Leslie Howard, “Doody” and Me

by Paul Kuttner

Paul Kuttner Born September 20, 1922 in Berlin

When I left Nazi Germany (Berlin) with the Kindertransport of February 8, 1939, I was heartbroken that I had to leave my entire family behind. I was 16 at the time, spoke very little English, and at first stayed with a family of hunting-dog breeders (the Atkinsons) near Dorchester in Dorset. Four weeks later I joined Bryanston College, near Blandford, where I gradually picked up enough English to pass oral tests and written examinations.

After everybody had left for their 1939 summer vacation, I was left all by myself in the huge college, hoping that my sponsor, whoever he was, would pick me up. After waiting for 4 hours, a Rolls Royce made its appearance, a uniformed chauffeur asked for Paul Kuttner, and a minute later he drove me, wordlessly, for two hours to Woking, Surrey, a palatial estate owned by Eustace (later Sir Eustace) Pulbrook, the chairman of Lloyds of London, my sponsor, a huge gangly man in his 60’s. I was supposed to call him Doody. Butlers and maids were at my disposal day and night. His son, Roger, taught me to play squash and tennis, and one of “Doody’s” house guests was the stage and screen star Leslie Howard (and his son Ronald, whom everyone called Blinkie).

Howard’s real name was Stainer, his parents were Jewish immigrants from Hungary, and he himself was fascinated by the horrors of the Nazi regime, about which I talked to him for hours. Later he made a movie set in Nazi Germany called “Pimpernell Smith.” The Howards and I became fast friends and it broke my heart when Leslie was killed after the Luftwaffe shot down his plane over the Bay of Biscay in January 1943.

The Nazis believed that Winston Churchill was on board returning from the Casablanca conference with President Roosevelt. Actually it was a Churchill double to mislead the Nazis, and in order to deceive the Luftwaffe they could not tip off Leslie Howard and had to sacrifice the performer to save Winston Churchill’s life. I still adore both men.