John Shattock Witness to History

This is an excerpt from a history of the Australian branch of the Southwark Shattock family written by John Shattock, a descendant, in 1999. The quote is from page 33-34.


from The India Office and Burma Office List

John Shattock, who died on 6 June 1993, was in his retirement years a well-known figure in the life of Kingston St Mary and beyond. He spent 36 years in the service of the Crown, first in the Indian and political services up to the Indian Independence in 1947 and thereafter in the Diplomatic Service.

John Swithun Harvey Shattock, born on 21 November 1907, the son of a clergyman and cousin of Percy Shattock, a former vicar of Kingston, was educated at Westminster and Christ church, Oxford. Apart from 20 years in India and sometime in London, he served in Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Paris, Geneva, New York and Washington. Whilst in Cyprus he travelled in Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Aden, Abyssinia, Libya and the Persian Gulf.

He knew many of the famous names of his day. In the Foreign Office he served Ernest Bevan, Lord Avon, Lord Butler, Selwyn Lloyd, the Marquess of Salisbury and Lord Home. He had some contact with Clement Atlee and Harold Macmillan.

In Yugoslavia he looked after Field Marshal Montgomery, accompanied Lord and Lady Mountbatten on a visit to Marshal Tito and entertained Margot Fonteyn and Michael Sommes as well as the England and Scotland football teams ("Both sadly lost - England by a goal in the 89th minute").

John was in Cyprus in the late 1950s as Political Adviser to the Commanders-in-Chief of the Middle east. His time there coincided with Suez, the war in Oman, the assassination of the King of Iraq and his Prime Minister and the burning down of the British Embassy. "I had not been in Nicosia for three months when a time-bomb went off in the window-box on my verandah."

He spent three years in Paris as part of the British Delegation to NATO and followed this with two years with the British Delegation to the conference on Disarmament and nuclear Tests in Geneva with attendance each year at the Assembly of the UN in New York.

John Swithun Shattock about 1980

His career began, however, in India, "where I spent the best years of my life". His great love of the country went undisguised - "I remember with deep affection and respect the innumerable Indians and Pakistanis with whom I came into such close contact; their courtesy, hospitality and friendliness". Amongst other things, John was, at the age of 27, Magistrate and administrative head of an area of Western Bengal of over half a million people, with 100 coal mines and much heavy industry. His last job, before Independence, was as Chief Minister to a young Maharaja. After Indian Independence he continued as a member of the British High Commission and was in New Delhi at the time of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi - "the most dramatic and tragic day in my diplomatic career".

St. Mary's Stone cottage owned by John Shattock in Kingston St. Mary

When impaired health forced an early retirement from a very distinguished career, John returned to his much loved St Mary's Cottage and the greater stage's loss was our gain. He became involved in many local activities: Chairman of the Kingston players, a founder member of the Friends of St Mary's, Kingston and a leading light in the establishment of the Council for Voluntary Service. His interests were wide-ranging: a passionate reader and devotee of music, ballet and the theatre; well-informed on a variety of sports and perhaps above all deeply interested in other people and their lives - not the least the younger generation.

He loved entertaining and was generous to a fault; a great conversationalist and raconteur, although from time to time curiously and noisily outspoken for one who had spent a lifetime in diplomacy; a very 'special man and a loyal friend to so many; always courteous and grateful, never condescending. His countless friends mourn his passing as they rejoice in memories which will not fade.

Letter to John Shattock's dad in 1972:

You ask if there was any connection between Frederick Foster Shattock's life in India and my decision to sit for the ICS exam. No, none at all, even though Percy Shattock (Frederick's son) was on of my father's closest friends. Percy Shattock was educated at St John's College, Darjeeling. I think I was mainly motivated by my wish to enter British Government Service abroad with the excellent and interesting life it offered. Perhaps, however, that (i) my father's sister (Mary Shattock?) was married to an official in the Indian State Railways and (ii) my mother's great uncle, Sir Andrew Fraser was a Governor of Bengal in the early 20th century influenced me a bit. I in turn was posted in the ICS to Bengal and of course Darjeeling is in Bengal too. What a terrible tragedy the Bangladesh flood was; but what a mercy it was over so quickly.

Here is a letter from John Swithun Shattock to John Shattock's father in 1969.

Thank you so much for your welcome letter of April 4. It was excellent to hear from a Shattock in Australia. I am the grandson of Arthur Shattock and therefore we are related. I am 61 and retired prematurely from the Diplomatic Service because of ill-health - my tummy. I now live at Taunton which is where the Shattocks hail from. There are records of marriages of Shattocks in St Mary Magdalene Taunton in the 16th century. In the first entry the name is spelt 'Shadtocke'. The branch of the family to which we belong left Somerset for London in the 18th century."

It appears that John Swithun Shattock did some digging into family history. It is too bad he does not elaborate in the letter about the departure of the Southwark Shattocks from Somerset in the 18th century.