Magga Dan at the ice edge Fuchs and Hillary at the South Pole Fuchs at Scott Base Sir Vivian Fuchs


Childhood and family

Sir Vivian Fuchs was born on 11 February 1908 at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. His father, Ernst, was German and his mother, Violet, was English. After a brief period living in Wandsworth, the family moved to Staplehurst in Kent, where Ernst had acquired land on which he built a house called Walden. Here the family lived happily, until war was declared on 4th August 1914 and their peaceful lives were shattered.

Walden was in a 'prohibited area' and had to be closed. All German residents in the UK were ordered to be imprisoned, and so Ernst was taken away to a camp at Newbury, along with 1,000 other men. A gathering emotional storm swept the country, and anti-German feeling was rife. After some time Violet learned that if she could provide a financially-supported guarantee of where the family would live, Ernst might be released. The family were reunited and moved to Douglas on the Isle of Man.

In May 1915 Ernst was again imprisoned, this time in a camp on the Isle of Man. In the spring of 1917 civilian labour on farms was in such short supply that selected prisoners from the camps were permitted release to work on the land. Ernst was among them, and went to work in Kent, although the family were not permitted to join him. Shortly after this Violet's parents died, but left no will. Violet's inheritance was sequestered by the government, on the grounds that she was considered an 'enemy alien', and so for six long years after the war ended and the family had been permitted to return to Walden, they lived a hand-to-mouth existence. Renouncing his German nationality, Ernst eventually succeeded in his application for naturalization as a British citizen in 1927.

In 1917 Vivian went to Asheton Preparatory School near Tenterden in Kent, where he became Head Boy and acquired the nickname 'Bunny', which stayed with him for life. He developed interests in sports and natural history, and in the summer holidays enjoyed walking and rowing in Scotland.

Violet began the long struggle to regain the family's seized capital, eventually succeeding in 1924. But the shadow of the war was long, and on his application to Tonbridge, the family were told that Vivian might only be admitted only after every English boy had been accepted. After a brief and unhappy period at Trent College, Vivian went to Brighton College, where he decided to pursue subjects that would 'keep him outdoors', particularly geology and zoology.

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