Story 91

Warm and supportive

I first met Leonard Cheshire when I was in my twenties, working with Louis Wolfers, who filmed often for the Cheshires at that period.

Nick Gifford in India

I soon met him again as a cameraman myself. He was a slight man, quite slow and thoughtful, absolutely genuine and sincere as soon as you met him, interested in you and with no wish to remind you of his achievements. Very unlike what I had imagined a bomber pilot or holder of the Victoria Cross to be.

He was, in his quiet way, warm and supportive, shy and I felt not always totally confident. He wanted to know what you felt, and how a film could develop. More importantly, he was very diplomatic and would sort out the tensions that invariably arrive during filming.

I made two films with Leonard — ‘Mountain Nurse’ and ‘General Sahib’. Both documentaries featured the ‘Raphael’ Home at Dehradun in India. This was the first home set up jointly by Leonard and his wife, Sue Ryder, and Ryder-Cheshire Australia has supported it since its inception in 1959.

We filmed ‘General Sahib’ with Major General Rambir Bakshi, who was running the Raphael project, at a very difficult time for India — during Mrs Gandhi’s Emergency. We had a soviet-style trained minder with us constantly as we were filming ex- and present Indian military. The General steered us all through it with great tact and sense. He was also great fun to be with.

While at the Raphael Home, which supports people with leprosy and TB, we filmed many of the residents living here. I also visited the English Cheshire Homes, meeting young people with cerebral palsy and other conditions and filming their experiences. I think Leonard Cheshire provided very much needed help throughout the world for people who had fallen through the net.

I think Leonard Cheshire provided very much needed help throughout the world for people who had fallen through the net.