Dear Hulm Family: Many months after the fact, I came across Freddy’s obituary and well-deserved tribute on line. My ex-husband (now late) David Balkwill Stock and I , along with our young adult children travelled to Buckland Filleigh several times in the late 1990’s Our mission was to search out the Balkwills my mother-in -law’s family who had emigrated to Canada in the late 1800’s. Your amazing parents guided us in our quest and showed much warmth and kindness to the five of us. The description of your father perfectly fits my memories of him. It is unlikely that your mother would remember me, but I do remember her vividly and with much affection. To all of you, please accept my deepest condolences and know that your father was respected and loved by our family. Susan
Donate in memory of
FrederickThe Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund
In loving memory of Air Commodore Frederick Robertson Hulm, B.D.S., R.A.F. (retd) who sadly passed away on 31st May 2019 aged 88 years
Much loved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather and respected by all who knew him.
Funeral Service at Buckland Filleigh Parish Church on Wednesday 12th June at 2.00pm
Family flowers only, donations if desired to The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund may be sent to N. Lock & Son, Black Torrington, EX21 5QD 01409 231281
There were several requests during and after the wake for a copy of tribute given during the funeral so Mandy, Alex, Georgie and Quentin agreed it would be best to put it on to the obituary page. Please pass the word on to anyone else you think would like to see it.
TRIBUTE TO FREDDY HULM
by Quentin Hulm
12th June 2019
Pa was born on 10th May 1931 in Lancashire. Son of Freddy and May Hulm, he had no memories of his father who died when Pa was only two. The consequence of this was that his mother, Granny Mary (as she was known to my siblings and me, and perhaps some of the residents of Buckland Filleigh), moved back home to her parents in Blundellsands, together with Pa and his older brother Jim.
Gran and Grandad Robertson featured heavily in Pa’s life. He describes Grandad as being a kindly, generous man of few words but much humour whilst Gran is described as a large lady of strong character whose love was always assured, whilst always being wary of her displeasure. He always said that with Gran on your side the world was a very secure place; just a few rules, but rigidly applied.
Granny Mary’s siblings George, Ronald and Nessie had all left home. Jean and Alistair, however, remained until 1936 and 1938 respectively. Inevitably Pa was closest to his Aunt Jean and Uncle Alistair at this time; Uncle Alistair was always up for a good rough and tumble. Aunt Jean’s son George and his wife Mary are with us here today.
Pa described a happy childhood and apparently, in light of some of the pranks, good humoured grandparents. Glue in Grandad’s hat was one prank which worked better than expected as Grandad tried to doff his hat to a lady. That he and Jim survived painting the neighbours garden path red speaks volumes about their grandparents, as does, conversely, dropping a mouse in his mother’s handbag … not daring that one on Gran!
War broke out and he and Jim were confined to bunk beds in a reinforced bomb shelter under the stairs. All sounds, no sights. As Pa went off to Christ’s Hospital school in Sussex, however, he had memories of the sky over Liverpool filled with the beams of searchlights and the flashes of guns and bombs. Indeed whilst at Christ’s Hospital the whole school slept two to a bed and two underneath in the service tunnels beneath the school.
As the son of a widow, Pa was eligible for Christ’s Hospital School, provided he was “presented” by a Governor. He was always quite pleased I think that Miss Minet appears to have selected him based on his mother’s description of him as an “average” boy and a photo of him looking like Just William. Conversely the other applicants appear to have been described by their mothers as being of varying dazzling intellect.
Exciting events during these years include a Doodlebug V1 bomb landing in the Masters’ car park during a cricket match. This demolished a row of garages, did a lot of damage to the infirmary and blew out half the windows at that end of the school, but no one was hurt. There was a stirring speech by General Montgomery on a visit to the School in 1994 and, on a beautiful summer evening, Pa saw a clear blue sky full of aircraft towing gliders passing over the school in what he believes was either D-Day or Operation Market Garden, the Arnhem Landings.
On Victory in Europe Day, Pa was “Senior Junior” and recalls leading the whole junior dormitory down the emergency stairs to attack the senior dorm with pillows. I quote: “We escaped with only minor injuries and no punishment which would have been quite inconceivable at any other time”. We only learned from our American cousins quite recently that his brother Jim had cycled to Christ’s Hospital from his own school some 60 miles away to be with Pa on VE day.
Pa recalls being described in a school report, aged 12, as “feckless”. He therefore rather enjoyed a similar school report for me at a similar age in which Max Williams noted that “Quentin’s nuisance value remains quite incredible”. He also thought it particularly unjust that I was caned for having too many minor punishments, a similar thing having happened to him. He recalls complaining to a Mr. Pink “But sir, it’s not fair”. “Fairness boy, what has fairness got to do with it? Life is not fair.”
Pa clearly loved Christ’s Hospital. However, it was just before his Highers that he seems to have been manoeuvred into the “family profession” courtesy of his mother, ostensibly due to his maths, or lack thereof. Pa never really wanted to be a dentist. He had always wanted to be a Mechanical Engineer (he had after all long been nicknamed “Dogs and Cogs” by brother Jim) and, having generally been top his class in Machine Drawing, he felt that with a bit of Maths coaching this would have been his vocation. Some years later he would also reflect on why, whilst at Liverpool, he hadn’t switched to Marine Biology, another subject in which he was greatly interested in.
Suffice to say he stuck it out in Dentistry. The next few years entailed deferment of National Service and studying at Liverpool University. Throughout all this Pa played Rugby for Waterloo, eventually for the first team as Scrum Half. I would add that Waterloo, at the time, was on the same level as what is now the premiership; however, Pa would be the first to say that Rugby then was not the professional game it is now. He played his last game for Waterloo for the first team against Sale in 1954, together with his brother Jim at full back.
In Pa’s words, “Brenda came into my life on the Isle of Man while on holiday at the Balqueen Hotel in Port St Mary in 1947”. It was here, whilst chatting with Ma and her elder sister Dyfi and parents, that he suddenly found himself under their father’s gaze as he was absentmindedly and (let’s be charitable) unintentionally twiddling the tie on the back of Dyfi’s swimsuit. “You’re a bit of a dog aren’t you”, was Mr. Thomas’ rather dry observation. Despite this potentially perilous start, he and Grandpa formed a lasting close friendship.
Two years later they met again in the cafeteria of the Students Union. Ma was then studying at the School of Physiotherapy and wearing what seemed like a school uniform but, in Pa’s words, “I was smitten”. Sadly their first date, at the Dental Christmas Ball, ended with Pa lying on the floor in a sweaty heap, followed by a trip to the Hospital to fix a broken leg. This was triggered during an earlier Rugby match … the Conga finished it off.
Subsequently they saw a lot of each other and, with the form of today, Pa said they probably would have lived together. Eventually, due to a combination of poverty and relative geography, they did take a break before Dad could stand it no longer and invited Ma to a show (he’d heard she’d been seen out with someone else!). To his great relief she agreed and shortly after they were engaged. So, on the combined income of £45/month they were married on 18th December 1953.
Not long after this Pa took the pragmatic decision to take a short service commission in the RAF rather than do National Service. The pay was better as were the allowances, including the ration allowance. Ironically, his first two weeks were training at RAF Halton in what became The Institute of Dental Health and Training that 24 years later he returned to command.
It would be impossible to adequately summarise even this early stage of his career in the RAF here. Great friends were made, Mandy was born and reprimands were received. Driving the wrong way up a one way street only to encounter the Station Commander’s car coming the other way is just unfortunate. Receiving a reprimand for racing around the airfield perimeter track in his Austin A30 against a colleague in a Morris Minor was clearly worth it!
Evidently very happy times, postings included RAF Feltwell and then RAF Oldenburg and RAF Butzweilerhof, both in Germany. This must have been fascinating only a relatively few years after the end of the war.
In September 1959, a decision to apply for a Permanent Commission seemed to have been made. However, an opportunity arose to move to the West Country and join a Dental Practice … sight unseen. Aside from a beautiful farmhouse in Combeinteignhead and the arrival of Alex, this proved a mistake which was resolved after some months with an invitation to join a practice in Chester, although this did entail cancelling a request to rejoin the RAF.
The practice in Chester was prestigious and altogether better than Newton Abbot had been. During the time there more great friends were made, a house (“Juxons”) was built and Georgie was born. However, Pa was looking out of the same window every day and dreading decades of the same thing. “Just think ...” said the Senior Partner in a last ditch effort to change Pa’s mind as he was leaving to rejoin the RAF, “...you could be doing the teeth of the children of all these children, isn’t that lovely?”……..
So ... it was back to the RAF and a varied life with a career path. On re-joining, the first posting was Singapore. This was a real blessing at a time when they were leaving the house they built together and, of course, for being where I was born!
Pa was probably the least pompous person I know. As many of you will be aware, he rose to Air Commodore as Principal Dental Officer. He always felt it a bit ludicrous that a dentist should reach such exalted rank in the RAF and in these latter, more responsible administrative years, he railed against what he saw as the wastage of public money within the medical and dental branches. Of course, that’s not say that he didn’t rather enjoy the irritation of his Naval counterpart whose highest possible rank did not reach such lofty heights and who had to suffer Dad receiving all the Naval pomp due to Air, Flag or Brigadier rank when visiting. Or indeed the odd perk like the car with a driver.
Other trappings of senior rank in the RAF included taking his wife and “two” of his daughters to Buckingham Palace Garden Parties (Mandy had foolishly married before this opportunity arose) and drinks with Margaret Thatcher and Dennis at Chequers. Ma recalls Maggie circulating with a bottle of gin in her hand doing top-ups.
There isn’t the time and this isn’t the place to detail a whole career in the RAF. Apart from a posting to NATO HQ in Holland in the late 60s, all the remaining posts were in the UK. Highlights in his career would have to include hosting the Queen on a tour of the Institute of Dental Health and Training while he was Officer Commanding and the two short attachments he did in Moscow in the then Soviet Union at the British Embassy. These were the days of Brezhnev as First Secretary.
Other achievements include writing a history of the RAF Dental Branch and rescuing a WWII Mobile Dental Centre from a scrap heap in Cyprus and almost single-handedly restoring it (it’s now in the RAF Museum in Cosford).
There are undoubtedly many other highlights and achievements but above all I suspect the main highlight would be the friendships made. Suffice to say he and Ma loved their life in the RAF and made many, many lifelong friends.
In 1985, as the RAF continued its inexorable shrinkage, Pa was faced with a return to the Ministry of Defence in London or taking early retirement. To him this was no contest and so in April 1986 he retired to Woodhead and, in his words, “We dug ourselves in and have never really wanted to be anywhere else”.
It would be foolhardy for me to risk mentioning significant Buckland Filleigh friendships. You all know who you are. I’ll risk one though, again in Pa’s words, “We were so fortunate with our neighbours, the Perkins and the Balsdons. Stan Balsdon was my guide and mentor in all matters of DIY. Advice was given, tools lent and backup was always on hand”.
Pa loved boats. Big ones and little ones but mainly sailing ones. The primary attraction wasn’t really the sailing, it was the companionship of friends who came with him, the planning and the tinkering. The general mucking about. Pa subscribed to the view expressed by a fellow Officer that work had really “got in the way of mucking about time”. Pa was extremely well versed in boat handling and particularly safety. It was understandably embarrassing then, as Commodore of the RAF Sailing Club, to broadside the Hurst Point marker buoy off the Isle of Wight, causing reasonably extensive damage and terminating a week’s holiday after about 14 hours. To be fair, he was below plotting a course at the time … a fellow Buckfillian being at the helm! Equally, however, it would also be fair to say that he had told said Buckfillian to “aim for the buoy”! His reputation seemed untarnished within the Sailing Club, however. Indeed it seems that this was a relatively minor misdemeanour compared to the sinking of the yacht “Dambuster” by the Senior Sailing Instructor only shortly before.
Boat safety extended to entering and exiting small dinghies. A lifetime family memory was forged when, whilst standing in the bow of our little Puffin boat, he carefully managed the exit process of each and every child in order to ensure the stability of the boat. I don’t recall which of us was last to step out but I can vividly recall the glorious inevitability as the dinghy pivoted around his weight in a perfect parabolic arc and deposited him overboard … in March. Pa never viewed this with quite the hilarity as did the rest of us. Only a few weeks ago in the Hospice, however, it was a canal boat event that brought us all to tears of laughter as he recalled the humiliation of falling off in front of Ma, Aunt Els, another boat load of American tourists and, worst of all, big brother Jim … who was already revelling in Pa not being in charge of THIS boat.
Pa loved a good argument. On almost any topic. On the boat he loved John Thurley’s opening gambit of “Pick a subject and take a position Freddy, and I’ll take the opposite view”. At home of course Pa was always right … even when he wasn’t. Coupled with a somewhat old fashioned view of a father’s place in the world, in particular amongst daughters, this could and frequently did lead to some highly emotional endings. As infuriating as this could be though, the thing about Pa is that his triumph would quickly pall and, feeling awful, he would come and patch up. Even on the occasions when he had been right.
Pa’s sense of humour never left him, though he was hating the dying process. On arrival at the nursing home one day, Georgie told him that his favourite daughter had arrived. Mandy of course protested that she was favourite. Pa, with a twinkle in his eye, said that he was rather partial to Alex. Or his response to Ma when she told him he was an exceptional man; he said, with another twinkle, “Yes, I know I am”.
A few characteristics and memories:
• A love of ginger nuts.
• Taking ALL the biscuits from the plate to the shocked disbelief of his 5 year old great granddaughter Lucy as she was offering them around.
• When angrily asked by an irate driver he had just cut off, “How long have you been blank blank blank driving?!!”… he replied, ”Ohh about 20 minutes.”
• Getting so cross he stopped the car and instructed a certain daughter to walk home. And then spent an anxious hour searching around the countryside for said daughter who at this point did not wish to be found.
• Exam technique and, contrary to popular belief, the benefits of last minute cramming. For my siblings and for me, this was good and true advice.
• His and Ma’s inspired organisation of a big old house in Salcombe every May for the whole family. All our children (8 cousins) are all close now as a result of the fun and games each year as they grew up.
• His practical ability to turn his hand to most things, including tree houses and garden swings, which of course feature heavily in the memories of his grandchildren.
• Together with Ma, embracing so completely his sons-in-law and daughters-in-law into the family.
• A lifelong enthusiasm for butterflies and converting a son in-law to the cause.
• Always patching up after an argument or angry words whatever or whomever the cause.
• Knowing we were always loved and cherished and that he was proud of us all.
• Absolute integrity.
• Respected by all who knew him.
• Always knowing of the mutual love and inseparable bond between Ma and Pa.
• A truly exceptional man, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.
(He’d hate all that last bit!)
If you are thinking I must be finished by now, I have. However, the following was written by Pa himself:
I am not sure about eulogies as they are so often as painful and demanding for those who have to do them, as they are for those who have to hear them. I fear that some escapades from the past may be related and certainly exaggerated but of course I am happy about that as there has been plenty to laugh about. Indeed the best of life is love and laughter and we have been able to share plenty of both.
As my family well know, I have always been happy to get the last word so perhaps they will allow these:
If a man may be judged by the company he keeps and by his family and friends then that is how I would like to be remembered.
I have been much blessed. After a secure and happy childhood, I fell in love at 19 and have been accompanied throughout my adult life by my dearly loved wife who has always been my best friend, guide and mentor. I cannot imagine how my life would have been without her and I do believe that the best that life can offer is the loving and happy partnership that we have enjoyed.
Our four children have always been a great source of pride and happiness to us as have our eight grandchildren and now our three great grandchildren. As we have grown older we have so much valued all their love and support and that of so many old friend and relatives. What more could we have asked?
One of the best things we ever did was to buy Woodhead back in 1971 and, on leaving the RAF, to retire to Buckland Filleigh in 1986. Since then we have never wanted to live anywhere else. Advancing years may have forced us to move nearer to family in Crediton but both of us want to end up here in Buckland Filleigh where we feel we belong, where we have so many friends and where we have spent so many happy years.
So, don’t be miserable. Go off to the wake in the Village Hall, remember the good times, which may include today, and thank you all for sharing my long happy life.