Loeffler Frank

Frank Loeffler 


Frank Loeffler was born in Oxford in 1920 to a father, George, a chemist who originated in Germany. George took his wife and Frank’s future mother, Elizabeth, to leave England at the outbreak of the First World War to live for its duration in Canada, so as to avoid being interned. Returning only slowly to Britain when the war ended, they spent some time in Germany and then in the Channel Islands.


Frank’s early experiences of moving around helped shape his later interests – he was to become the chairman of the Refugee Council. Frank’s own wife Sabina, was a refugee from Nazi Germany. Frank read law at Cambridge in the 1930s, where he cemented hia life-long belief in Communism.

During the Second World War, he worked in an electrics factory – a protected industry – and he also worked as an air-raid warden in Hampstead, where he was then living.
After the war he returned to practise law, and set up chambers in
Bedford Square with the Belsize Park-based Communist lawyer Jack Gaster (see separate entry). The firm was Gaster, Vowles, Turner, and Loeffler and became known for their work for social justice.

He was a regular visitor to Franco’s Spain to fight for the rights of political prisoners, and worked as an advisor for legal teams on the Julian Grimau case in the early 1960s, which saw the leader of the clandestine Spanish Communists arrested, tortured, and thrown out of the window of a multi-storied building. After massive global protests including across Spain itself, which Frank was at the heart of, in 1963, execution was ordered by Franco himself. Yet the Civil Guard, extraordinarily, refused the order to mount a firing squad and the regular army was brought in to do the job. A botched execution ensued, whereby 27 bullets were fired before the officer in charge delivered a coup de grace.

Amongst the many cases of injustice Frank handled, he was up against it when he began representing Jack Hendy (see separate entry), one of the Electricians Trade Union leaders ousted by a vindictive set of right winger in the early 1960s.  Frank tried to stop the right from banning Jack Hendy from holding office as a result of the infamous ballot rigging case. Although Hendy and another had been found not to be guilty of any misdemeanour, the new ETU leadership leaned on a certain ambiguity in the judge’s summing up. The issue was aired through written exchanges from each side’s solicitor, focusing on a musing by the judge that, were he not forced to use the standard of evidence that he was (it was civil law and therefore much weaker than such a standard would have been in criminal law), he would have “found each of them guilty …”.  [Letter 2.5.62 from P R Kimber in reply to F Loeffler letter to ETU of 27th April 1962]


But this was because Winn, the judge, guessed that it was, mainly since Hendy was such an intelligent man that he could not have genuinely believed what they said in Winn’s opinion. The ETU now sought to punish Hendy further by relying on some throwaway remarks by the judge that amounted to a suspicion that something smelled fishy. That the union’ leadership forced their legal representatives to come up with this rubbish is more saddening than outrageous. Nonetheless, the ETU did whatever they wished and Hendy was effectively forced out of his union. It was a rare loss for Frank.


But Frank was equally happy to use his legal skills to assist neighbours facing problems with house repairs or welfare issues. Following his retirement, he could be spotted walking around the streets of Lissenden Gardens with a pipe clenched between his teeth. He would offer free legal advice, write letters on behalf of tenants, and after his retirement embarked on a long battle to help people living there ensure they were paying correct charges for building work.


He was also a member of the Haldane Society, which united like-minded left-wing lawyers and was a keen theatre-goer, supporting the socialist drama group Unity Theatre.

Frank Loeffler died, aged 87, in 2007,


His wife, Sabina Loeffler predeceased him. 

Sources: Camden New Journal 19th July 2007; G Stevenson “Light or Liberty? 50 years on”





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