Eastbourne Ashridge Circle|Founded 1947

Lecture Date: March 31, 2025

GENTLEMAN MAVERICK: AN ENGLISH ECCENTRIC

Speaker: PETER JEFFREYS - Illustrated

The extraordinary story of a thrice-jailed Army officer who reinvented himself as a layman lawyer and overturned House of Lords legal precedent.

This is the jaw-dropping story of a forgotten military hero, eccentric campaigner and legal maverick.

Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Wintle was famous, with appearances on “This Is Your Life” and “Desert Island Discs,” so why have we forgotten him? A decorated war hero and legal agitator, he served three prison sentences during his colourful career. In 1940 he planned to persuade the French Air Force to flee Nazi occupation and fight alongside the RAF. His superiors did not approve and imprisonment in the Tower of London followed. Then in 1941 he was arrested in occupied France as a British spy. Undeterred, he escaped by fashioning a hacksaw from rusty bedsprings and sawing through the bars of his prison window.

Six years later his wealthy cousin died, leaving everything to her solicitor. Suspecting foul play, Wintle debagged the solicitor and cast him out, trouserless, onto the streets of Hove. Another prison sentence followed but, in the House of Lords, Wintle subsequently became the first self-represented litigant to win a unanimous appeal verdict in his favour. He thereby changed the law for ever.

After his death Wintle became the celebrity whom time forgot. This talk aims to restore the reputation of one of Britain’s last great heroes.

Solicitor Peter Jeffreys, who lives in Eastbourne, has specialised in contested wills for over 30 years.