Eva is the daughter of Sir Ludwig Guttmann. She trained as a physiotherapist and worked briefly alongside her father at Stoke Mandeville in the 1950s.

An interview with Eva Loeffler

April 2011

My father started working at Stoke Mandeville in 1944 when I was eleven. It meant that he became increasingly absent. He would set off on the bus on Monday morning and basically stay there all week and come home at weekends when he would be busy writing medical papers and often travelling to other spinal units abroad. Eventually he bought our first car and travelled to Stoke every day, but although he was very supportive of my brother who became a doctor and me when I trained to be a physiotherapist he was too involved in his work to play with us and I only remember one family holiday.

During the Wheelchair Games at Stoke Mandeville I used to go along and help as one of the volunteers; in the early years it was almost totally run by volunteers. I used to help pulling the arrows out of the archery butts and picking up the ball during table tennis matches.

There was a wonderful atmosphere at the Games and I recall there was always an enormous party in the sports hall on the final evening. I used to run around with a tray handing out pints and pints of beer and everyone got very merry. I remember one year Margot Fonteyn the ballerina was there while her husband a tetraplegic was having treatment in the spinal injuries unit.

Later on, in 1956-7, when I had finished my training as a physiotherapist I worked at Stoke Mandeville for a short time.. . It was difficult because my father would ask me questions I couldn’t answer and correct me in front of everyone. He was absolutely devoted to his work; and when he wasn’t doing that he was at home writing papers or preparing talks; or else he was away travelling. He retained that very Germanic strain of authoritarianism. It was difficult to disagree or argue with him. It’s an attitude that wouldn’t last five minutes in a hospital today. One of the very few people who managed to disagree with him and get away with it was the head physiotherapist Dora Bell. However in spite of this he was loved and respected by staff and patients and was known as ‘Poppa’.

Download a pdf of Eva's full interview here