First years in England
“...London life is throbbing. The ‘Underground’ of London is an amazing feat of engineering. To go underground to the tiny trains called ‘tubes’ all one has to do is to stand on a staircase which moves and you reach below or brings you up as you wish. They are called escalators, which you must have heard about... the sensation at first on it is something unexplainable.”
Ribeiro, aged sixteen, was secretly sent to London by his mother to study accountancy. He joined his artist brother, Souza, who had arrived in 1949 and had written home that the prospects for Lance in Britain held promise.
Ribeiro left Bombay on 26 August 1950 and made the 21-day voyage to England aboard the P&O steamship, the ‘SS Mooltan’ which, he wrote, was “his city for three weeks”:
“...I have never forgotten those early days, disillusioned and troubled days... I was alone, with nothing but a constantly growing fear. Why had I left home and all that I knew, felt and could touch?”
On arrival, he stayed with Souza in London’s Chalk Farm. He took up a refresher English course at the International Language Club in East Croydon while studying.
London was still recovering from the Blitz. Rationing had been introduced in 1940 and would remain in place until 1954. Nevertheless, Ribeiro's archive conveys Britain's strong post-war communal spirit, amid the Festival of Britain (1951), the Funeral of King George VI (1952) and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (1953).
Ribeiro soon abandoned his accountancy course and took up life drawing at St Martin's School of Art.
National Service in the Royal Air Force
Ribeiro would endure conscription into National Service which had been introduced in Britain in 1939 to cope with a shortage of soldiers during World War Two. Although the war ended in 1945, National Service continued and by the 1950s took nearly two million men into training.
On his brother's advice, Ribeiro started travelling to Europe to escape conscription. However, in 1954 he was caught by two military police and sent to do service as a British Empire National, in the Royal Air Force (RAF).
The days consisted of basic training in West Kirby (Merseyside), and a posting in Catterick (North Yorkshire). He found himself forced to shoot rabbits, following the highly-infectious myxomatosis outbreak which had reached the UK in the 1950s.
Meanwhile, tensions in the Middle East were escalating. He wrote home that the RAF would soon be sending him to Egypt. The leader of Egypt's nationalist movement, Nasser, was obstructing the Suez Canal – which was used by the British to access its East Asian markets. With the crisis looming, it took the intervention of his brother and V K Krishna Menon (India's first High Commissioner in London from Indian Independence) to secure his discharge in 1955.
He left for India and started working in life insurance.