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PATRICK ARMINE WODEHOUSE

12.03.1920 – 29.01.2011

By Hilary Bruce


Patrick Wodehouse, who has died aged 90, was P G Wodehouse’s nephew – son of Plum’s older brother Ernest Armine – and was a dear and loyal Patron of the Society.


Patrick Wodehouse was a delightful gentleman who gave his time generously to the Society – he wrote for the Society’s journal Wooster Sauce, attended several dinners including the most recent in October 2010, and gladly shared memories and anecdotes about his uncle in fascinating talks at Society events. (Please click here for a recent example of an article by Patrick, which appeared in Wooster Sauce in June 2009.)


In 2007, at the launch of the Society’s Week With Wodehouse (please see the report in our Recent Events section here), as Patrick reminisced about helping Cook make jam roll for lunch at Plum and Ethel’s home, his audience noted that ‘he did not need name-tags or any other aide-memoire to boost his recall of days now so distant’. On that occasion, his last formal speaking role for the Society, everything about him confirmed Robert McCrum’s earlier description of Patrick “There is something about the warmth and sweetness of his memories that has inspired everything I’ve written about his uncle.”


Patrick reminisces at the Society’s Week With Wodehouse in 2007


But his famous uncle was very far from being the only, or even main, aspect to Patrick’s life; at that same event in 2007, Patrick spent much of the evening talking with an American member about his pioneering career in electronic engineering. Patrick had indeed had an interesting time. Like his uncle, Patrick was for the most part brought up in England while his parents lived and worked abroad. He probably only saw his parents twice between three and 18 years of age, when he entered Imperial College. He volunteered for the RAF, was seconded to work on a secret project that turned out to be radar and thus Patrick played his crucial role in the Battle of Britain and by maintaining radar installations around the world. After the war, he married Joyce Champion, returned to Imperial, graduated in 1949 and went on to a graduate placement at Woolwich. Later, he joined a company making transistors, another revolutionary new concept; yet another interesting career move was to a Cambridge company developing a magnetically levitated train. He moved to Italy where for twenty happy years he worked on radar for the Tornado, and then for the European Space Agency, developing their component reliability database. Listening to Patrick that evening, our American Internet pioneer was captivated, as well he might be.


Patrick and Nancy in Cumbria, 1990


After his wife’s death, Patrick met and married the Italian-American art teacher Nancy Kominsky, and in 1994 they returned to England to live in Wimbledon. Patrick and Nancy were very popular residents of their apartment block, and Patrick made an especial contribution to the gardens, while continuing to read widely on history, science and spiritual matters.


But Society members will remember Patrick first of all as a very sweet and gentle person, courteous, absolutely charming and willing to the last to share his unique and irreplaceable memories of his fascinating life and dear uncle. Our thoughts are with his wife Nancy, and son Nigel.


Patrick at the Heywood Hill exhibition in 2009 (photo by Ginni Beard)