Obituary William French

William (Bill) French – Born 22 August 1916, died 29 March 2015 aged 98

Bill French was born and raised in Exeter. He won a scholarship to Blundell’s from Bramdean in 1930, was head boy in his final year and played at prop for the First XV. He enjoyed his time at the school and remembered headmaster Neville Gorton and North Close housemaster Mr Pierce with great affection.

In 1935 he proceeded to Sidney Sussex, Cambridge, along with fellow Blundellians Joe Pearson and Eric Marston. He read Mathematics for Part I and switched to Economics for Part II. There has been no better time and place for a young economist than Cambridge in the late 1930s. He had lectures from Keynes and was supervised by Austen and Joan Robinson, two of Keynes’s leading disciples.

Anticipating the war, he joined the university Officer Cadet Reserve and put his maths to use by studying gunnery and artillery survey. He was called up to the Royal Artillery in 1939 and served in Normandy, the Ardennes, Holland and Germany, finishing the war as a major.

He joined Unilever from Cambridge in 1938 and returned there after the war until retirement in 1978.

He enjoyed a remarkably active old age, as an intrepid traveller, average golfer, feared bridge-player and inveterate reader of newspapers and follower of current affairs. His mind at death was as sharp as it had been when he started at Blundell’s 85 years earlier.

Bill French was followed to Blundell’s by his brothers John and Murray and, in the 1960s and 1970s, by sons William and Stephen and nephews William and Andrew Pollard and Tom and Jonathan French.

These words were written by Stephen French, Bill's son.