Elizabeth Anne GILMAN

Born1924 Cosford, Suffolk
Died2012
FatherHenry Charles Randon GILMAN (1884 – 1956)
MotherIda Elizabeth COBBOLD (1889 – 1971)

Biography and Notes

This is an abridged version of the eulogy given by Cea Francis at her mother's funeral on 4th May 2012.


I would like to take this opportunity to join with you all to remember my mother, Elizabeth Anne Francis. She was born to Elizabeth Cobbold and Henry Gilman and was named Elizabeth which had been a mother to daughter name for some generations in the Cobbold family but her grandfather, Robert Russell Cobbold, a clergyman who christened her, added Anne so she would have a name of her own, as she was born on St Anne's day. Anne has a much loved brother, Richard, now Father Aiden Gilman.

Anne and Richard's best childhood memories were of their Salthouse holiday home which lacked both gas and electricity and which required the use of oil lamps and candles and water to be drawn from a well. As teenagers they sailed their dinghies along the coast and Anne developed her life-long love of the sea. My mother also remembered the great depression and thousands of men marching to London to 'ask the King to give them work' and she soon became aware of poverty and inequalities which developed her egalitarian outlook.

Her family were members of the Church of England, for which many of her relatives were ministers, but when she was nine years old her father decided to convert to Catholicism. Her mother supported him and the family became Catholics. She was a clever girl; completed a good education and like thousands of others lied about her age so that she could join the WRNS in 1941 to 'fight Hitler and restore peace and justice', but she never talked about her war.

When, in 1974, Frederick Winterbottom revealed the Bletchley Park and Enigma secrets and later the film, Enigma was released it became apparent that she had signed the Official Secrets Act and along with other women selected for their integrity and intelligence had been at Bletchley helping to break the German codes. In 1944 she was posted to Ceylon and it was only recently that we realised that this had been to work on the Japanese codes. She never broke her oath.

After the war my mother went up to Girton College, Cambridge to study English, feeding her love of poetry and literature. Whilst at Cambridge she met my father and when they had completed their studies they were married in 1950 and decided to have a large family to help rebuild Britain. Our mother was a fabulous mother; she dedicated her life to caring for the six of us and supporting our father. A growing family meant we moved from Reigate to Horley where she played an active role in the Catholic Church. She voted Labour or Liberal to counteract our father's Conservative vote and, knowing he would not approve, kept her support for CND secret. However, these philosophical differences were minor in comparison to the great love and commitment they had for each other, sharing simple pleasures like reading The Times, country walks and sea swimming. My mum was a great cook and my father loved the marmalade which she made for him.

As children we were treated equally and taught to share, just as she extended her care to others by delivering meals on wheels, often with a little something extra for the recipient. She instinctively understood equality and diversity long before it became fashioable. I feel privileged to have had such a mother; but that is not all; they opened their home and their hearts to others less fortunate than themselves by becoming, for instance, surrogate parents to three young nurses from Sri Lanka and foster parents to two young girls.

My mother described the years she raised her family as the happiest of her life, but she faced a tragedy no mother should have to face when my twin brother, Richard, died at the age of only 21, and I know the pain stayed with her for the rest of her life. Shortly afterwards she became a grandmother and great grandchildren followed who were a source of the greatest pleasure in later life when they and other family members visited her. Never extravagant but always generous I believe we have been blessed to have had such a wonderful mother.

Cea Francis
4th May 2012

Abridged by Anthony Cobbold
May 2012

Life Events

1924Born
1950Married Peter R FRANCIS in Suffolk
1951Birth of daughter Elizabeth Mary FRANCIS
1953Birth of son Richard FRANCIS
1953Birth of daughter Cecilia (Cea) FRANCIS
1955Birth of son Charles FRANCIS
1956Death of father Henry Charles Randon GILMAN
1959Birth of son Thomas FRANCIS
1959Birth of son Philip FRANCIS
1971Death of mother Ida Elizabeth COBBOLD
1975Death of son Richard FRANCIS
2008Death of husband Peter R FRANCIS
2012Died

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