Old Uffingtonians Association (1994)

   Willesden County Grammar School                         Ex-Pupils 1924-1967                    


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Henry Hans Ernst Marwede 1898-1994



Some of you might remember an elderly Lab Assistant at the school in the late 50s and the 60s.  His name was Dr. Marwede, although he  might have been known under a nickname.   For those, who don't remember him or only saw him in passing, after reading this obituary you will only envy those who can claim to have known a really remarkable man.  We have Tony Marshall to thank for this copy of his obituary.

He was born in the district of Steiglitz, Berlin, Germany.  His father died when he was quite young and he was brought up by his grandmother.  Though not a particularly happy arrangement his education did not suffer.  He excelled in physics, chemistry, mathematics and languages; achieving matriculation distinctions at Berlin University.  In 1916 he volunteered for the German Army & Air Force and qualified as a fighter pilot.  He was decorated with the Iron Cross and service medals for 12 victories in the air.  Later he was himself shot down and badly injured, becoming a prisoner-of-war under the Americans.  He was repatriated during 1919.  Thereafter, until 1925 he studied at Berlin University, achieving a doctorate and Ph.D. for research in electron emission and dielectric constants of crystals along different optical axis.  During this period he was also technical assistant to Professors von Laue and Albert Einstein for experimental work.

After leaving university he became director of several companies specialising in optical and electrical equipment, also setting up his own company to exploit projection apparatus for which he was granted patents both in France and England.  This and other activities brought him into conflict with the Nazi regime and it became necessary for him to leave Germany in 1934 and go to Paris where his company had a branch office.  He was able to carry on his business from there.   In 1937 he qualified as a gliding instructor under the French Ministry for Aeronautics.  In 1939 at the outbreak of the second world war, being an alien, he was listed for internment but managed to get to Marseilles, where in 1940, he volunteered for the French Foreign Legion and because of his expertise he was made chief electrical engineer in Societe Fougerolles in Rabat, Morocco.  In  1943 the British Army in North Africa recruited him and he accepted the job of vehicle and plant engineer in the REME and served in this regiment throughout the Italian campaign.

He was finally demobbed in England when the war ended in 1945.  This enabled him to resurrect his business interests and he chose to become a naturalised Englishman.  After retiring, his interests in laboratory work took him to a local grammar school until well after his 80th birthday.  His last years were spent in Southwick, England with a long-standing friend.  He was the last surviving Luftwaffe fighter pilot from the first World War.

Thanks to Pat Henson for putting together the following update:-

Henry is now commemorated at the RAF Museum, Tangmere,  West Sussex and you can check him out on their website at http://www.tangmere-museum.org.uk/artefact-month/he-fought-for-the-germans-and-the-british.

His flying exploits and subsequent downing and capture are described elsewhere :-

Balloon Buster of WW1 : On Sept 14, 1918, members of 33rd Division AEF, witnessed a French balloon shot down in flames from the village square of Fromereville. The event was recorded by two independent witnesses. One witness, Lt Will Judy, said the balloon was only about 300 yards from the village square. Both witnesses report that the German plane strafed the observer as he descended by parachute. Lt Judy reported that the German plane flew off and immediately shot down a second balloon.

The German pilot was most likely Unteroffizier
Hans Heinrich Marwede, of Jagdstaffell 67, who was credited on Sept 14 with shooting down three balloons in a space of five minutes, at about 4:35 in the afternoon, southwest of Verdun. (Fromereville is just over 7 kilometers west of Verdun).

(To be fair to Henry, it appears that balloon observers were considered to be fair game by both sides ! ed.)

See : http://www.theaerodrome.com/forum/other-wwi-aviation/54762-french-balloon-units-west-verdun-sept-1918-a.html.

After serving with Kest 2, Marwede joined Jasta 67 in 1918 and was credited with shooting down a D.H.9 and four balloons. On 3 October 1918, he flamed an American balloon southwest of Montfaucon only to be shot down by anti-aircraft fire.

 See picture below – a different Henry to the one we came to know later on in his life.


Henry joined Willesden County Grammar  in 1956 and was a familiar figure around the school as he went about his work as lab technician. However, he had other interests that were shared with the pupils :

The Table Tennis Club : Henry was himself a pretty good player and ran a club after school in the store room near to the changing rooms for field sports.

Table Tennis & Cars as recalled by Colin Twyford (a friend of Henry) :

I was prompted to google Henry Marwede by a Question in the Daily Mail on April 8th 2013 about Germany’s Jewish aces and found an obituary published by Tony Marshall.  In the early 1950s’ I joined Moreshead Tennis Club, London near Paddington, the table tennis section was organised by Henry, he had a garage fairly close to the club with a small flat above where he often stayed when working on cars.  Some of us bought an old American car just before petrol rationing came in and as it only did 12 MPG we laid it up opposite his garage and I had a go at de-coking (first time).  He told me of his First War experiences, his projection company and his later Royal Engineers stint in the Second War.  He was a wonderful and thoughtful man and I was privileged to know him.

More on cars as recalled by Bob Crundwell (1959-66)

We both had Austin Sevens but mine ran ! His was in bits distributed around the school. We often compared notes on them. I recollect bits of his car in the greenhouse? in one of the small Quads between the two back corridors - it was very dismantled !

The quite unique Henry Marwede as we knew him at Willesden County Grammar School!