direct enough. I soon fix that.
“You met Haile Selassie didn’t you?”
“That’s when I went to Ethiopia. He was alright to me.” Another question about Ethiopia to which he answers,
“To me it seemed like a big country being wasted. I mean, there were so many things that could be done.” Then he’s off, talking about the international meeting there.
“But an amusing thing and I always remember, that there were 10 or 12 of us going in there of different nationalities…so they had to take quite a lot of precautions.” These precautions were because of the fear that Selassie would be assassinated. So they all had to enter in the same vehicle, surrounded by guards, and then Selassie was meant to arrive slightly later. But Grand-père wanted a cigarette.
“So I went downstairs quietly, and then I heard somebody laughing beside me and it was Haile Selassie. He had left his guards…We talked and then we went in together, and they were all laughing. Yeah he was supposed to be protected, because one of our lot could have shot him!” My grandfather laughs and looks at the ground. I laugh too, wondering what else I was to find out.

When he eventually moved to England, he had a convoy of people to take with him, all to live in a large flat in Battersea in 1962. And so life sprinted on, as does the interview. We talk about his leisurely life shooting game, and his part as an acting sergeant major in World War II, where he momentarily comes to life, hollering the orders he used to shout when loading and shooting six-inch guns, how he studied at Cambridge, at the London School of Economics, and the many countries he visited, from his forefather arriving on a ship called Le Tigre which sank leaving him stranded in Mauritius, to descendants sailing on a boat to England.

My final question:

“Did you ever meet the British Prime Minister?” and he can’t remember. Luckily, my mother can. She finds a photocopy of a newspaper cutting from the front page of the Washington Post on the day of Ethiopia’s independence. It shows him meeting Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home. My grandfather on the front page. I’ll be careful the next time I sign someone off as just an old person. You never know what great things they’ve achieved.

Etienne Amable Roger Allier

6 March 1921 – 4 December 2012

Commentary on Old Age

I heard a story recently from someone I know who told me that their father was adopted during the Second World War. In fact, he wasn’t even adopted, but sold illegally. I thought I’d write about that, but instead I’ve been a bit distracted, and can’t seem to think about writing.

I had a call on Tuesday from my sister. She said that my granddad fell over in the night, and now he couldn’t get up, had no power in his legs. He was barely speaking. Since Tuesday, he’s been speaking more, but mainly to ask questions. It turns out he’d had a minor stroke. He thought he was in America on Wednesday, though I think that was because the hurricane was plastered all over the news that probably did that, playing with his mind and that.

The strange, or not so strange, thing is, this man, my granddad Roger Allier, or Grand-pere as we all call him, used to help run a country. He was a French Mauritian civil servant who worked alongside Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam who led Mauritius towards independence in 1968. Grand-pere travelled around the world – studied in England, met multiple politicians, even ended up on the front cover of The Washington Post when he was in America. Back in school, he jumped a year ahead, and later fought in the Second World War, helping defend Mauritius against the Japanese who wanted to destroy the sugar cane plantations. Even ten years ago, he was winning crossword puzzles. And at 91, he still has all his own teeth.


Of course, Grand-mere, his wife Rita Allier, had to support him through all this, and he couldn’t have been the person he was without her, as is the case for most successful people; they all need some sort of support be it from a partner or a friend or a parent. Even Hitler had a mother.

So anyway, I’m just making a short piece today as I feel like I need to exorcise my confusion – how can someone, anyone, even the least “successful” person, end up so confused? The thing is mind disorders are scary things. Old age is too. The troubling part about it isn’t his lack of energy, but his confusion in everything – where he is, who everyone is etc.

I started writing this post two days ago, but thought it wouldn’t be right, writing about someone who doesn’t know you’re writing about them, and wouldn’t understand if you explained to them. But this is a personal blog about history. And sometimes we write to work things out. I could go on, but there’s one thing my mind always comes back to:

Old people aren’t the other. People see teenagers as the other – they see them as someone different, but we were still once them. People also see old people as the other – depressed, lonely, ill. But they were once us too, and we will be them one day. They aren’t children to be patronised, or morons to pity. Some of them led countries. Some of them murdered. Some of them fell in love. Some of them had amazing adventures. Feeling sad or guilty for them won’t help them, as I am realising. One day, it will be my parents. One day, it will be me, and for that reason, we can’t feel too upset. Everybody gets old.

Everybody gets old and becomes another person’s history.


Tales from the Crypt

Portugal – that’s where I was a week ago. I went to the Algarve. The evenings looked like this:


Nearby the villa we stayed at there was a small town called Alcantarilha, and in this town is a 16th century church – the Capela dos Ossos or the Bone Chapel, as you’ll see by its original decor inside:  


Over 1000 bones are stored in this chapel, which was built over a graveyard. Like many bone chapels throughout Portugal, as opposed to being a gory sight, it was actually built for the honest purpose of protecting the remains of the dead. Which is why inside, Jesus watches over the bones.

Portugal isn’t the only country to have relocated various graveyard bones. From my last post about my family tree of deceased people, to this post with its church of relocated bones…to a tree with relocated graves. Do you know who this man is?

It’s Thomas Hardy, the famous writer of such stories as Jude the ObscureFar from the Madding Crowd, and Under the Greenwood Tree. St Pancras station, London, began construction in 1863, and there was a slight problem with the development: St Pancras Old Church, said to have Norman links and to be the oldest surviving church in London, had a graveyard full of aristocrats and prominent figures such as immigrants like the refugees from the French Revolution, that encroached on the development of the station and later developments. So it was decided that the graveyard should be relocated.

Around the same time as the construction of the station, Thomas Hardy was a student of architecture. He was appointed as the overseer of the exhumation – a sensitive affair considering the nature of the job, and one which he would write about much later, having spent so much of his time managing the movement. The 7,000 bodies were to be placed in a mass grave just north of the graveyard. And the gravestones?


This is known as the Thomas Hardy tree, an ash tree which was planted around the same time as the reinterment of the bodies, later to grow up amongst the headstones. I haven’t actually visited it yet. Maybe I’ll go on Halloween. And to Highgate cemetery.

I’ve visited many cemeteries in my life, due to the two trips I went on visiting First World War memorials and graveyards in France and Belgium. One sticks in my mind in Belgium – the Langemark cemetery, a German cemetery.

During WWI, the Germans buried their dead just as their enemies did, in makeshift graves that became permanent. Here are a couple of original German graves at the preserved trenches of Sanctuary Wood in Belgium:

After WWI, the defeated Germans were made to exhume the bodies of their soldiers in the graveyards in this area of Belgium, and rebury them in fewer graveyards. After WWII, the Germans had to exhume the bodies again from these cemeteries and reinter them again into fewer cemeteries, for the sake of an easy upkeep in a foreign land. Langemark, at the time known as Langemarck-North was one of just three “collecting” cemeteries. It was filled with the bodies from 18 other cemeteries. They were reburied in mass graves, multiple names listed like below. 

There are over 44,000 bodies in this one cemetery.

Everyone I know who I visited this cemetery with on both tours was especially affected by the bleakness here. Aside of the many gravestones, there are three mass graves here, one of which is known as the Comrades’ grave, containing 24,917 servicemen. Worth noting is the small monument at the entrance; inside, this building lists the names of the soldiers’s bodies that were unable to be identified but known to be buried at Langemark.

3,000 of the bodies in one area of the cemetery are those of Kriegsfreiwilliger, which means war volunteer. These soldiers were young, inexperienced German men who made up 15% of the war vounteers who died at the Battle of Langemarck during October and November 1914, as part of the First Battle of Ypres. It was at the hands of highly trained French infantry and British riflemen. It is now known as Kindermord bei Ypern in German, or the Massacre of the Innocents in English.

At one end of the cemetery stands four figures, the bronze statues of a group of mourning men, created by Professor Emil Krieger from Munich. It was taken from a famous print of a group of German soldiers from the Reserve-Infantry-Regiment 238 mourning at a graveside in 1918. Two days later the man on the second from the right was killed.

When you first enter the cemetery, it’s what you immediately see. These four silhouetted figures. And even once you’ve worked out that they aren’t in fact real people, you can’t help but let your gaze return to them, always there in the background, watching over.

Dangerous Jobs for Women: Sexual Objectification in Science and War

“Support the relief organisation: Mother and Child”

Someone I know had a baby yesterday, and it got me thinking about a post I’ve been thinking of writing for a while. Women are strong to have babies and it’s usually a positive experience. But what can I say? With babies comes sex, and with sex in history, women have usually ended up playing the more … unfavourable roles. I have to warn you – this is strong stuff.

At Christmas, I went to my partner’s grandparents. His grandfather is always telling stories and some of them feature the Second World War. Around the time of the war, I guess it was after, when there were English soldiers in Germany, he was stationed there. He told us about how the soldiers of different nations used to do swaps – items of food and such. Then he said about a young German woman who he spent time with at this point, and used to go and see. He said she had a baby, after she was made pregnant by a German soldier. I said,

“You mean, she was in something like the joy division?”

He said, “Yes.” It almost put me off my food.

The first time I heard the term “Joy Division” was in relation to the late 1970s’ band . The first time I came to learn of what it meant was when I watched the film Control about Ian Curtis – the lead singer of the band. They named their band after a prostitution wing in a concentration camp that featured in the novella The House of Dolls. There were two strong forms of sexual objectification in Nazi Germany: on one side there were brothels with forced prostitutes – joy divisions, on the other, the idealistic baby farms with voluntarily and involuntarily impregnated women. Whilst it’s not proven that the novella is based on any diaries, researchers have evidence of female prisoners being bussed through Nazi concentration camps to become sex slaves  in the brothels of the men’s army barracks. This was Himmler’s idea – what better way to relieve his hard working men? So female prisoners were forced into prostitution. Though the Nazis maintained they were against brothels, they had state-run prostitution houses throughout Europe. And for female prisoners, threatened into it or coerced into becoming prostitutes through promises of decent food and their release from the brothel in half a year, it was the only chance they had to save their lives.

Aryan baby farms were another disturbing component of the grand Nazi regime that sought to establish their super Aryan race, in which SS men fathered “super babies”. Blonde hair, blue eyes – you know the rest. Either children with the right look were stolen from their parents across Europe, or they were produced by Aryan couples, or impregnated women. After the war, many of these Aryan babies were hidden away shamefully from society, in mental institutions and the like. In this article, it’s interesting that one of these men who was once a super baby, surmises that had the Nazis won, he may have been someone of high office in the Nazi leadership today. And people like me wouldn’t be alive. He was born amongst 2,800 other babies at the Third Reich’s first breeding centre in Lebensborn which means “spring of life”. The plans were drawn up for these farms by Hitler and his men, including Himmler (again), as far back as 1932.

And the so-called “pure-bred” women involved?

Racial selection agents scouted out innocent women in countries across the world that Hitler planned to overrun, to become mothers, or more correctly, baby mules. Many of these women were forcefully taken to Lebensborn, and alongside voluntary women, become the bearers of the “super race”. Married couples were also encouraged to have sex elsewhere to help produce this blonde haired Aryan race (personally, I think the Scandinavians beat them to it), and the women who volunteered to have up to four babies received the Mother’s Cross – the Mutterkreuz:

Many of these babies survived, some were experimented upon, but any with disabilities were killed. The idea of women being forced into this position is horrendous, but the idea of women volunteering for it baffles me. Or at least it used to, until I watched a programme about another “super race”.

After the Russian revolution in 1917, and more importantly, the death of Lenin in 1924, the Soviets looked into the idea of creating a brand new super race themselves – between man and ape. This idea was fronted by the Bolsheviks – a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (try saying that first thing in the morning), who were worried that their ideas would die out with their lives. So to combat this, Stalin ordered the top animal-breeding scientist, Ilya Ivanov, to develop a new race, that would be resistant to illnesses and so live longer. He came up with the idea of mixing human blood with another species, that of an ape. So how did they do it?

He tried to impregnate apes in Africa through artificial insemination, but when this failed, he tried the opposite: women volunteers were to be impregnated with ape sperm. Some women signed up. But this operation also failed, when the only postpubescent male ape left in the study died. When this also failed, Ivanov was sent to prison and then exiled in Kazakhstan.

So why did the women sign up? They felt they had a strong patriotic duty to their country, as did, I’m sure, the Nazi women volunteers of the baby farming program. They believed they were the first steps toward a super race, and they were proud to create human-ape hybrids.

A darker side of Russian history concerning the treatment of women is what happened after the Second World War, when the Red Army (the Workers’ and Peasants’ Army) “freed” the countries of Eastern Europe from Nazi occupation.

“Facism is woman’s worst enemy. All on the fight with facism!”

“Revenge for the people’s misery!”

“Glory to the liberators of Ukraine!”

It’s a well-known fact that as the Soviets marched through Europe, they raped woman after girl after woman “from eight to 80” years old including those in Russia. It’s so well-known in fact, that the Russian government today ignores it. Which doesn’t make sense. Or at least, there is now a law in Russia that prevents people from promoting anything negative against Russian history – this included. Surely these rape victims deserve some sort of apology? Instead, they face denial. If only these idealistic posters were true to life. Alas. Propaganda never is.

Russia wasn’t the only nation to sexually abuse women and girls during the Second World War. Japan is known to have stolen young women and girls, some barely teenagers, and forced them into becoming sex slaves for the soldiers. I always remember reading one account from a woman who was 14 at the time, and she was playing in her front garden when a man pulled up in a car. He got out and asked her if she wanted to go for a ride in his car. She said, “Yes.” He never took her back home.

These girls and women were known as “comfort women” – as they “comforted” the Japanese soldiers. They weren’t just from Japan, but also a number of other countries including Korea, China, the Philippines and many more. One woman, Jan Ruff-O’Herne, explains how not only was she systematically beaten and raped every night, but also how she and others were raped by the Japanese doctor who checked them for venereal disease. At least some Japanese leaders have apologised to these women.

Finally, I come to the treatment of “Nazi Collaborators” at the end of the Second World War. Across the European nations, civilians were turning on themselves, accusing and punishing others for “collaborating” with the Nazis. Whilst there were a lot of collaborators during the war in Nazi-occupied countries, many people were simply trying to get on with life, and accepting Nazi soldiers was a part of that. For many, this was it – this was the forseeable future. In places like the Channel Islands and France, their governments had failed them – so what hope was there? In particular, I always found the treatment of French women at the end of the Second World War horrific. These so-called “German collaborators” were made an example of in their towns and villages – they had their heads shaved as a form of desexualisation and were paraded around like cattle at an auction.

These were young women, many of them teenagers, and many were simply prostitutes who treated every man with the same value: as trade. And there were male collaborators too, so why did these women bear the brunt of fraternising with the enemy? Yes, a couple of the French leaders were imprisoned, but what of the civilian male population? The not so funny thing is that although some of these French women were prostitutes, they were the ones that inevitably paid the price for their sexual encounters.

There are more stories and facts from more modern history concerning these issues, but I think that’s enough for now. Instead, I’m going to go and look at nice pictures of a newborn baby. And I’ll be thinking to myself: What a relief that I live here and now.

A Recent Trip to the War Rooms…

I went to the Churchill War Rooms on Saturday. Thought you might like it if I shared some fuzzy photos with you. It would have cost roughly £15 (and I think it’s worth that although it’s not as large as other museums that are free), but I got it for a fiver a ticket through Tesco Clubcard vouchers.

The Churchill War Rooms basically takes you underground to the rooms where many people worked during WWII for the coalition government. These rooms were previously basement rooms under the houses of parliament. Many people worked there every day in places like the map rooms, and it was said to be quite stuffy and smelly what with the lack of air circulation and chemical toilets. It also housed bedrooms for some of the leaders, though although Churchill often took his daily nap here, he only actually slept in his underground room overnight three times.

Anyway, here are some photos – you may also be interested to know that you can now follow this account on Twitter:

Where meetings were held – Churchill’s chair is the wooden one at the back:

  Concrete reinforcement in walls and ceilings:

Women workers – typists and secretarials:

Gas masks adapted for typists to wear:


The model woman applying make up was looking at me from the mirror’s reflection:


The “engaged” Transatlantic Telephone room. People often thought there was a proper working toilet here, but it was where Chruchill went to make long distance calls:


Chemical toilet:

Sink pump for pumping water from ground level:


Someone adapted an electric plug to be a cigarette lighter:

Churchill and his wife Clemetine’s bedrooms: