Monthly Archives: October 2013

Rufus’s Berlin diary – 80 years ago today.

What did Rufus write in his diary for Halloween 1933?  

It wasn’t very chatty, I’m afraid:   “31 October: Out to breakfast on Unter den Linden. To see Herr Hartman, Voigt, etc in a.m. re Reichstag Fire Trial and Labour camp visit. Call up Bismarck’s introduction – also lunch at “Alte Inn.” To see Winter in p.m. at Agriculture Ministry and Dr Borner of Nazi foreign bureau. Call Hanfstaengl 10am – Jager 74-11.”

Why would he go out to breakfast on Unter den Linden?

Well, it was where you went to see what was going on – like going to a cafe on the Champs Elysee in Paris.

It was where they had parades. Here’s Hitler in 1936, driving through the Brandenburger Tor into Unter den Linden.

Okay. So, after breakfast he went to to see Herr Hartman about the Reichstag Fire Trial. Why would he do that?

The Reichstag fire had happened a month after Hitler became Chancellor. Here it is, burning away. The guy accused of setting it was on trial and Rufus wanted a ticket for the press gallery. And he went to see Herr Voigt to arrange a trip to a Nazi Labour Camp. He wanted to fill his time with interesting visits while waiting for an interview with Hitler.

Is that why he called Hanfstaengl – he was the guy they called Putzi, wasn’t he?

Yes, Putzi and a man named Thomsen were Hitler’s assistants – they arranged their boss’s itinerary, including his interviews.

Hey, that’s cool knowing Putzi’s phone number! But Jager 74-11 isn’t a very big number, is it? I suppose there just weren’t that many phones. Those were hard times in Germany.

You’re right. But getting back to Rufus’s day, the Alte Inn, where he had lunch, was a  journalists’ hangout. Rufus had had supper there with Charlie Woodsworth a few nights earlier. Charlie was a useful guy to know – the son of the famous J.S. Woodsworth (founder of the CCF /NDP,) and he spoke fluent German. Every morning he came to Rufus’s room in the Kaiserhof to read him the German newspaper headlines while he was shaving.

Now that’s efficient use of time, I must say! So, what were his afternoon appointments all about?

He was planning a trip to Danzig and Warsaw – that would account for the Foreign ministry. But your guess is as good as mine about the Agriculture ministry, though Herr Winter was a bit of a find – he’d been to school in England and spoke English like a Brit. Rufus hit it off with him and was later invited to dinner with his family.

Another picture of Unter den Linden, taken at about that time, judging by the cars. The street name means Under the Lime Trees and you can see why. Rufus would have had his breakfast at a cafe somewhere along the avenue.

Rufus’s Nazi contacts, von Bismarck and von Bieberstein

So, was this guy a Nazi?

Far from it – this was Wickham Steed, ex-editor of the London Times whom Rufus consulted in 1933 before going to Berlin. Steed warned him about the Nazis, said they were sinister and dangerous.

Did Rufus believe him?

Partly, I suppose. But he thought Steed was exaggerating – he liked Germany, and any Hitlerites he’d come across had seemed pretty harmless.  He decided Steed was “a bit of an extinct volcano!”

So, who else did he talk to?

He went to the German embassy in London and met a really nice fellow called Otto von Bismarck.

The Iron Chancellor! Old ‘Blood and Iron’? Surely he was dead by 1933.

Oh for sure – the old man had been dead for years. No, this guy was his grandson, and a pretty smooth operator. Rufus found him charming.

What did he do for Rufus?

Rufus wanted a contact in Danzig, so that when he went there he’d have someone to talk to. Bismarck, who was well connected to the aristocracy, told him to call his pal Baron Marschall von Bieberstein “speaks English like you and me, old boy”.

And did he call him?

Sure he did. You see, Danzig was a political hotspot. The League of Nations had taken it from Germany and given it to Poland – so that Poland would have a port, and a corridor to the sea. Trouble was, Danzigers were all Germans.

So what happened?

The day that Rufus got there, Nov 5 1933, the Nazis in the Danzig Senate seized power – fired all the non-Nazi police. It was a crisis, because the League was supposed to be in charge.

And Rufus went to see Bieberstein?

He did, but later on. First, he called some other people – the Count and Countess von Keyserlingk, cousins of his German-Canadian friend Robert Keyserlingk. He went to lunch with them and for his benefit they’d invited the League High Commissoner, the Danish Dr Helmer Rosting, and his Swedish wife. Everybody spoke English, so there was Rufus, chatting away with the guy in the hot seat.

Wow – that was a piece of luck.

Partly luck, partly savvy – he already knew that the K’s knew Rosting. But it was also an awful day – the day he saw how the wind was blowing and realised that Steed had been right.

How come?

To start with, it became obvious that the League would just accept it. Rosting, you see, was a Nazi wannabe – that also became obvious. And when Rufus went to the Biebersteins, lo and behold, Bieberstein was a Nazi too. What he didn’t know, and never would, was that his charming pal Bismarck was also a Nazi – he’d joined the party that year.

So what did he write about it?

He wrote his dispatch after visiting Warsaw too – 24 hours in each city. He saw that the Poles were armed to the teeth and his article began:

“Poland calmly expects, and is prepared for, war. Nothing which German leaders can say in the present circumstances will change the Polish belief that Germany intends to choose her own time to recover, whether by force or subtle diplomacy, what she lost by the Treaty of Versailles.”

Did he ever get that right! World War 2 began when the Germans attacked Poland. And Rufus predicted it six years earlier.

Rufus’s Houses, and his differences with Major Skitt Matthews, Vancouver’s first archivist.

D 4 Rufus's shack at Kipp, Alberta, 1909, his first 'home' in Canada


Here is Rufus leaning proudly against the only house he built himself.

Well the body language is proud enough, but it looks more like a shed than a house!

It probably was more like a shed than a house. All we know is that he lived in it for three months in the winter of 1909-10. It was at Kipp, in the middle of nowhere a few miles from Lethbridge, Alberta.

How was a putting food on the table at the time?

That’s a bit of a mystery – we don’t know. And we only know he lived there because it was scribbled on the back of the photo.  But you can see the grain elevator beside the rail track in the background and he may have been doing a bit of lumber trading on his own account – he had experience in lumber yards, and of shipping lumber by rail.

F 6  1912 St Stephen's, Rufus's & Bee's house in Duncan, April 1913

This is his house at Duncan, isn’t it, built when he married Bee in 1912?

That’s right. Rufus hired a carpenter to do most of the work but also worked on it himself whenever he had the time. It wasn’t a bad little house – except for it’s pit toilet. The next house they owned was a much better place.

N 14 1337 Maple Street, Rufus & Bees house

 It certainly is – where was it?

At 1337 Maple Street in Vancouver, right by Kitsilano beach. Rufus and Bee bought it in 1922 and apart from staining the floor, Rufus did no work on it.  It was quite a big house.

It looks a nice house – why did they move out of it eventually?

There was trouble with noisy neighbours – parties into the wee hours, that sort of thing. You can see the house next-door – it was #1343 and belonged to Major Skitt Matthews, the city’s first archivist. The trouble was that the city  never hired Matthew as its archivist – he just had a passion for collecting bits of early Vancouver history.  So he lived off the rent from houses that he owned in different parts of Vancouver. When he refused to evict his noisy tenants at 1343, Rufus and Bee decided to sell 1337 and built their own house.

N 14 1928 house at Marguerite and 52nd (taken 1930)

And this was what they built?  That’s a pretty smart dwelling.

It certainly is – they built it in the spring of 1928 on the corner of Marguerite and 52nd and it still looks much the same.  It cost them $6000 to build and the house today is worth over a million!

I suppose they had to sell when Rufus was sent to Europe by Southam Press.

That is so – in fact, even though it was their dream house, they never lived in it. Southam sold it for them after they’d gone to live in England.

Rufus’s heroic Lukin Ancestors

Rufus's Lukin family tree

[Click twice to make the tree readable!]

So these are Rufus’s ancestors?

On his mother’s side, yes. She was a Lukin and she and her brother Harry  had some remarkable forebears – most of them tough as nails and brave as lions. They were all Brits, of course, but they went all over the globe –  the story of Britain’s nineteenth century empire.

THE LUKIN FAMILY by Charles O Bigg (active 1869-1876) from the Morning Room at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk

These fellows are some of them – William, Robert, George and John, four Lukin brothers. They were rather pleased with themselves and had this picture painted in 1803.

That’s 210 years ago! What do you know about them?

Look at the family tree. William became a Vice-Admiral, Robert stayed home and ran the farm, George became a Captain and Marine Paymaster for the East India Company, and John, on the horse – well,  he became the  Reverend John and married four times.

And he had a pile of children by the looks of it.

Not so many for those days – but look what became of them.  The eldest son – another Reverend John – went to Ceylon ( now called Sri Lanka). Robert became a barrister – he was Rufus’s grandpa and Rufus called him ‘Gappy’. William , the next brother, was a real warrior – an army Major-General who fought battles against the Russians in the Crimean War. Poor little Villebois joined the navy  when he was a boy. And he died a nasty death in Gibraltar.

Imagine being sent up the mast of a warship at that age! Why would they send him up there?

Because the sails had to be furled.  The only way to do it was for sailors to climb up the rigging, wriggle along the spars on their stomachs, haul up the sails and tie them with ropes. I guess Villebois just wasn’t strong enough – he lost his grip and fell 100 feet to the deck!

It gives you the creeps to think about it.

And the last brother, Frederick,  an army Colonel in charge of paying the troops, was in the Crimea and also in India.

What about the women – you talk only of the men?

This was Jane Austen’s England, remember. Only remarkable women – like Jane herself, or Florence Nightingale – could have a career. For most, marriage was their only option. And that led to pregnancies and, sadly, often to death in childbirth. It even happened to Nellie, Rufus’s mother, who died in childbirth in 1903

B 2 Nellie Lukin, Rufus's mother who died in 1903

I can see where Rufus got his good looks. She looks like a fun person, too.

Yet she died at 41, at Peter’s birth, Rufus’s much-younger brother. But she passed the Lukin genes on to her children. And her brother, Harry, as tough as any of his ancestors, kept a fond eye on his nephew Rufus as he was starting to make his way in Canada.

A 1 Harry Lukin as Brig-Gen. in Cape Mounted Rifles uniform c 1900

That’s Rufus’s Uncle Harry? By golly, he looks a tough customer.

He certainly was.  He was South Africa’s equivalent of Sam Steele. This is him in 1900, as CO of the Cape Mounted Rifles in the South African War. That string of gongs – he won them in battles against the Zulus. He couldn’t pass the exam to become a regular officer in Britain. So he did it the hard way – went to South Africa, proved himself in the constant bush fighting that was going on. In World War 1, he defeated the Germans in S.W. Africa, commanded the South Africans in France, and then the British 9th Division.

I 9  Major General Sir Harry Lukin KCB, CMG, DSO, Rufus's uncle and GOC British 9th Division

Here he is as a Major General, and GOC 9th Division.

It really isn’t surprising that Rufus was a pretty darned good staff officer with so little experience. He came from a long line of heroes.

Rufus and Putzi Hanfstaengl


This is Putzi Hanfstaengl with Diana Mitford in 1934. The picture was taken at the Nuremberg Rally that year, and he looks very much the party official.

But that wasn’t how Rufus thought of him, surely.

Good lord no. Rufus was shown round the Brown House by him in 1932 and thought him a clown. Putzi was so theatrical – when he talked of Hitler “he became positively lyrical.”  Rufus couldn’t take him seriously – described him as a “high – and talkative – personage” in his article.

Doesn’t sound like a typical Nazi to me. Did Hitler like him?

He did, and Putzi know how to handle Hitler. Putzi had been a Munich Nazi in 1923, when Hitler’s  famous Putsch failed. Hitler was wounded, bleeding, being hunted by police – and he took refuge in Putzi’s house. Putzi persuaded him to surrender – and Putzi’s American wife persuaded Hitler not to shoot himself when the police came for him!

Wow – what a story! So, later on,  Hitler really owed him one, didn’t he?

He certainly did. But he also liked  Putzi to play the piano for him – Putzi was a brilliant pianist and Hitler found his music calming. So he was important to HItler.


And this is him again, with Hitler. Who’s the guy in the hat?

That was Herman Goring, an evil psychopath if ever there was, and all three had a part to play in Rufus’s story.

Did Rufus meet Putzi again?

He did, when he made a second try to interview Hitler in 1933 –  by then, Hitler was Chancellor of Germany. Putzi had an unofficial foreign press liaison position, and Rufus phoned him when he got to Berlin. Although Rufus told Bee “I fear he doesn’t like me much for what I wrote previously”, Putzi was charming and they made an appointment to meet.

What happened when they met?

Putzi agreed to persuade Hitler to be interviewed by Rufus – he would be the first Canadian to do so if it actually happened. Rufus blamed him for not trying hard enough because he had to wait weeks before he got his interview. But it wasn’t Putzi’s fault – in the interval, HItler was too busy with his great referendum to be interviewed by anybody.

Did he and Putzi meet a third time?

Yes, at Die Taverne, the foreign journalists’ hangout, the evening after Rufus’s meeting with Hitler. According to Putzi, they discussed Rufus’s impressions of Germany.

Are you going to tell me about that meeting with Hitler?

Oh yes, but everything in good time. You’ll just have to wait – or you can read all about it in my book – it’ll be out in two or three weeks.

Rufus’s 1920 Chevrolet and 1928 Standard (PK)

M 13  first car 1922 ii

There she is, in all her glory, Rufus’s first car.

What was it?

A brand new 1920 Chevy. It still looks quite smart in that picture. That’s Derek sitting in it, and Rufus at the wheel

How much did he pay for it?

$700 – about four months wages.

I don’t suppose you’d get a new car today for four months’ wages. All the same, that Chevy can’t have been much good in Vancouver – what did they do when it rained?

Clipped on canvas side panels with mica windows – plastics weren’t invented. And they didn’t drive it in winter.

Did Rufus pass his driver’s test first time?

Good grief – there weren’t any driver’s tests!  The day he bought the car he wrote in his diary –  “Drove round Stanley Park with the salesman and later by myself — got stuck once! Drove Bee and Derek round Marine Drive at night — OK, but I had trouble getting into the garage.”  The next day was Sunday and he spent the morning ‘receiving instruction’ at Corfield’s garage. And that was his driver training – period. On Monday morning he drove himself to the office – downtown.

Did he have other cars?

His next one was much grander, a 1928 Standard which he bought in England for £330. Here it is being loaded onto a Channel ferry, with the famous ‘white cliffs of Dover’ in the background.

P 16 PK coming aboard at Dover 1932

Wow, two tons of auto dangling over the water! Give me ‘roll on, roll off’ any day.

Shame on you – where’s that spirit of adventure ? Rufus lovingly called it PK – from its licence plate – and drove it all over England and Europe. But it did break down a lot –

P 16 PK broken down Ludwigshafen, Germany 1932

like this time, in Ludwigshafen, Germany. On their six-week European trip PK covered 4,608 kms. used a litre of gas every 6.8 kms, a litre of oil every 100 kms, and averaged only 650 kms between breakdowns.

That sounds terrible, especially all that oil – they must have trailed a cloud of blue smoke.

They may have done but they were pretty pleased with their trip all the same – this was 1932, remember, not 2013. It was the heyday of the motorist – no traffic, no speed limits, no rules. You could park where you liked, and when you stopped you drew an admiring crowd.

Yeah, I noticed – even when you broke down!

As Mr Toad would have said –  ‘Poop! poop!’

Rufus visits Hitler’s office in the Brown House, Munich


This, believe it or not, was Hitler’s office in Nazi party headquarters in Munich, the so-called Brown House. Rufus was shown round in 1932 by Hitler’s friend and assistant, Ernst Hanfstaengl, called Putzi by Hitler.

It doesn’t look like the office of a ruthless dictator to me!

Your’re right, it doesn’t. This is what Rufus told his readers about it in his column ‘In Germany Today’:          “We went into Herr Hitler’s private office — about twenty feet square, furnished sparsely, richly and simply. Across one corner stood his desk — of mahogany, inlaid with brass. On the floor was a rich, red-toned rug with the everlasting Swastika woven into it. There were one or two chairs and a table with papers on it. On the walls were at least three portraits of Frederick the Great.”

That’s wonderful – you can see it all in the photograph, even the portrait of Frederick the Great. Did Rufus take the picture?

No, no – ordinary people didn’t have colour film in those days – I found this picture on the web.

Well, it shows Rufus was an accurate reporter, anyway. Did he then get to speak with HItler?

He did not, and was not best pleased about it. In fact he had to wait another year, until after Hitler became Chancellor.

Was Hitler so busy before he came to power?

Not really – I’m sure he had the time. But Goring was determined to prevent his leader talking to foreign reporters. Goring was a sinister and powerful man, even then – Putzi would have had to defy him, and maybe didn’t want to take the risk.

Did Rufus find Nazis sinister in 1932?

Far from it – In his description of the Brown House,  “busy-looking young men skipped about with a look of terrifying earnestness on their faces. As they passed each other they raised the right hand and said ‘Heil Hitler’… the whole atmosphere of the place seemed to me like that just before the curtain goes up on an amateur theatrical show.”

And he should know – as an amateur actor himself.

Yes, and he would meet Brown Shirts several times that fall when he and Bee took a holiday in Germany.  This is his picture of a group of them eating lunch

P 16 Hitlerites having lunch near Baden Baden 1932

They look a pretty peaceful bunch. I don’t see any swastikas in that lot.

No, there were none, because the SA had been banned by the government. So they took off their swastikas and called themselves Hitlerites – at least, Rufus called them that. One of them helped him when his car broke down – he was very impressed, even disposed to like them. Only after Hitler came to power did Rufus start to see Nazis as dangerous. Which was why he was so determined to get his interview with HItler – but that story will keep for another day.

Colonel Cy Peck, VC, DSO & bar, CO of the 16th Battalion, Canadian Scottish.

N 14 Col Cy Peck, VC, DSO, 16th Bn

This, my lad, is Cy Peck, the bravest of the brave. Rufus admired him more than any man he met in France

He was in the 16th himself, wasn’t he?

He was, and Peck was his CO – from November 1916 until he started staff training in February 1917.

They only gave out VCs for the bravest actions, didn’t they? So how did Colonel Peck win his?

He won it at the Battle of Arras on 2 September 1918. It would be Rufus’s very last day in France (his posting came through that evening). His 2nd Brigade had broken through the Drocourt-Queant Line and the 8th and 10th battalions then went on to break through the Buissy Switch, the German’s last prepared defences.  To the south of them, Cy Peck’s 16th had also broken through the DQ line and reached their objective. But when the 15th passed through his position to keep up the attack, they were stopped by murderous machine gun fire. So Peck went forward himself, saw where the fire was coming from, then intercepted some tanks and got them to deal with it –  he was right out in the open under machine gun fire. After that the 15th also broke through the Buissy Switch.  It was a great day for the Canadians, largely thanks to him. Have a look at the map.

Map 12 - Arras - Cy Peck's VC

How much ground did they cover that day?

About 8 kilometres – a huge distance in World War 1.

What was Rufus doing, meanwhile?

As  Staff Captain ‘Q’, his job was to keep the brigade transport moving up with the troops – so they could re-supply battalions when they ran short of bullets or bombs – and of course to provide everything else – especially food and water. It was tough going, under fire all the time, on roads and tracks full of craters.

What did Cy Peck do after the war?

He went to bat for the soldiers and became an MP. Then he became MLA for the Gulf Islands – Rufus once stayed with him on Salt Spring Island and covered one of his election meetings at Fulford Harbour

Is Cy Peck mentioned in Rufus?

He is – Rufus actually saw a lot of him. They enjoyed each other’s company.

Rufus meets the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII

N 14 Rufus, as exec. member of Canadian Club, with Prince of Wales and Prince George, 1927.

A boring bunch of ‘suits’, if you ask me.

You’re probably right. But have another look – recognize anyone?

I’m looking for Rufus, of course – oh, there he is, fourth from the right in the back row. For once in a way, he hasn’t got his pipe in his mouth. What was the occasion?

It was 1927 and Edward, Prince of Wales, and his brother Prince George were visiting Vancouver – that’s them in the front row.  Edward became king not long after, but abdicated when the Brits wouldn’t let him marry his American girlfriend, Wallis Simpson.

And why was Rufus in a picture with him?

Because the Canadian Club executive – of which Rufus was a member – had invited the princes to lunch at the Hotel Vancouver. After the lunch – and lots of speeches – they all trooped up to the roof for the picture. A couple of Rufus’s friends are there, too.

I see General Odlum in the front row – is there somebody else?

W.H. Malkin, the grocery store owner, is on the right of Rufus – both he and Odlum sometimes came to 1337 Maple Street to play bridge. And they all knew L.D. Taylor, the mayor, of course.

He was mayor for ages, wasn’t he?

He was elected seven times between 1910 and 1934. He was a flamboyant character and very left wing – Rufus knew him well because he was a newspaperman – he once worked at the Province and later owned the Vancouver World.

Look how many of the guys in the picture are wearing bow ties . Was that the fashion?

For some people. But I expect they’d been tipped that the Prince liked to wear them. He was a ‘natty dresser’. But the news never reached Rufus, it seems.

He probably thought bow ties looked silly – sounds like Rufus to me!

With Rufus in the Trenches

H 8 better_ole

Hey, that’s pretty funny.

 The Canadian soldiers thought so too. Life was so hellish that making a joke of it was sort of comforting. The guy who drew that cartoon, Bruce Bairnsfather, was a British officer – he became famous overnight. He did lots of cartoons – they made them into postcards and soldiers would get them from families at home!

Wot made that ole

Young and talkative one: “What made that ‘ole?”        Fed-up one: “Mice.”

It must have been hellish – and this guy Bairnsfather made it more bearable by joking about it?

And he was right – the guys loved it, and partly because the cartoons gave folks at home an idea of how bad things really were – something they didn’t like to talk about.

Did Rufus ever have to take a patrol into No-Man’s Land at night?

He wrote a long letter to Bee about one.


 “Fritz sends up a star shell. You stand stock still — and think that everyone for ten miles must see you — but they don’t. Do you remember Bairnsfather’s picture? It is so true.” He and his guys survived a dozen star shells – and though the Germans were firing away,  nobody was hit.

Is this stuff all in the book about Rufus?

You’ll be able to buy it in about a month and see for yourself. We want to get it out for the 80th anniversary of his death, 17 November.