Personal Information

Louise Barbara Rackham
Gender ♀️ Female

Additional Information

Additional Info


Louise Barbara Rackham (Grandmere or 'Mere')

For a view of Grandmere's immediate ancestors see here

Grandmere was born on the 12th April 1908 in 32 Heath Road, Croydon.

Her dad was John Esdon Rackham born in 1880. Her mum was Louise Jeannette Rackham (Nee Phillips), here shown holding Grandmere aged around 11 weeks




A couple of lovely photos of Grandmere below, aged 16 in 1924 and a little younger (not sure what age) looking like a little cherub!

Time in India

Grandmere's dad is recorded on Grandmere's birth certificate in 1908 as being a 'general store keeper' in Calcutta.  I understand that it may have been Grandmere's uncle on her father's side, a chap called Smith Hastings Rackham (1877-1952) , who was employed by a firm of East India merchants called Paterson Simons and Company that probably helped John Esdon Rackham get his first job in the East India Company.

As a consequence they made the journey from England to India a few times when Grandmere was pretty young - quite an adventure now but more so in those days!

There are shipping records that record a few of these journeys. On 10th June 1925 there is a record of immigration of Grandmere (aged 17) and her mum (aged 41) travelling from Calcutta to London, giving a return address of 100 East Dulwich Road. The journey was made on the PNO line steamship called the S/S Nellore. Interestingly the ship was later requisitioned for war use on June 29th, 1944, en route from Bombay to Sydney with passengers, was torpedoed, shelled and sunk by the Japanese submarine I-8 about 400 miles E. of the Chagos Archipelago. HMS LOSSIE rescued 112 crewmen, including the Captain and almost one month later and 2500 miles from the site of sinking, ten crewmen land at Sambavany, Madagascar. Of her 209 passengers and crew, 79 are lost and eleven taken prisoner by I-8!

From discussions with Pete Gorman I understand prior to Calcultta Grandmere had also lived in Asam (1924) and Darjeeling.

I understand also that Grandmere was educated for some time at least in Loreto Convent in Darjeeling, from letters written to her from a nun called Marie Antionette (great name!) living at the convent in the 1960's. A letter from Marie (who could perhaps have been one of Grandmere's teachers at the convent) contains a fascinating account of when she met Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing in 1960, 7 years after the conquest of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953! On the back of the photo (below) Marie says:

"Loreto Convent Darjeeling September 1960 – conquerors of Everest may 1953 – Sir Sir John Hunt Leaders. Sir Edmunds Hilary placed on the top peak a crucifix given to Sir John Hunt by a Benedictine monk for this purpose (and blessed) in London. Sir Edmund and I prayed the Lord’s prayer in our chapel. He told the priest how deeply impressed he was by his moments in the chapel. He has been since his climb, an outstanding friend to these poor mountain people, building shelters for them. In all ways he is a great man and devoted Christian"




In 1932, when Grandmere was only 24 years old, her mum died of leukaemia. They were living in India at the time. Grandmere and her dad then returned to England. The shipping record below shows them both travelling on the 17th November 1932 from Calcutta to England on the ship the ‘City of Poona’ (City Line),  with her dad recorded as a merchant (aged 52). They were returning to 81 Longley Road Harrow Middlesex.

From recent discussions with Pete Gorman, I understand Grandmere spent some time between possibly 1932 and 1934 as a student at an Art School in Antwerp before returning to Edinburgh where she worked at the Edinburgh Corporation before getting married to Grandmere

How did Grandmere and Grandpere meet?

That's a good question!


Grandmere and Grandere were married in 21st October 1935 in Edinburgh, announcement in the paper below



The Houses!

Recollection of the many house moves of Grandpere and Grandmere in their later years... as far as son (of 8) Michael Gorman can recall, the sequence goes something like this, deep breath:

Hornchurch, then to Spellbrook, then to Mulhill Green (thatched cottage) and then to Ashton (very old with long corridors, right next to the churchyard near Saffron Walden), then to Depden Green (where Jood and Mick Gorman and children lived when they came back from Canada until they moved into Bury at Queen’s road), then from there to Corton Denham in Somerset (another long cottage) and from there to Charlton Hawthorne, after which Grandmere moved back on her own to Saffron Walden after Grandpere died. I feel tired just thinking about all that!

And who remembers the blue and white stripped kitchenware at one or more of these houses?

The War, and the great escape!

Shortly after the war Grandpere was enlisted into the Royal Army Medical Corps to support the rebuilding and re-establishment of ,medical services in Germany, his letter of appointment is here 

Unfortunately he was at some later stage shot in an accident whilst out shooting rabbits (he was shot by a fellow shooter), this is in 1946.

It was a very serious injury, serious enough for him to end up in hospital in Germany and for Grandmere to receive the telegram below which must have been pretty scary for he to receive.


This was followed up by a letter from the war office


Grandpere recovered (clearly!) and returned to England to a hospital just outside Manchester but the story of how he returned is truly amazing. Grandmere, without passport, took herself out to Germany and brought him back. Bearing in mind this was Europe in the immediate fallout of World War 2 it was a potentially pretty dangerous and incredibly brave thing to do.

Nicol recorded Grandmere talking about the return journey in this video clip - listen and note the matter-of-fact way Grandmere describes some pretty hair raising escapades. They were, as they say, made of strong stuff in those days!


Next Steps

So many questions to follow up if anyone is interested...

  1. Where did Grandmere and Grandpere meet?

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