Monday, 24 December 2018

Eric Milner-White OGS, CBE, DSO (1884 – 1963) – British Anglican Priest, Academic and Military Chaplain

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve

The idea of holding a special Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols for the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge University in England came from Eric Milner-White who was appointed Dean of King’s College.

Eric Milner-White was the son of Henry Milner-White (1855 – 1922), a barrister, company chairman and Justice of the Peace for Hampshire, and his wife Kathleen Lucy (née Meeres). Eric had two brothers – Rudolph (1885 – 1954) and Algernon (1887-1895). The boys’ Mother died in 1890 and their father married Annie Booth Teasdale in 1894. They later became Sir Henry and Lady Milner-White. Educated at Harrow School, Eric went up to King's College, Cambridge in 1903. He won a scholarship to Cambridge to read history and graduated in 1906 with a double-first and was the recipient of the Lightfoot Scholarship.

After theological training at Cuddesdon College in 1907, Eric was ordained as an Anglican Church Deacon in 1908 and Priest in 1909 in Southwark Cathedral, London. He served curacies at St Paul's Church, Newington (1908–1909) and St Mary Magdalen, Woolwich (1909–1912) before returning to King's College as Chaplain in 1912. He was appointed lecturer in history at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge at the same time.

During the First World War, Eric volunteered for service as an army chaplain and served on both the Western Front and on the Italian Front. He was appointed senior chaplain to 7th Infantry Division on 15 February 1917 (with temporary promotion to Chaplain to the Forces, 3rd Class).  For his service during this period he was Mentioned in Despatches on 24th December 1917 and awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in the 1918 New Year Honours List. 

Eric resigned his commission on 5th January 1918 and returned to Cambridge. Upon returning he was made the Dean and a Fellow of King's College.  Eric was horrified by what he had witnessed during his time at the Fronts of WW1 and, as the College had lost 202 men during the conflict, he decided to make their Festivals simpler, warmer and more colourful.  He began after the Armistice for Christmas 1918 with the creation of a new Christmas Eve service that would allow anyone to join in and celebrate as well as grieve for absent friends.  There would be no Latin, no sermon, no Psalms but lots of singing.   By 1934, the BBC were claiming the service was “traditional”.

Eric founded the Oratory of the Good Shepherd and served as the Order's Superior from 1923 to 1938. He was re-appointed as an honorary chaplain to the armed forces, 3rd class, on 1st September 1921.

During his time at King's College, Eric introduced the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. This was first broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1928 and has now become a major part of the BBC's Christmas programme.

Eric remained at King's College, Cambridge until 1941, when he was appointed Dean of York. During his time as Dean, he directed the replacement of many of York Minster's windows and undertook a great deal of writing on liturgical matters, for example My God My Glory (1954). He served on various national committees and served on the Advisory Council of the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1944 to 1959 due to his interest in stained-glass windows. He also became Provost of the northern section of the Woodard Corporation, a charity which runs a number of private schools with a strong Christian ethos and, from 1948 to 1962, was amongst those who produced the New English Bible.

A number of Eric Milner-White's written papers are held at the King's College Archive Centre at the University of Cambridge, having been presented to the University in 1982 by Milner-White's "literary executor", the Reverend P. N. Pare. Other items have since been added to the collection.

Eric, who was an avid collector of ceramics, was made an Honorary Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers in 1948 and appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1952 Queen's Birthday Honours List. The same year he was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate of Divinity. He was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) in 1962 by the University of Leeds.

Eric Milner-White died of cancer in the Deanery of York Minster on 15th June 1963.   Since his death, student accommodation at the University of York's Vanbrugh College has been named after him.

Source:  Article in “The Telegraph Magazine” by Guy Kelly, 15th December 2018 pp 33 and 35 – sent to me by a friend. 

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Aníbal Augusto Milhais (1895 – 1970) Portuguese soldier awarded Portugal’s higest award for bravery on the field of battle in WW1

I did not realise until around 1992 when some Portuguse friends told me that their Great-Uncle had been a medic on the Western Front, that Portugal had been involved in the First World War.  As England’s oldest ally, Portugal sent soldiers, nurses and material to help the Allied cause both on the Western Front and in East Africa.

Born on 9th July 1895 in the little village of Valongo de Milhais, a parish of Murça, in the north of Portugal, Aníbal grew up in a farming community and went on to become a farmer himself. On  30th July 1915, Aníbal was drafted into the Portuguese Amry's Infantry of Bragança. In 1917, he was mobilized to join the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps and was posted to France as a member of the Trás os Montes Brigade from the 2nd Infantry Division of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps. The 2nd Infantry Division was deployed to the front line.  During the Battle of Lys, "Operation Georgette", Aníbal defended an abandoned trench single-handedly operating several Lewis guns, thus ensuring the safe withdrawal of Portuguese and Scottish troops. Aníbal found himself alone to the rear of the enemy lines for three days. On the third day,  still carrying his Lewis gun, Aníbal rescued a Scottish Major from a mud-filled trench, and the two reached Allied lines. He was warmly welcomed, but kept quiet about his exploits. However, the officer he had helped reported his actions.

A few months later, Aníbal once again held back a German assault single-handed with his Lewis gun, allowing a Belgian unit to retreat safely to a secondary trench without casualties. Both the British observers and the Belgian commander included his action in their reports. Aníbal was awarded the highest Portuguese distinction - the Order of the Tower and Sword - and the French Légion d'Honneur.

After the war, Aníbal, by then a national hero and with the nick-name ‘soldier worth a million soldiers’, married his sweetheart and went back to farming.  However, he was unable to earn enough mony to support his family. The Portuguese government promised to help, but instead of an allowance, they named the village where he was born after him.

Aníbal went to live in Brazil, where he was warmly welcomed. When the Portuguese community in Brazil realized that Aníbal was in need, they collected sufficient funds to send him back to Portugal with enough money to provide for his family.  He returned to Portugal on 5th August 1928 and began farming again.  He was allocated a small pension which gave him enough to  live on.

Aniíbal died on 3rd June 1970. A permanent exhibition remembering his achievements can be seen in the Military Museum in the city of Porto. A statue was erected in his hometown as a national tribute and as a symbol for Portugal of a very brave man.  In April 2018, a Portuguese film entitled “The Soldier Millions (O soldado Milhões)” was released telling the story of Aníbal’s WW1 exploits - directed by Gonçalo Galvão Teles, Jorge Paixão da Costa, Written by Mário Botequilha, Jorge Paixão da Costa and starring João Arrais, Miguel Borges, Raimundo Cosme

For information about Portuguese Nurses during the First World War, see

A post about another Portuguese soldier in WW1 -

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Ralph Vaughan Williams and Walt Whitman

With thanks to Adrian for reminding me about the American poet Walt Whitman, whose poem "Reconciliation" inspired British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams to compose a cantata - a plea for peace - which was first performed in 1936.  Whitman, who was a medic during the American Civil War, wrote:


Word over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in
time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night
incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this
soil'd world;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin—
I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face
in the coffin.

Ralph Vaughan-Williams was too old for military service in 1914 but volunteered to serve nonetheless and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). He drove ambulances on the Western Front and in Greece during the First World War.

Although not a First World War poet, Whitman's poetry must surely have resonated with the poets of the conflict.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Review: “Pill Boxes on the Western Front - A Guide to the Design, Construction and Use of Concrete Pill Boxes 1914 – 1918” by Peter Oldham, Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2011

In the UK, we still see quite a few pill boxes that were used for home defence during the Second World War but I did not realise that pill boxes were in use during the First World War!  This wonderful book puts that right.  More than that, reading it was like finding some lost pieces of jigsaw puzzle – the history of WW1 now makes far more sense to me.

After the general introduction, Chapter One deals with the history of the use of concrete, which, something else I didn’t know, dates back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.  “With the departure of the Romans … the art of concrete making was forgotten.  The Saxons blended local limestone with burnt lime in about 700 AD…” (p. 9).  The build up of French and Belgian defences  following the Franco Prussian War is also covered. 

Chapter Two deals with the German Schlieffen Plan and ‘the line of trenches from Nieuport on the Belgian coast to Pfetterhouse on the Swiss border.’ (p. 14). 

Chapter Three, entitled “British Findings” explains the British High Command’s attitude to pill boxes, with their constant offensive policy which felt that “good shelter from shell fire would sap the morale of troops, who were better off in their wet trenches.  If British troops must have the luxury of strong concrete blockhouses, let them take them from the Germans”. (p. 21).  But the problem with doing that of course, meant the pill box was facing the wrong way!  The difficulties of supplying both German and British engineers with concrete are also explained in detail. 

Chapter Four discusses different pill box designs, Chapter Five deals with camouflage (ingenious), Chapter Six is about Defence Lines and Chapter Seven Coastal Defences in Britain and Belgium. The book is also full of the most wonderful photographs of pill boxes, with very detailed plans and drawings of how they were made.  Also included is a Glossary of terms and a comprehensive Index.

There is an extremely important Guide to Pill Boxes and Bunkers still in existence on the British Section of the Western Front in a Chapter entitled “Gazetteer”.  This goes from page 119 to page 168 and is a must for anyone visiting the cemeteries and battlegrounds of WW1 from the Belgian Coast to St. Quentin in France. “Visitors to pill boxes, bunkers, observation boxes or shelters are reminded that many are on private land and this should be respected.”  Care should be taken because “… danger lurks about some bunkers through extruding steel bars, difficult exits, slippery footholds and the ever-present possibility of live shells and small arms ammunition.” (p. 120).

I was interested to learn that on 7th April 1918, Roberta McAlpine, daughter of Sir Robert McAlpine, whose construction company carried out a great deal of work for the British in WW1, married Major Richard Lloyd George of the Royal Engineers, whose Father was the British Prime Minister at that time.

Another interesting account quotes German writer, Erich Maria Remarque (“All Quiet on the Western Front”), who sheltered from a bombardment in a concrete shelter which “was able to withstand a direct hit, although cracking along all joints and filling with sulphur fumes.  Remarque was thankful that he and his comrades were not in one of the lighter, more recent dug-outs, in which they would not have survived.” (p. 78)

Peter Oldham has a wealth of experience to bring to the writing of this book, since he worked in the production and supply of aggregates and concrete to the building industry.  That explains his interest in the pill boxes of the Western Front.  I found the book utterly fascinating.  Although Peter goes into a great deal of detail describing the supply and construction of these defence structures, the book is not just about pill boxes.  Peter also explains in detail how the war came to last so long by describing the incredible lengths the Germans went to digging in, constructing and camouflaging their lines of defence.

A review can’t do justice to this fantastic book – I urge you to read it for yourself.  For further details, as well as information about all their wonderful books, check out the Pen & Sword website

Lucy London, September 2018

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Ernest Bristow Farrar (1885 - 1918) – British composer and musician

Ernest was born in Lewisham, London, UK.  His father, Charles Druce Farrar, was an Anglican clergyman who became Vicar of Mickefield, Tadcaster, Yorkshire in 1887.  Ernest’s mother was Rose Alice Farrar, nee Handyside, originally from Wales.  Ernest had the following siblings: Ethel Rose, b. 1883 and Cecil Francis, b. 1889.   Educated at Leeds Grammar School, he studied the organ and in May 1905 was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music. Ernest studied under Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Sir Walter Parratt.   After studying, Ernest worked as an organist in Yorkshire.

Ernest married Olive Mason in South Shields in 1913.  In 1915, Ernest joined the Grendier Guards. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the 3rd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment on 27th February 1918.  During home leave in the summer of 1918, Ernest conducted the premiere of his final work, "Heroic Elegy", which was dedicated to fallen comrades.

Ernest was killed on the Western Front during the Battle of Epehy Ronssoy, near Le Cateau in the Somme Valley, west of Cambrai, on 18th Spetember 1918, having returned to the Western Front just two days previously.  He was buried in Ronssoy Communal Cemetery, Ronssoy, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France - Grave/Memorial Reference: 9679560

Musical compositions by Ernest Bristow Farrar include “The Blessed Damozel”, “Celtic Suite”,
"The Forsaken Merman", "English Pastoral Impressions"and a song cycle entitled “Vagabond Songs”.


Photo from Bobb Edwards on

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Ernest Howard (E.H.) Shepard (1879 - 1976) – British artist

Perhaps most famous for his illustrations of the A.A. Milne stories about Winnie-the-Pooh

Ernest Howard Shepard, known as ‘Kip’ (from the musical hall term ‘giddy kipper’ meaning someone who was excitable), was born on 10th December 1879 in St. John’s Wood, London, UK.  He was the second son and youngest child of Henry Shepard, an architect, and his wife, Jessie, nee Lee.  Jessie was a daughter of William Lee the artist who co-founded “Punch” magazine.  Ernest had a sister, Ethel, J., b. 1877 and a brother, Cyril H., b. 1878. As a child he was interested in the Army and in guns and how they worked.

The children’s mother, Jessie, died when Ernest was ten years old.

Educated at Colet Court preparatory school, then St. Paul’s School, London, where his uncle was a master, Ernest studied art at Heatherley School of Fine Art.   He went on to win a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy Schools.  In 1901, Ernest had two works accepted by the Royal Academy for their Summer Exhibition.  He also drew cartoons for the magazine “British Boys”.

Ernest’s father died in 1902.  Ernest met a fellow art student called Florence Chaplin, known as “Pie”, and they were married in 1904.   In 1906, Ernest had his first illustration published in “Punch”.

When war broke out, Ernest volunteered to join the Army and joined the Royal Artillery on 14th December 1915.  He served on the Western Front from 10th June 1916, seeing action during the Somme Offensive.  Ernest wrote letters home and made numerous sketches and took photographs where possible.  Ernest’s brother Cyril joined the Devonshire Regiment and was an Acting Second Lieutenant when he was killed on 1st July 1916 during the Somme Offensive.  Ernest was able to locate his brother’s grave and visited it regularly.

Ernest’s regiment of Royal Garrison Artillery also saw action during the Arras and Passchendaele Battles.  In May 1917, Ernest was awarded a Military Cross for his courage and bravery during an attack on the guns on 23rd – 24th April 1917.

After the Italian defeat at the Battle of Caporetto, Allied troop reinforcements were sent to the Italian Front. Ernest and his 105 Siege Battery were posted to Italy on 12th November 1917 and were initially based on Montello Hill, overlooking the River Piave.   During home leave in May 1918 after attending a gunnery course, Ernest received his Military Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace.  His leave ended on 24th June 1918 and Ernest returned to Italy, where he remained until March 1919, supervising the exchange of prisoners of war, the return of displaced people to their homes, where possible, and the securing of all arms and equipment.  Ernest was promoted to Acting Major in January 1919.

After the war, Ernest continued working for “Punch” and one day a fellow “Punch” contributor, the poet E.V. Lucas, father of poet Audrey Lucas, (see and, approached Ernest regarding illustrations for some verses written by A.A. Milne ( And so began one of the most successful collaborations in literature.  Initially published in “Punch”, “When we were Young” was published in 1924.

Ernest’s wife Florence died in September 1927.  He went on to illustrate Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows”, which was published in 1930.  Ernest and Florence’s daughter, Mary, became an artist and illustrator and illustrated “Mary Poppins”.  Mary married Edmund Valpy Knox (E.V. ‘Evoe’) Knox (see “Arras, Messines, Passchendaele & More: Poets, Writers, Artists & Nurses in 1917 – p. 107).  Ernest’s son Graham, a Lieutenant with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, was killed during the Second World War when “HMS Polyanthus” was torpedoed on 19th – 20th September 1943.

Ernest married Norah Carroll, a nurse, in November 1944.   In 1954 he parted company with “Punch” after fifty years as a contributor and 20 years as Chief Cartoonist, when Malcolm Muggeridge became editor of the magazine.  Ernest was awarded an OBE in 1972 and died in Sussex in 1976.

“Shepard’s War: E.H. Shepard "The Man who Drew Winnie-the-Pooh” compiled by James Campbell (Lom Art, London, 2015) Note: pp 100 - 101 has an interesting drawing “Asiago Plateau 2 April 1918”.

Beatrice Ethel Lithiby (1889 – 1966) – British artist

Beatrice was born in Richmond, Surrey, UK on 4th December 1889. Her parents were John Lithiby (1853-1936), a barrister, and his wife Ethel Stewart Lithiby, née Smith (1860-1943), who were married in Brentford, Middlesex in 1888. By 1901, the family had moved to Porchester Square, Paddington, London, UK.  Beatrice had a brother, John S. Lithiby, who was born in 1893. Beatrice studied at the Royal Academy Schools.

During the First World War, Beatrice served initially in the British Red Cross as a volunteer worker from 29th October 1915 until 20th July 1917, in their Head Quarters at The Central Work Rooms, Royal Academy of Art, Piccadilly, London. 

She then joined Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps as an Assistant Administrator and served in France.   Realising the importance of keeping a record of events, Beatrice wrote to her superiors suggesting that she be permitted to paint some of the things she witnessed.  In February 1919, she was officially commissioned to paint the WAACs in France.  On 3rd June 1919, Beatrice was promoted to Unit Administrator.

After the death of her father on 14th February 1936, by which time he had been knighted, Beatrice set up a studio in Wantage, Berkshire.  By 1939, she was living at The Dower House, Waltham Cross, Essex.

Beatrice served again as an Army Officer during the Second World War.  She was awarded an M.B.E. and later an O.B.E.

As she grew older, Beatrice concentrated on landscape paintings. She died at The Guildry, Belmont, Wantage, Berkshire on 25th July 1966

Sources: Find my Past and;&source=bl&ots=4iVqW-vBj2&sig=9n2yT4qL3CTf84Pw0NJzTFGnqY4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj75NDCo_TcAhWLCMAKHfXqAMYQ6AEwC3oECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q=Beatrice%20Lithiby%20(OBE)%3B&f=false

WW1 Painting by Beatrice:
Steam Laundry Abbeville
The Administrators Quarters QMAAC Queen Mary’s Camp, Calais

Photo from the Collection at the Imperial War Museum, London, UK