THE ADVOCATE 255
VOL. 79 PART 2 MARCH 2021
The Honourable Michael Ivor Catliff
The B.C. legal community was deeply saddened by
the passing of Mr. Justice Michael Catliff on September
24, 2020 at the age of 92.
Michael was born in England in 1928. He and his
two younger siblings enjoyed a comfortable middleclass
upbringing in the Kensington district of London.
His working parents—his mother a successful
horse racing bookie, his father a land surveyor—followed the then-popular
notion that children should be neither seen nor heard, other than at the
weekly Sunday lunch gathering. They left the task of raising the Catliff children
almost entirely in the hands of their nurse/nanny.
Michael was 11 years old when Britain declared war on Germany. He and
his family endured the nightly bombings during the Blitz. One day, a German
plane sent machine gunfire through his classroom windows. Within a
short while the Catliff children joined the many thousands of British children
evacuated from London to the countryside as part of Operation Pied
Piper. Although children were theoretically safer there, the Battle of Britain
raged over the countryside for an intensive three-month period in 1940.
Years later Michael still recalled the excitement and the horror of witnessing
RAF Spitfires hounding a German Dornier, ending with the explosion of
the German aircraft. He and his schoolmates ran to the crash site in a
nearby field where they found German money, newspapers and a finger
hanging on a bramble.
Despite all the vagaries of wartime, he enjoyed his high school years at
Latymer Upper School. He was a strong scholar, excelling in English literature,
but an equally successful athlete. He was Captain of Boxing and was
ever proud of coming second in the mile racewalk at the 1946 Public
Schools Championships in White City Stadium. While in high school, he
enrolled in cadet officer training.
The war ended before his graduation, but conscription remained a fact of
life. The allied forces took part in the post-war peacekeeping force in
Europe, with the British army occupying Germany. At age 18, having completed
rigorous officer cadet training, Michael was formally inducted into
the British army with the rank of sub-lieutenant. He was dispatched to serve
as an officer overseeing the Engineers’ Corps motor pool in Hanover, Germany—
a group of weathered veteran army engineers and mechanics. The