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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Brian Greenwood - Use It Or Lose IT

Copies are available from Lynn Davidson  mob 0755 2086888

PRICE £7.95 or 3 copies for £20  includes UK POSTAGE

Brian Greenwood


USE IT OR LOSE IT may very well add many years to your life!  Following the common sense advice, with which it is packed, will certainly increase your happiness in the latter part of your life.
 This book is unusual in that its author is not a young man expounding a theory but is in fact a man of eighty-seven who practices what he preaches and is able to draw on all the varied experiences of a long life.
 That experience has been backed up by careful research and the result is this guide, which Lord Norman Tebbit describes as ‘This excellent book’.
 Similarly an eminent Cardiologist says ‘This book will help in great measure to provide crystal-clear lifestyle guidance’ and a widely experienced General Practitioner confirms – ‘This book gives examples of how advancing old age can be challenged’.
 The Headmaster of one of the North’s leading independent schools describes ‘Use it or Lose it’ as ‘Homespun wisdom grounded in careful research and sound common sense’.
 This is a book for everyone aged forty and over and younger people also will do well to read it with either an eye to the future, or with a view to giving good advice to an older generation. It is, of course, an ideal small gift for an older person – man or woman – about whose future you care. 

Read it – you will not be disappointed!


Lord Tebbit CH
This excellent book.
This splendidly comprehensive manual of how to maintain a healthy mind in a healthy body.

Paul Silverton MDFRCP Consulatant Cardiologist
An entertaining and highly informative treatise. This book will help in great measure to provide crystal clear lifestyle guidance.

David Humphreys Headmaster Woodhouse Grove School
This is not a guide for mere survival but a series of timely remindes about making the most of your life and living life to the full.

Dr Georgina Haslam Ret GP
This book gives examples of how advancing old age can be challenged. Use this book as a springboard.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Professor Anne Jones - The Education Roundabout

                                                                                                            Author as a Senior Civil Servant

The Education Roundabout: published 2015.

A memoir written by Anne Jones.

This book of 400 pages covers Anne’s life/work as well as providing an analysis of what has been happening in Education in the last fifty years or so. The book is full of humour and also sharp comments and examples of ways to improve the quality of learning and academic achievement for learners of all kinds, including Lifelong Learners. Lots of original manuscripts included, clear fonts and fascinating photos. It’s not a novel, so you can enjoy the pages which appeal to you at leisure and in any order. Lots of snippets about Royalty, Ministers, TV programmes and newspaper articles included and lots of laughs. Thirty years ago, Anne was predicting the present Muslim/West crisis. She also spotted that Britain was way behind Korea, Japan, Singapore, and the East on levels of achievement in maths, science and technology. This means that Britain still has too many unskilled workers for the needs of industry and we have to import skilled workers.

The following document gives a brief idea of the contents of each chapter. a leading example of a women breaking through the glass ceiling. Anne is an experienced broadcaster, eg Question Time, has written many books such as Counselling Adolescents in practice and Leadership for Tomorrow’s Schools. A Headteacher for 17 years, she was the Senior Civil Servant, who directed the Technical Vocational Education Initiative, a professor developing on-line learning systems, an Eastern Europe Advisor for OECD. She is an Emeritus Professor of Lifelong Learning. This book will be of interest to students, teachers and serious researchers into Education, Community Schools, Lifelong learning and casual readers, who enjoy her wit and wisdom.

Education over the last fifty years or so: 1950 - 2015 

Has anything really changed or do we just go round in circles? Anne thinks we do. For example, the new government proposals for five tough GCSE’s take us straight back to the old School Certificate and matriculation, which was abolished around 1950, when O level was introduced.  Only the brightest passed. What effect will the e.bacc have on raising educational standards?

Chapter 1. Student Life, teaching bright girls from top schools, counselling adolescents, having children

Chapter 2. Deputy Head (Thomas Calton) Teaching Peckham children, training young teachers

Chapter 3. Head, Brixton, Vauxhall Manor multiracial Girls’ School, improving results. Job opportunities, access to university.

Chapter 4. Head of Cranford Community School near Heathrow. 1300 pupils and 1300 adult learners/sports people (11 acres).

Chapter 5. Senior Civil Servant getting the Employment and Education Departments to work together and prepare young people for the world of work and be more enterprising.

Chapter 6.  Professor Making lifelong learning a reality at Brunel University and learning on-line, tracking achievement.

Chapter 7. European Expert Adviser for OECD and ETF, Training the Economies in transition from Russian control to become independent and self-managing.

Chapter 8. Bringing Lifelong Learning to Life in the Antipodes.

Chapter 9. Lifelong learning for leisure.

Clear text and lots of photos bring it all to life

The Education Roundabout by Anne Jones: Comments

Professor Alan Smithers: Anne Jones has been a teacher, a pioneering Headteacher, a Senior Civil Servant a Professor of Lifelong Learning, a wife and mother, and a TV personality. The Education Roundabout draws on her life in Education to provide fascinating insights into being a teacher, leading schools, unfolding educational policy and running a Research Centre. In the school chapters, her wealth of personal experience will greatly enhance the understanding of all those interested in education, particularly teachers and those in training.

Dr Grey Giddins MDMRCP: If you prefer fact to fiction, then this book is for you. Professor Jones could not have had a more brilliant career in Education, with Lifelong Learning at its centre. Her work with children who were deprived and multi-national should be compulsory reading for everyone. Our understanding of the problems of the young would be enhanced. Read it – you will be amused and fascinated.

Mike Duffy,  former President of the Secondary Heads' Association
I enjoyed reading The Education Roundabout. It was great to be reminded of those exciting days in the 80s when so much seemed possible and you were firing up so many of us with you energy and passion.. And particularly in the Secondary Heads Association booklet, a View from the Bridge which was, in all fairness, mostly your vision and your words. Looking at some of my writings at that time. I see how often I drew on your ideas. One comment remains with me to this day: 'the best pastoral care is the best teaching.'

David Threthowen, Warden Park School. Sussex: When your book ‘Leadership for tomorrow’s schools’ (Blackwell ) came out in 1987, all we Heads bought it. It is the best book on Headship I have ever read, both because of its easy lucid style and because of the way in which theory has been interwoven with practice in the content.

Professor Bill Jones: Professor Anne Jones is rightly proud or her title as one of the first to be a Chair in Lifelong Learning. This is an engagingly curious book. He briefly touches on Anne’s interests and achieve- ments including TVEI, (Technical Vocational Education) e-learning., careers guidance , changing the culture of training in former Russian States, community colleges, improving career opportunities for women and for adults who want opportunities for to continue their education and training. He concludes: 

The wider Lifelong community will read this book with interest: it is an engaging read: honest, enthusiastic and celebratory.

Anne says: 'It could have been an academic tome but I wanted my family and friends to understand better how and why it all happened. So I have included my own commentary and some humour as well. My life itself is a story of Lifelong Learning’.

Ann Gittins: former Head of a large Comprehensive School 
As a hardworking mother of three, Anne Jones brought a woman’s perspective to what was a largely male dominated field of educational leadership. She shows that strong and successful leadership involves not only the analytical skills that may have been traditionally regarded as masculine but also the emotional intelligence which was perceived as a feminine trait. She demonstrates that she has always practised what she preached at every stage of her career. The need for people with Anne’s capacity to see through the detail and raise the fundamental questions is more urgent than ever.

Anne brought a woman’s perspective to what was then largely a male-dominated field of educational leadership. She showed that strong and successful leadership involves not only the analytical skills that may have been traditionally regarded as masculine, but also the emotional intelligence which was perceived as a feminine trait. As Professor of Lifelong Learning, looking back on her personal and professional journey, she demonstrates that she has always practised what she preached. At every stage of her career to language teacher, to pioneering school counsellor, deputy head and then inspirational Head teacher, Civil servant, she demonstrates that she has always practised what she preached. She has constantly reflected upon and articulated the essential principles that underpin her work. Her papers provide a fascinating picture of the recurring themes of education in the last fifty years. As these themes reappear the significant signs of progress remain open to question. The need for people with Anne’s capacity to see through the detail and raise the fundamental questions is more urgent than ever.

Don Wix M.Ed, MBE, Hon D Lit: This is a remarkable book, based almost entirely on Professor Anne Jones’ incredible input into the world of Education over the whole span of her career. She has never advocated standing still, but rather to find new ways for education to adapt to a rapidly changing technical world. If you have learnt as much as I have from this book, you will have far better perceptions of the channels through which new systems can override existing features of schools, colleges and universities.

Comment from a Senior Civil Servant:
‘Fascinating transformations from stellar Headteacher, to policy guru/ big programme spender, to reflective academic: highly successful in all three careers............. Anne is a wonderful example of what can be achieved by combining energy, intellect and enthusiasm’,

Anne Jones is Emeritus Professor of Lifelong Learning, Brunel University and was a Director of her social club Phyllis Court 2009-2015. Formerly she was a French teacher, school counsellor, Headteacher, senior civil servant, European expert adviser, author, broadcaster, Professor of Lifelong Learning and founder/MD of Lifelong Learning Systems. Anne has vast experience of leading organizations and people into the future. 

JONES, Prof Anne; da of Sydney Joseph Pickard (d 1987), and Hilda Everitt, née Bird (d 1999); b 8 April 1935; Educ Harrow Weald Co Sch, Westfield Coll London (BA), King's Coll London (PGCE), Univ of London (DipSoc); m 9 Aug 1958 (m dis 1988), Cyril Gareth Jones, s of Lyell Jones (d 1936); 1 s (Christopher Lyell b 24 July 1962), 2 da (Catherine Rachel (Mrs Spencer) b 8 Aug 1963 d 2015, Rebecca Madryn b 15 March 1966); Career asst mistress: Malvern Girls Coll 1957-58, Godolphin & Latymer Sch 1958-62, Dulwich Coll 1964; sch cnsllr Mayfield London 1965-71, dep head Thomas Calton Sch London 1971-74; head: Vauxhall Manor Sch 1974-81, Cranford Community Coll 1981-87; under sec (dir of educn) Employment Dept 1987-91, visiting prof of educn Univ of Sheffield, educn and training conslt 1991-; Brunel Univ: prof of continuing educn 1991-, dir Centre for Lifelong Learning 1995-2000, prof emeritus 2001-; ceo and dir Lifelong Learning Systems Ltd (LLS) 2001-09; advsr: European Trg Fndn, OECD, Br Cncl; dir: West London Leadership 1995-99, Business Link London NW 1995-99; chair: Assoc of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 1979-80, Area Manpower Bd for London South and West 1983-87; ind lay chair Complaints NHS 1996-2005; conslt EDGE 2005-07; former memb: Schools' Broadcasting Cncl, Home Office Advsy Ctees on Drugs and on Sexual Offences; former memb Cncl: UCL, CRAC, NICEC, Grubb Inst, W London Inst of HE, RSA; tstee: The Westfield Tst 1992-2005, Menerva Educnl Tst 1993-2004 (chair 1993-99); govr The Abbey Sch 2004-12; chm: Henley Choral Soc 2005-09, Boathouse Reach Mgmnt 2005-10; hon memb City and Guilds Inst; Hon FCP 1990; fell Queen Mary & Westfield Coll London 1992 (memb Cncl 1992-2002), FRSA (former memb Cncl 1992-2002), FCMI (chm Reading Branch 2004-08); 

1. School  Counselling in Practice. Ward Lock Educational 1970
2. Counselling Adolescents in school.  Kogan Page  1977

Work books for schools
Male and  Female, Living Choices , Time  to spare. Hobsons. 1984, 1987

4. Counselling Adolescents in  school and  Beyond : Kogan Page 1984
5. Leadership  for Tomorrow’s Schools, Blackwells  1986, reprinted 1984
6. Human Resource Development, an Employer’s  Guide, The European Training Foundation, Turin 2001
Chapters in edited books
1. The Disruptive pupil in The Secondary School Ward Lock 1970
2. Truancy: problems of school attendance and refusal: John Wiley  1970
3. Studying school effectiveness: the Falmer Press  1984
4. Schools and External relations: managing the new Partnerships: Cassells Educational 1989
5. Bringing Learning to Life: the Falmer Press  1995
6. Employment and the future of work :  the Institute of Policy Studies, Wellington 1996

 Available to buy from The Memoir Club, tel 0191 4192288 or email 
£15.00 P & P £3.50 UK (£5.00 Europe £7.50 ROW)

Sunday, 14 June 2015

John Bridgeman - I REMEMBER IT WELL


by John Bridgeman

PRICE £20 + £3 P & P UK 
available from The Memoir Club, Jasprint, 12 Tower Road, Washington. NE37 2SH
email:   or tel 0191 4192288

Star Pool on the River Driva. Watercolour by Guida, 1922

I Remember It Well – Talk by John Bridgeman
July 3
Venue: Weston Park, Shifnal, Telford, Shropshire TF11 8LE 
I Remember It Well: The Pace of Change and what to Expect as a Guest in a Stately Home in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries
The English country house and the social mores attached to it have always been a source of fascination and Weston Park’s own regular Behind The Scenes tours inevitably prompt many questions on what to expect when staying in a great country house. We are delighted, therefore, to welcome John Bridgeman for a fascinating morning talk. A member of the Earl of Bradford’s family, John Bridgeman will discuss the enormous changes that have taken place over the last hundred and fifty years and will illustrate these with the changes in correspondence and communication within his family and with changes in the methods of transport employed in getting to the country house.  He will also discuss the clothes a lady guest might need when coming to stay at a house like Weston in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the meals that might be prepared for her and her husband and the staff who might wait on them.
John Bridgeman is the younger son of the younger son of George 4th Earl of Bradford. He is a retired “mud-on the-boots” farmer who has stayed at Weston Park with his uncle, the 5th Earl, and his cousin, the 6th Earl, as well as in many stately homes belonging to his cousins – from Beaufort Castle in Inverness-shire, Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire to Arundel Castle in Sussex.  He has recently published a book entitled I Remember it Well which incorporates the diaries and reminiscences of his grandparents from the 1850s, his father in Russia, China and India before the First World War, together with his own early memories of travelling around the world and meeting many famous people.  After his talk he will sign copies of this book which is not available through the trade.
10.30am Arrival and tea/ coffee in the Granary Art Gallery
11.00am Lecture in auditorium
12.00pm Conclusion of lecture, questions and opportunity to purchase I Remember It Well, the book
£5.00 per person inc serving of tea and coffee

Pre-booking is required to attend this talk. To book please contact Julieanne McMahon on or 01952 852130. 

This book is about the recollections and art of three generations whose lives span the 170 years from 1845 to the present day. As it was written by six different people, each section is very different in both style and content. The art of each generation is represented by many beautiful watercolours and sketches.

Part One recalls the diaries that my paternal grandmother, who was born in 1848, wrote for the benefit of her children, memories of a life of privilege and duty, and her years as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary. They include some of her astonishingly obsequious letters to Queen Mary and her revealing daily letters to her husband while ‘in waiting’ at Windsor during the Irish crisis of April 1914.

Part Two is a light-hearted account of my grandfather’s travels in Spain and Morocco in 1887 along with his friends Lord Rowton and Lord Claud Hamilton. 

Part Three aims to include some of the most interesting of the recollections that my maternal grandmother recorded in her old age in a book entitled Avenue of Ancestors. Sir Compton Mackenzie in his foreword to it wrote that: Since I first read Walter Scott’s Tales of a Grandfather when I was eight years old I have not been beguiled by so many fascinating stories of the past. I hope that this book will include some of the best of those stories, as well as adding others equally beguiling.

Part Four incorporates extracts from the diary written by my father on his journey to India in 1908 via the recently opened Trans-Siberian Railway and on HMS Bramble, the gunboat commanded by his brother Dick some 500 miles up the Yangtze River.

Part Five is the diary written by my father’s friend Archie Stirling, about his trek with my father in Kashmir in 1913 where, along with my father’s spaniel, they climbed to over 17,600 feet in search of snow leopard, bear and such game as they could find in that inhospitable terrain. 

Part Six brings these memoirs into a third generation and a third century by including a few extracts from my own diaries and recollections of the past seventy years. These include such diverse experiences as a private visit to the Sistine Chapel, memorable fishing experiences, the rigours of the Brigade Squad, dining with Dr Hastings Banda, dancing with the Queen, bird watching with Lord Alanbroke, on a grouse moor with Paul Getty, going round the world on a shoe string and much else besides.

John Bridgeman's book has just arrived and we are enjoying it hugely.  Well done him and well done you!                                                                                                              Jack and Caroline de Jode 

The best £20 I have ever spent. A. S.
What a wonderful “magnum opus” you have produced.   However long it took & whatever the hard work entailed, us lucky ones who have read and enjoyed it all know that your efforts have been hugely appreciated& enjoyed!! P. N.
 How interesting I found your book.  My goodness, you must have put some hours in doing all the research & preparation for it.  It is marvellous for the family to have a record like that to which to refer.   J. B-S.
It is the perfect "dipping in" book.  The edition looks so good after all your trouble.  C. W.
I have just completed his grandmother's diary.   I am lost in admiration as to how she got about the place and moved in such exalted circles.   What a fascinating life and great for the family to have this recorded for posterity.  What a labour of love the research must have been. M. A.
 I read your book on holiday which I greatly enjoyed.  I really enjoyed each section. It will be wonderful for future generations to read.  I loved the contrast of HGOB watching man land on the moon on a TV having been brought up in Victorian England with footmen in powdered wigs. M.G.O.B.
I have just finished and much enjoyed reading your book. I found your father’s experiences on the trans-Siberian express and in China fascinating. R.T.

We are loving ‘I Remember it Well’  - another huge achievement.  I can’t believe the research and hard work that must have gone into it.  What a fabulous legacy to leave for the future generations.   We are delighted that every time Rory calls on us he asks where it is and sits down to read another chapter. C. H.

We are captivated and rather awe struck by the content of the book and the massive research involved.  C. M.

                                                          Drumlanrig Castle - Book Launch

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


               Author with daughter at Book Launch

To buy copies of this book tel The Memoir Club 0191 41992288

This is an adventurous story of a couple from very poor backgrounds who, when things didn’t seem right, ‘got on their bikes’ a la Norman Tebbit, resulting in them spending fifteen years in Africa, at one time  miles from the nearest white settlement, and twenty years in Spain or its dependencies.      
While Barbie was an enthusiastic and dedicated teacher, Ken left teaching to follow other avenues in real estate and trading, which was why they moved, or had to, to twenty-one different homes together with various rentals or lodgings, and sharing both exciting and tragic incidents on the way.        
It is also a story of minor league sporting success, and Ken is not afraid to air his views on such controversial subjects as politics, education and morals. They also touch on their holidays, including round the world trips visiting friends in places as far away as Tonga.      

Writing this has made Ken laugh, and at times cry, and he opens his heart in writing the truth, however painful that might have been. The result together with fantastic photographs will give entertainment to everyone.

The first 25% of all sales of ‘Where my Angels Led’ , after costs, will be donated to Cancer research, and the second 25% after costs will be donated to the Heart Foundation. This is in recognition of the Cancer treatment my wife received, and the Heart surgery I received.
“BRAVO!”   -   “LOVED IT
Amazing,   -   When I am reading, it i
What a remarkable life.   I kept waiting to see what could happen next.

Ken Pidcock’s charming Where My Angels Led is a vibrant memoir spanning the journey of two people’s lives from their infantile cries to their final conditions at the publication date, whether that was in this world or the next. Where My Angels Led follows the interwoven tale of Ken Pidcock and Barbie Tomlinson, a man and a woman who began their lives only 50 miles apart from one another, and who would come to bind themselves to one another to travel the difficulties and joys of life together. Pidcock’s memoir is a fascinating and intimate look at an Englishman and an Englishwoman’s simply complex tale. Pidcock offers his readers full disclosure in the exciting and sometimes heartbreaking details of his life with Barbie and takes them through magnetizing scenes of poverty, war, travel, and love.

Pidcock’s memoir is written with a beautiful simplicity that makes it accessible for both casual and scholarly readers. His story encompasses a vast variety of circumstances and situations, sprawling across decades of the fully-lived adventure of two affable and memorable characters. Where My Angels Led acts not only as a historically factual memoir but also a creative story of love, exploration, and sometimes suspense. Pidcock’s personal struggle to overcome the challenges that life had in store for him is inspiring to say the least, and his dedication to his Barbie is unparalleled. The memoir is an unassuming and modest text seeking to express the story of two unremarkable, yet remarkable, people, and succeeds in conveying the history of their lives in a charming manner, if not in an overly intellectual or thought-provoking one.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Winston Churchill - Joan Bright Astley: ‘house-keeper’ of Churchill’s War Cabinet


Back-room girl in Churchill’s Cabinet Office who briefed the top brass and recorded the lighter moments of the war.

Copies are available from Lynn Davidson  mob 0755 2086888

THE TIMES                                                                                                                             

Joan Bright Astley: ‘house-keeper’ of Churchill’s War Cabinet

Joan Bright Astley had a remarkable career working behind the scenes in Whitehall corridors of power during the Second World War.

Joan Bright Astley bore unique witness to the inner workings of the British high command during the second world war. From 1941 she was responsible for a special information centre in the cabinet war rooms, supplying confidential information to British commanders-in-chief. From 1943, she accompanied British delegations to the key inter-allied conferences, where strategy and the fate of the postwar world were decided. The Inner Circle  paints eloquent pen portraits of allied leaders.

Joan Bright Astley, who died on Christmas Eve aged 98 , worked at the core of the wartime Cabinet Office as personal assistant to General Sir Hastings “Pug” Ismay, who was deputy secretary to the War Cabinet and a confidant of Winston Churchill.
In this role, she ran a special information centre and was responsible for keeping the commanders-in-chief in the field briefed about wartime planning. She also acted as “housekeeper” responsible for the administrative arrangements for the British delegations at the summit conferences of Quebec, Yalta and Potsdam.
Although she was never present at important strategy meetings, in her memoirs, The Inner Circle (1971), Joan Bright Astley recalled some of the lighter moments of the war.
In 1939, for instance, when the invasion of Poland seemed imminent, she recounted how military intelligence hurriedly dispatched 20 officers to Warsaw equipped with passports identifying them as commercial travellers, entertainers and agricultural experts. One vital feature had been overlooked: “The numbers on the brand new passports were consecutive.” Fortunately, their commander, Colonel Gubbins (later head of SOE), managed to get them changed before they arrived in Warsaw.
The next year, when German troops invaded the Low Countries, the ticker tape machine in the War Office announced: “Hotler’s troops have overrun Luxembourg; Hotler proclaims fall of Belgium and Holland. Hotler says he will crush Britain. Hotler says… .” The machine paused, then fell silent. A few seconds later it hiccuped into life again: “Correction. For 'Hotler’ read 'Hitler’ and the meaning will become apparent.”
She was on board the Queen Mary in May 1942 when Churchill and the chiefs-of-staff travelled to Washington. Security was tight; the liner had to plough a zigzag course to avoid U-boats; even a cigarette smoked at night was a danger. But when Cabinet Office staff decided to burn top secret papers in the ship’s furnaces, sending billows of black smoke out of her funnel, her position was advertised to every vessel in the vicinity. “On the bridge there was consternation,” Joan Bright Astley recalled, “bells rang and the further burning of secrets was hastily stopped.”
She also recounted how, when the Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden went on a secret visit to Turkey, Churchill insisted that Eden agree beforehand on a set of code words connected with ironmongery. Eden, Churchill said, must make sure to use the code when he spoke to Churchill on the telephone from Cairo as it would disguise the fact that he was having secret talks with the Turks.
The call came through and Eden began carefully: “I went to the ironmongers and there I bought… ” “What?” the line from England roared. “What are you talking about? I thought you had been to see the Turks.”
In 1944, on the way back from the Moscow conference, the British delegation was surprised to be given several crates containing 200 bottles of Crimean champagne, 30 bottles of vodka and six tins of caviar. The presents were duly distributed and rapidly consumed.
The next week, Joan was received an unexpected call from Moscow airport, where the Russian military mission had been inquiring about the whereabouts of cases of food and drink for their Red Army Day party.
Later that day Eden called in a bemused Russian ambassador and with profuse apologies handed him six dozen bottles of scotch whisky and 1,000 cigarettes.
She was born Penelope Joan McKerrow Bright on September 27 1910 in the Argentine, one of seven children of what she later described as “an average family with a less than average income”. Her father was an accountant with a banking and shipping firm. He was on his way to try for a job in North America when the liner Lusitania went down in 1915. His own ship was so delayed picking up survivors that he lost the job. Instead, he took the family to southern Spain, where he took a job with the Zafra Huelva railway in Andalucia.
Later the family returned to England, settling first in Derbyshire, then at Bedford, where Joan attended local schools until her father took a job in west Africa and the rest of the family settled in Bath, then Bristol.
Because she was considered nervy and “difficult”, instead of being sent to boarding school with her sisters, Joan was sent, aged 12, to a country house in Norfolk to be educated with the only daughter of some friends of her father.
She returned to her family four years later and spent a year at Clifton High School, then took a secretarial course at Mrs Hoster’s Secretarial Training College in London, living in a girls’ hostel.
After working briefly for an antiques dealer, in 1931 Joan Bright took over her elder sister Betty’s job as a secretary at the British legation in Mexico City, after Betty had left to get married.
Returning to England in 1936, she was offered a job working with Duff Cooper on his biography of Talleyrand, but she declined. She also turned down the offer of a post in Germany with a Mr and Mrs Rudolf Hess, who wanted someone to teach their family English.
Instead she took a temporary job as a typist with the Territorial Army. Then, in April 1939, she received a mysterious message instructing her to go to St James’s Park underground station on a certain day wearing a pink carnation. There she was met by a woman who led her to an anonymous office where she signed the Official Secrets Act and was assigned to work in the Military Intelligence directorate of the War Office.
Her section — D/MIR(R) — was involved in the planning of clandestine operations behind enemy lines. Later she would collaborate with Sir Peter Wilkinson on Gubbins and SOE (1993), a biography of Colonel (later Major-General Sir) Colin Gubbins, who would become director-general of the SOE and with whom she had worked in Military Intelligence on a series of instruction pamphlets (printed on edible paper) for the use of would-be saboteurs.
Her section was dispersed on the setting up of SOE in 1940, and Joan Bright then took a post as assistant to Colonel Cornwall Jones, secretary of the Joint Planning Staff in the War Office. In December they moved from the War Office to the War Cabinet Office rooms in Great George Street, a deeply constructed citadel under the heart of Westminster.
It was, she found, a strangely disconnected world. The Joint Planning Committee secretariat knew from maps and plans exactly how the war was going all over the world, but had to look at a notice board to find out if it was raining outside. Red or green lights would tell them whether an air raid was “on” or “off”.
In 1941 General Ismay offered her a job running an information room for the commanders-in-chief. After some hesitation, she agreed and as head of the new “special information centre” she battled against bureaucratic obstacles to provide information that would be useful to them in their commands. She and Ismay began a regular series of telegrams to all commanders-in-chief containing background information about the progress of the war and, where possible, plans for the future.
Joan Bright got to know many of the commanders quite well. A particular favourite of hers was General Wavell, who became a regular correspondent. “The main ethical objection to war for intelligent people,” Wavell told her on one occasion, “is that it is so deplorably dull and usually so inefficiently run.” In 1942 Wavell cabled Ismay to ask whether Joan Bright could be sent out to India to set up a secretariat on the War Cabinet Offices model. The answer was a firm No.
Between the Quebec conference of 1943 and the Potsdam conference of 1945, Joan Bright was responsible for the administrative arrangements for British delegations at six conferences held abroad.
On the voyage over to Quebec, she was surprised by Orde Wingate, who had come to her office looking for a change of clothes. “We have met before,” announced Wingate, dispensing with the usual preliminaries, “in a former life.” As he departed with a bundle of new clothes he observed: “Without religion, man will perish.”
Another passenger was Wing-Commander Guy Gibson, who had led the “dambusting” raid on the Mohne and Eder dams, continuing to direct his bombers after half his own aircraft had been shot away. What had he felt? she asked him. “Nothing much,” Gibson replied, “but I let loose vile oaths — 'Here it is, you ----s’, 'Take this you -------s’, I shouted.”
One of Joan Bright Astley’s last memories of the war was of picking her way through the files and iron crosses strewn over the floor of the ruined Chancellery building in Berlin during the Potsdam Conference: “The smell of Berlin, as of the military suburb of Potsdam, was quite definitely the smell of decayed death.”
In 1949 she married a retired Army officer, Colonel Philip Astley; he had fought in the First World War and was the former husband of the actress Madeleine Carroll, who starred alongside Robert Donat in the film of John Buchan’s Thirty-Nine Steps (1935).
As well as The Inner Circle, Joan Bright Astley was the author of A History of the Northumberland Hussars, 1924-1949 (1949) and 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers, 1936-1945: The Story of an Armoured Regiment in Battle, published in 1951.
Her husband died in 1957, and she is survived by their son.