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

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Joseph Franklin Kershaw (1884 - 1917) - British Artist

Joseph Franklin Kershaw was born on 2nd May 1884 in Oldham, Lancashire, UK. His parents were Joseph Kershaw, an ironmonger, and his wife, Hannah. Educated at Oldham Hulme Grammar School, Joseph then studied at Stockport School of Art and the Royal College of Art, gaining his ARCA Diploma in 1912. In 1907, he married Effie Gregory, an art teacher and daughter of a sculptor.

On 6th June 1916, Joseph joined the British Army as a Private, serving initially with the Border Regiment. During August he transferred to 126th Company of the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). Joseph was posted to the Western Front and was wounded in the shoulder in May 1917. He recovered, returned to the fighting and was killed on 14th October 1917 during the First Battle of Passchendaele.

Joseph was buried in Coxyde Military Cemetery, West Flanders, Belgium, with the wording on his headstone specified by Effie – ‘Artist, Oldham, Lancashire’. He is also commemorated on the war memorial at Storth, Morecambe Bay, where Effie was living at the time of her husband’s death.


Thursday 6 September 2018

Stanhope Alexander Forbes (1857 – 1947) – British (Newlyn) artist

A founding member of the Newlyn (Cornwall, UK) School of Art: 'the father of the Newlyn School'

Stanhope was born in Dublin, Ireland on 18th November 1857.  His parents were William Forbes and Juliette de Guise Forbes, who was French. Stanhope’s father was British and he worked as a railway manager in Dublin before being transferred to London. Stanhope had an older brother, William, b. 1857, who became railway manager for the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.

Educated at Dulwich College in South London, where he was a boarder, Stanhope studied art under John Sparkes. At that time, Alexander’s father was working for the Luxembourg Railway and, as his son was not well, he took him away from Dulwich College and allowed him to study with private teachers in Brussels. When the Franco-Prussian War ended in 1871, the Forbes family returned to London. John Sparkes helped influence William Forbes to recognise his son's artistic talent and Stanhope was sent to study at the Lambeth School of Art (now called The City and Guilds of London Art School). By 1878 he was at the Royal Academy, studying under Sir Frederic Leighton and Sir John Millais. Fellow students at the academy at that time included Arthur Hacker, Henry Herbert La Thangue and Solomon J. Solomon.

In 1889, Stanhope married a fellow artist - Elizabeth Adèla Armstrong, who was born in Canada - in St. Peter's Church in Newlyn, Cornwall. The couple lived in the "Cliffs Castle" cottage, Newlyn, which overlooked the sea. They had a son named Alexander, who was born in 1894 and was known as Alec. They had a house built in Higher Faughan, Penzance. The Newlyn Art School was founded in 1899.

Elizabeth Forbes died in 1912.   In 1915, Stanhope married a family friend – artist Maudie Palmer.

During the First World War, Stanhope's son Alec served in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and was killed during The Somme Offensive in 1916.  He was buried in Guillemont Road Cemetery, where his headstone bears an inscription composed by his father: “HE SAW BEYOND THE FILTH OF BATTLE, AND THOUGHT DEATH A FAIR PRICE TO PAY TO BELONG TO THE COMPANY OF THESE FELLOWS”. Stanhope sculpted and erected a memorial to his son in their local parish church with the inscription: "I will get me out of my COUNTRY & from my KINDRED & from my FATHER'S house unto a LAND that GOD will shew me".

Stanhope Forbes died on 2nd March 1947.

WW1 painting “Munitions Girls, 1918”

Wednesday 29 August 2018

The Rev. Canon Cyril Lomax - artist and WW1 Chaplain

Anglican Church Minister, the Reverend Canon Cyril Lomax, Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Washington, Tyne and Wear, UK from 1899 to 1946, volunteered to serve as a Chaplain with the Royal Army Chaplain's Department during the First World War.

The Rev. Lomax was posted to the 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and went with them to the Western Front from July 1916 until April 1917. Cyril, who was a talented artist, saw first-hand the devastation during the Somme Offensive from July to November 1916, describing and sketching the reality of life in the trenches.  His letters are about the physical and mental strains of trench warfare. During his time on the Western Front, The Rev. Lomax witnessed one of the first tank battles.

Cyril Lomax was born on 8th June 1871 in Eaton, near Congleton, Cheshire, UK.  His father was John Lomax, an Anglican Church Minister and his mother was Ellen Margaret Lomax. Cyril had the following siblings:  John A., b. 1862, Margaret, b. 1863, Jessy, b. 1865 and Bernard, b. 1866.

Historian Debbie Cameron has researched the Reverend Canon Lomax from the Imperial War Museum's Archives where his diaries are kept.   With many thanks to Debbie for these amazing drawings.

Donald Graeme MacLaren (1886- 1917) – British soldier artist

Donald Graeme MacLaren was born on 23rd January 1886 in Kensington, London, UK.  His parents were James Marjoribanks MacLaren (1853 – 1890), an architect, and Margaret  Mathieson MacLaren, nee McColl (1858 -1908).  Graeme had the following siblings:  John Leslie MacLaren and James Ewing MacLaren, twins born in September 1884, emigrated to South Carolina where John Leslie - always known as Leslie -  Janet S., b. 1888, Dorothy, b. 1890.

Donald’s parents met when James MacLaren was working in London and attended St John's Presbyterian Church in Allen Street, Kensington. The minister there was the Rev. Dugald MacColl from Glasgow. James became friendly with MacColl's son, Dugald Sutherland MacColl and on 28 February 1883 James MacLaren married Dugald's sister Margaret Mathieson MacColl.

Donald studied at the Slade School of Art, 1903-08, winning several prizes for figure compositions.

In 1913 he married Violet A Thomson in Liverpool.  When war broke out, Donald joined the 10th Battalion (Liverpool Scottish) of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment as a Private.   At the time of his death on the Western Front on 29th June 1917, Donald was a Second Lieutenant.  He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Ploegstreert Memorial in Belgium on Panel 3.

Donald’s uncle, Dugald Sutherland MacColl (1859-1948), became Keeper of the Wallace Collection (1911 – 1924) and then of the Tate Gallery. He was an artist, art critic, poet and founder of the National Art Collections Fund. He was friendly with many of the literary figures of the day - W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Lady Gregory, Max Beerbohm, H.G. Wells, Charles Ricketts, Augustus John, Auguste Rodin, Roger Fry and Walter Crane.  Donald painted his uncle's portrait in 1905.

I am trying to find a photograph or self portrait of Donald Graeme MacLaren and examples of some of his work.  If anyone can help please get in touch.

Monday 27 August 2018

Brian Hatton (1887 – 1916) British soldier artist

Brian Hatton was born in Broomy Hill, Herefordshire on 12th August 1887.  His parents were Alfred Hatton, b. 1857, a boot and shoe manufacturer, and his wife, Amelia Roberta Hatton, nee Keay, b.1865. Brian had the following siblings - Ailsa Marr, b. 1894 and Marjorie, b. 1896.

Brian demonstrated a talent for drawing and painting at a young age.  When he was eleven years old, he was awarded the ‘Gold Star’ by the Royal Drawing Society. After spending a year at Oxford University, Brian travelled in Europe and then went to study at Hospitalfields Art School in Arbroath, Scotland. In 1908 Brian went to live in London and attended an art school in South Kensington. He also spent time at the National Gallery copying paintings.  During 1908, Brian was invited to join an archaeological expedition to Egypt, which was led by the English Egyptologist Professor William Flinders Petrie.

WW1 poet Gerald Siordet and Brian Hatton met when they were studying at Oxford University – Siordet at Balliol Colleg and Hatton at Trinity College.  They set up a studio together in London in 1912 - The Bronze Door studio in South Kensington.  Hatton received many commissions and soon he was so busy he found it difficult to spare time to return to Hereford and visit his father and siblings.  In 1913 he received a royal commission from Windsor Castle to make drawings of Princess Alice’s children, Prince Rupert and Princess May.   Princess Alice was the longest surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria.  The success of that particular commission led to many more commissions from wealthy people

When war broke out, Brian enlisted in September 1914 as a Tooper with the 1/1 Worcestershire Yeomanry, a cavalry regiment.  Brian married Lydia May Bidmead, known as Biddy, by special licence before leaving for France with his Regiment.  Their daughter, Mary Amelia, was born on 21st September 1915.  Brian obtained leave to visit his wife and daughter before being posted to Egypt.

Brian Hatton was killed on 23rd April 1916 during the Battle of Katia, which took place about 25 miles east of the Suez Canal. Fifty Royal Engineers, together with a detachment of The Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars, which was sent to guard them, were sinking a well when they were attacked by more than two thousand Turkish infantry troops.  At the time of his death, Brian was a Second Lieutenant.

The art critic, Walter Shaw Sparrow described Brian Hatton as ‘possessing the rarest of all things - true genius’, and the watercolour painter Adrian Bury described him as ‘a genius unique in the history of British art’.

Brian Hatton's work has been shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Museum. Examples of his work are to be found in the Brian Hatton Gallery at Churchill Gardens, Hereford.

Gerald Siordet was in France when he heard the news of his friend’s death. He wrote to his cousin Val Burkhardt to ask for information, since Burkhardt was then serving in Egypt.  Captain Burkhardt replied on 27th September 1916 stating that he 'was having a better memorial made than the few sticks and the bottom of a biscuit tin bearing an illegible inscription that he found'.  A footnote to that letter stated that, after the war, those Worcester Yeomen were reburied in Kantara War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt. Brian’s Grave Reference in that Cemetery is A. 9.

Gerald Caldwell Siordet, artist, poet and critic who taught Aldous Huxley, joined the Rifle Brigade was wounded and awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry during The Somme Offensive in 1916, when he took over command when his Commanding Officer was killed. Once recovered, Gerald was posted to Mesopamia and was killed on 9th February 1917, leading an attack on a Turkish position. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Basra Memorial in Iraq.

Photo:  Brian in his studio photographer unknown
Sketch:  "Civilisation" by Brian Hatton

Find my Past and Free BMD and
Celia Davies,  “Brian Hatton, A Biography of the Artist (1887-1916)”, (Terence Dalton, Lavenham 1978)

An excellent book about Egypt during WW1 “Tracing your Great War Ancestors: The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns – A Guide for family historians” by Stuart Hadaway, Pen & Sword Family History, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2017.

Monday 20 August 2018

Reginald Grange Brundrit (1883 - 1960) – British

With thanks to Sergio Sbalchiero for his help in discovering Brundrit, his war-time service on the Italian Front and some of his WW1 paintings.

Born in Toxteth Park, Liverpool on 13th May 1883, Reginald’s parents were Joseph Brundrit and his wife, Mary Ellenor Brundrit, nee Lacock.  After the death of his Father, Reginald and his mother went to live in Skipton in Yorkshire, where Mary was born.

Educated in Skipton, then at Bradford Grammar School, Reginald went on to study art at Bradford School of Art, before moving to London to study at the Slade School. Reginald also studied as a private pupil with John Swan, RA.   Reginald was predominantly a landscape and portrait painter. He exhibited around two hundred of his paintings between 1906 and 1961 both at Royal Academy art exhibitions and at international exhibitions in Pittsburgh, USA, Rome and Venice in Italy and Paris in France.

During the First World War, Reginald volunteered with the Red Cross and served as an ambulance driver on the Italian Front with the Third Red Cross Ambulance Unit of The British Red Cross Society and Order Of St John Of Jerusalem.

Reginald was the founder member of the Wharfedale Group and was Vice President of The Yorkshire Union of Artists.  He was a successful artist during the 1920’s, establishing a reputation as one of the leading landscape artists of North Yorkshire.  The National Gallery of New South Wales purchased his painting of ‘A Northern Winter.’

In 1933, Reginald married Lena F. Worthington, who was also an artist. Lena deferred to her husband as an artist and instead began to decorate porcelain - the tea sets, plates and bowls she embellished were beautiful.

Reginald died on 27th November 1960 at his home in Masham, Yorkshire.


Annie kindly gave me permission to share the photograph of Reginald from her website.

Painting: "Doberdo Village on the Carso"

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Gilbert Rogers (1881 – 1956) – British artist

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for finding some of the information about Gilbert and to War Art on Twitter for providing the inspiration -

Gilbert was born in Freshfields, Lancashire (near Liverpool) on 9th November 1881. His parents were William Rogers and his wife, Sarah Jane Rogers, nee Searle. Gilbert had the following siblings: Harry, b. 1879, Wlliam, b.1881, Gladys N., b. 1884 and Guy, b. 1888.

By 1901, Gilbert was studying art at the Liverpool Art College.

During the First World War, Gilbert served on the Western Front in the British Army’s Royal Army Medical Corps with the rank of Temporary Lieutenant, No. 78529.

Among the paintings Gilbert did during WW1 were:  “Ypres 1915”, “RAMC at Messines”, “VAD Ambulance Driver” and “The Dead Stretcher Bearer”.

In 1918, Gilbert was appointed by the Committee for the Medical History of the War to lead a team of artists who were asked to depict the medical consequences of warfare.  He headed a group of artists commissioned to produce works for the medical section of the newly-created Imperial War Museum in London.

One of his works was more than 11 feet high and 15 feet wide, it was one of several large canvases displayed in Imperial War Museum’s first home at the Crystal Palace in Penge Peak, Sydenham Hill, south London.  From 1922 – 1923, Gilbert was President of the Artists’ Club in Liverpool.

Gilbert married Gertrude Jane Iceton in 1924.  The couple lived in Beresford Road, Birkenhead, Wirral during the Second World War. Gilbert died in Birkenhead in 1956.

The portrait of Gilbert Roger as President of the Artists' Club, Liverpool, 1922-23 was painted by Frank Copnall (1870 – 1949).

Sources: Find my Past and

Thursday 9 August 2018

Guy Lipscombe (1881 – 1952) – British artist

With thanks to Sergio Sbalchiero for telling me about Guy Lipscombe and inspiring
me to research the lesser-known artists of the First World War

Guy was born on 22nd August 1881 in Kingston, Surrey, UK. His parents were Henry Rogers Lipscombe, a water filter maker, and Alice Emma S. Lipscombe, nee Rogers.  Guy had the following siblings: Warren, b. 1879, Lionel, b. 1880, Hugh, b. 1883, Doris, b. 1887, Ethel, b. 1889 and Basil, b. 1891.   The family lived in Marylebone, London, UK.

Guy studied art at The Royal Academy School of Art in London.

In 1903, Guy Lipscombe was commisioned by the London Temple Press to illustrate motor sport for “The Motor” magazine which was founded in January 1903. In 1906, Guy painted the famous British Rail Recruitment Office Posters Britishers enlist to-day with the Union Jack, which was used again in WW1.

In 1907, Guy painted an oil painting that is on display on the staircase of the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) in London. It depicts a scene from the French Grand Prix held in Dieppe on 2nd July 1907 and shows Felice Nazzaro ( Fiat 130 HP Corsa) and Claude Richez ( Renault AK ).

From 1908, Guy Lipscombe held exhibitions of his work at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Dudley Museum and Art Gallery and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

During the First World War, Guy volunteered as a driver with the Britsh Red Cross and served with No. 3 British Red Cross Ambulance Unit on the Italian Front in Italy, where he painted several pictures:

The Arrival of the First Guns on the Carso Front, Italy 1916
A First- Line of Line Dressing Station, Doberdo, Isonzo Front, Italy (1917) British Red Cross Ambulance, Italian Front, 1916 (1918),
Castelfranco: Italian Troops resting on Route to the Piave Front (1918)
A Group of Casualities in a Room under a Gas Lamp (1919).

After the war, Guy married Effie L. Mozley-Stark in Kensington, London in 1919.   In 1934 he painted the official portrait of Lady Emily Roney, who was the first woman Mayor of Wimbledon from       1933 to 1935 .

By 1939, Guy was divorced and living in Saffron Waldon, Essex.  He painted ‘Invasion Training in Cornwall’ which is now in the Welcome Trust collection.

Guy died in Kent in 1952.

Sources:  Find my Past and Free BMD.

Friday 27 July 2018

Walter E. Spradbery, DCM (1889 – 1969) British Artist and poet; served in RAMC during WW1

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for telling me about Walter and thanks to Walter’s cousin, Philip Spradbery, who has a lifelong passion for painting, who kindly supplied additional information.

Walter Ermest Spradbery was born on 29th March 1889 in East Dulwich, London, UK. His parents were Joseph Spradbery and his wife Emily Spradbery, nee Feltham.  Walter had a brother, Charles V., b. 1879.

Walter studied at Walthamstow Art School, then worked as an art teacher. He regularly exhibited his work at the Royal Academy. His main artistic media were water colour, linocuts and poster design. Walter designed posters for London transport companies and for British Rail.

During the First World War, Walter, who was a pacifist, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and served as a medical orderly and stretcher-bearer on the Western Front. He served with 36 Field Ambulance during the Somme Offensive in 1916 and was mentioned several times for bravery rescuing wounded men under fire.   He was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

On 11th November 1918, Walter wrote to his Mother:

"Hostilities ceased on all fronts at 11 o’clock today. Oh happy mothers, happy sweethearts, happy wives, whose loved ones will come safely back... and those lone souls who have lost their very own; today is too unkind to them - how can they face our joy? 'Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards men' - an unseen choir sings it in our breasts - prompting men to evolve a better world more worthy of our ideals and aspirations. Let us begin."

On 21st August 1929, Walter married opera singer Dorothy D’Orsay (maiden name Horsey) and the couple lived in Epping Forest.   They had two children.

Walter died in Epping, Essex in 1969. An exhibition of the work of WW1 artist Walter Spradbery is on display at The Epping Forest District Museum until 22nd December 2018. 
Epping Forest District Museum
39 – 41 Sun Street, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1EL \ 01992 716882 \

A biography of Walter Spradbery’s life and times, "My Dear Jim", has been compiled and published by his son, John Spradbery (Mail order from Elizabeth Spradbery:


A poem by Walter Spradbery written in 1915 kindly supplied by his cousin, Philip Spradbery.


“Eyes Have They, But See Not”

The flowers that grow on Barnham’s plain
Are beautiful to see;
The bugloss and the speedwell’s blue
Fair as a summer’s sea,
Blue as a summer’s sky are they
As a child’s eyes may be:

And the tender little pansy’s
Uplifted cherub face,
With golden eye, and purple wings
And unpretentious grace,
Peeps shyly from amid the grass
In every shady place.

But wearily we drag our feet
Over the jeweled sods,
And discipline, it weighs us down
With the curse of an iron rod;
And ‘iron rods’ we carry
To kill the sons of God.

The cranebill’s starry floweret
Is scattered o’er the plain;
Its pale magenta blossoms
We trample in our pain,
And dully long for peace, and love
And our dear homes again.

With iron heels we tread them down,
We tread them in the sand;
We crush their beauty ’neath our feet
Too tired to understand
The ugly ruthless thing we do.
Now war is on the land.

The golden gorse, across the heath
Is a mass of yellow flame;
Its unconsuming fires praise
The Sun God’s glorious name.
But war it burns things black and dead,
And fills men’s hearts with shame.

And scarlet is the pimpernel
And bright the poppy’s red
But brighter still is the blood we’ll spill
Ere we ourselves are dead:
No flower so rich, in the deep dug ditch,
As the blood our guns may shed.

The grass is worn with the ceaseless tread
Of our marching to and fro,
And where we drill on the mossy hill
Great bare patches show;
For ’neath the heel of the War God’s foot
No fair thing may grow. 

But time revenges the patient weak
Whom the Ruthless crush and kill,
And delicate things that droop and die,
Like the flowers on the grassy hill,
Will bloom again on another plain
Fairer and sweeter still.

The barren stretch of Flander’s plains
Is desolate and bare,
And the shriek of shell, and stench and smell
Float on the morning air
And splintered stumps are all that speak
Of what once blossomed there.

Yet the flowers our feet have trodden down
Will be born again,
And rich and fine, on Flander’s fields,
Will dance in the gentle rain
Will dance on the dead that feed their roots
The countless, ghastly slain.

The little flowers we’ve trodden down
Will scent each ugly grave,
Will hide the ghastly torn limbs
O the coward and the brave
And gaily smile at the morning sun,
O’er the foolish and the knave.

Oh, the river runs o’er Barnham’s plains
This where our horses drink –
And a thousand fair and charming things
Blossom on its brink.
But we have trod them in the mud
Nor paused to praise or think.

The pinkish purple loose-strife
Bows on the river’s edge,
Forget-me-not and orchids,
The flowering rush and sedge
While briar rose and bryony
Entangle in the hedge.

And crowsfoot gleams on the river,
Like snowflakes in the sun
And sways in the moving waters
That over the pebbles run.
But we cannot pause for such a thing,
Who’re crossing the stream with a gun.

But the rivers which flow in Flanders
Are rivers of blood methinks
And will, one day, colour the roses
Whose roots from that soil drink,
And a thousand flowers will blossom
Where a corpse now rots and stinks.

And we who train at Thetford
Parade on Barnham Hill
And prod coarse sack with bayonets
To gain the skill to kill
To disembowel and mutilate
Men who are brothers still.

While all around is beauty
And overhead the sky,
Where fleecy clouds in freedom float
Over the men that die;
And nature laughs at our folly
As we pass her treasures by.

With a garland of peaceful beauty
She tempts us to lay down our arms;
With a myriad of fearless blossoms
She mocks at our childish alarms,
With a tangle of wonderful flowerets
She seeks to ensnare us with charms.

Oh, he who sees God in a daisy,
Can see more clearly in man,
The light of the Glorious Eternal
That through all Living Things ran,
When the wheels of time first started,
And the Song of Life began.

Walter E. Spradbery (1915)

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Elliott Seabrooke (1886 – 1950) – British Actor and Artist; Red Cross volunteer and official war artist Italy WW1

With grateful thanks to Sergio Sbalchiero for finding and posting this painting by Seabrooke and for telling me about Seabrooke’s WW1 service with the Red Cross in Italy.

Ransome Elliott Seabrooke was born on 31st May 1886 in Upton Park, London, UK and was baptised on 3rd July 1886.  His parents were Robert Elliott Seabrooke, a warehouse Superintendent, and his wife Harriet Elizabeth, nee Ransom. The Seabrookes also had a daughter, Winifred Elliott Seabrooke, who was born in 1889.   Elliott studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London from 1906-1911. Among his teachers was Henry Tonks.  Elliott then rented a shack in England’s Lake District and adapted it for use as a studio.

During the First World War, Elliott, who was a pacifist, volunteered to join the British Red Cross and served on the Italian Front.  While in Italy, he became an official war artist.

Elliot was tall and handsome and had a fine singing voice.  He became an actor and performed in films and in plays on stage and on the wireless with other contemporary actors and actresses - John Gielgud, Lewis Casson, Sybil Thorndike, Wendy Hiller, Charles Laughton and Ralph Richardson. 

In 1930, Elliott married Adolphine C. Joosten in Hampstead, London.

Elliott travelled extensively and died in Nice, France on 6th March 1950.

Find my Past and Free BMD

Painting:  Elliott Seabrooke "The Bombardment of Gorizia 21 August 1917".  The view was from the building that housed the First British Red Cross Unit in Gorizia, Italy on the Italian Front in The First World War.

Photograph of Eilliott in the play "The Lion Tamer or English as she is Eaten", an English version by Charles N. Spencer of Alfred Savior's play "Le Dompteur" at the Gate Theatre Studio, London.

Photograph of Elliott and Adolphine seated on the sofa at a reception in London given by Lady Latham (seated on the left) in honour of Elliott's exhibition at Tooth's Galleries in London.  Madame Alanova is on the right of the photograph.   Photo from "The Tatler" magazine, 9th June 1932.

Monday 2 July 2018

Book Review: “The Half-shilling Curate: A Personal Account of War and Faith 1914 –1918” (Helion & Co. Ltd., Solihull, W. Midlands, UK, 2018)

“…the chap who has got religion is a damned lucky chap” ( p. xvii).

The title of the book refers to the way in which Wesleyan Church Minister The Reverend Captain Herbert B. Cowl, MC signed his letters home to his parents, i.e.:  “From your loving son, ‘The Half-Shilling Curate’, Herbert” (p. 20).

I found this book enthralling.  Although it is a personal account, mainly of Herbert’s experiences in the trenches during the conflict, there is a wealth of background information about the First World War - which I found very interesting.  I don’t want to give too much away because I really want you to read this inspiring book but here are just a few of the things that I found of special interest:

When it came to military service, men in Holy Orders or regular Ministers of any denomination were exempt, which makes Herbert’s story and how he, as a non-combatant, came to be awarded a Military Cross, all the more impressive.

Herbert was educated at Hertford Grammar School at the same time as W.E. Johns (“Biggles” creator). Herbert’s sister, Muriel Trehane, was a WW1 VAD;  Herbert had a great love of poetry and was a friend of the poet Walter de la Mare. When Herbert first met his future wife, he had to ask for permission to write to her, which would seem to indicate that   “…the decay of parental authority in the home” (p. 28) was surely only just beginning.

Dr Philip Gosse, son of the WW1 poet Edmund Gosse, was the reason I included the heading ‘Fascinating Facts of the First World War’ in my commemorative exhibition project, so I was really pleased to find Gosse mentioned on several occasions.  Dr. Gosse was present when Herbert was seriously wounded by a piece of shell, as Herbert and Gosse shared accommodation in a cellar of the Advanced Dressing Station where Philip Gosse was based.   I can see why they became friends because they were both keen naturalists.

I was also interested to read that “Despite the decrease in the active numbers of worshippers, Christianity still under-pinned society” at the time of WW1 (p. 42).

Herbert mentions the power of prayer, in which I am a firm believer, asking his family to pray for him – “That kind of moral bias, and spiritual influence, which comes from other’s prayers, means so much to a man …” ( p. 27) 

During the early days of WW1, General Sir Douglas Haig said:  We must have large minded, sympathetic men as parsons, who realise the Great Cause for which we are fighting, and can imbue their hearers with enthusiasm” (p. 44).

I don’t think I have seen a photograph of the uniform of a chaplain before – they had black buttons, badges and belt - there is a lovely photograph of the Rev. Captain H.B. Cowl taken in Bristol in December 1914 on page 56. 

The description of Soldiers’ Homes at army camps that provided leisure activities on p. 46 I also found interesting.

I did not realise there were ‘rivalries between the churches’ or that soldiers’ dog tags mentioned their religious affiliations, (p. 11).

This book is really beautiful – a delight to read, hard back with glossy paper and illustrated throughout with a great many of the author’s photographs from the family album.  I also very much enjoyed the two sections at the back of the book:  “Herbert’s Roll of Honour”, which has biographies of some of the people mentioned in the book, and “Fond Memories” – testimonials about Herbert from some of the people who knew him and whose lives he touched.  Also included are a bibliography and index.

Herbert’s unshakable belief in God shines forth throughout the book and I was moved to tears several times by his faith, as well as by his bravery.  It is wonderful to think that his message of faith taken to the trenches of the Western Front 100 years ago is being passed on to future generations.  Sarah Reay has done a magnificent job writing this book which is a fitting tribute to her wonderful Grandfather, The Reverend Herbert Cowl, MC.  Credit must also go to Sarah’s late Father, Michael, who had the foresight to keep hold of his Father’s letters, papers, diaries and photographs.  Alas, when my beloved Grandpa died when I was very small, my Uncle threw away all the documents, papers photographs and medals that had belonged to my ‘Old Contemptible’ Grandfather.

Lucy London, June 2018

Saturday 23 June 2018

Lieutenant-General Henry Scrope Shrapnel (1761 – 1842) - British Army officer whose name has entered the English language as the inventor of the Shrapnel shell.

The current accepted definition of shrapnel, which has passed into the English language is :

Plural shrapnel

1 : a projectile that consists of a case provided with a powder charge and a large number of usually lead balls and that is exploded in flight;
2 : bomb, mine, or shell fragments.

Henry Shrapnel was born on 3rd June 1761 at Midway Manor in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, UK. Henry was the ninth child born to Zachariah Shrapnel (1724 – 1796) and his wife Lydia, nee Needham.

In 1779, Henry joined the British Army, serving with the Royal Artillery as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was posted to St. John’s, Newfoundland from 1870 until 1874, where he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.  When he returned to Britain, Henry invented what he termed "spherical case shot" ammunition.  This was a hollow cannonball filled with lead shot that burst in mid-air.  Henry successfully demonstrated his invention in Gibraltar in 1787.   The device was designed as an anti-personnel weapon. In 1803, the British Army adopted a similar but elongated explosive shell, which immediately acquired the inventor's name.  This has resulted in the term ‘shrapnel’ coming to mean fragmentation from artillery shells and fragmentation in general.  Throughout The First World War, British Shrapnel shells were still manufactured according to Henry Shrapnel’s original invention.

Henry Shrapnel served in Flanders, where he was wounded in 1793. He was promoted to the rank of Major on 1st November 1803, after serving for eight years as a Captain. In a battle at Fort New Amsterdam, Suriname, on 30th April 1804, Henry Shrapnel’s invention was proved to be a success.  He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel on 20th July 1804.

Henry married Esther Squires (1780 – 1852) on 5th May 1801 in St. Mary’s Church, Lambeth, London, UK.  They had a son – Henry Needham Scrope Shrapnel - who was born in July 1812.

In 1814, the British Government recognized Henry Shrapnel's contribution to the Army by awarding him a pension of  £1,200 a year for life.   This is roughly equivalent to the buying poewer of  £240,000 in 2018.  Henry was appointed to the office of Colonel-Commandant, Royal Artillery, on 6th March 1827 and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General on 10th January 1837.

Henry Shrapnel lived at Peartree House, near Peartree Green, Southampton from about 1835 until his death on 13th March 1842 at the age of 80. Henry’s wife, Esther, died in 1852.

NOTE:  According to the Memorial on the Shrapnel Family Memorial in the vault of Holy Trinity Church at Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, Henry Shrapnel died in 1849 at the age of 80.


For a detailed explanation of the Shrapnel Shell see

Portrait of Henry Shrapnel by F. Arrowsmith in oil at the Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich

With grateful thanks to Andrew Morgan for his clarification of the definition of Shrapnel and for the images shown here :

“Contrary to the accepted definition in dictionaries and encyclopedia, 'Shrapnel' was a quite distinct type of artillery projectile, in very common use particularly early on in The First World War - .a British invention, by a Royal Artillery officer of the same name. By 1914, it was effectively a shell that was a flying shotgun, discharging hundreds of metal balls in a cone shaped hail. The container or casing then fell to the ground and was completely inert, unlike a High Exposive shell (HE shell) which contains no metal balls but is designed to shatter into pieces, which are then called 'shell splinters' or similar terms.

All sorts of pieces of all shapes and sizes were used to fill the shells. Rather than using hardened lead or steel balls, on occasion, the Belgians used cube shot as a Shrapnel shell filling.”

Monday 7 May 2018

Osmund Bartle Wordsworth (1887 - 1917) British Writer

Osmund Bartle Wordsworth, who was related to the poet William Wordsworth, was born iin Glaston, Rutland on 17th May 1887.

When war broke out in 1914, Osmund was in Canada about to take up a teaching post.  Joined by one of his sisters, Osmund booked his passage home on the RMS "Lusitania".  He and his sister survived the sinking - Osmund gave his life-belt to another passenger.

Commissioned into the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry as a 2nd Lieutenant, Osmund was killed on 2nd April 1917 near Henin-sur-Cojeul.  He is commemorated on Arras Memorial, Panel 10, on Winchester College's Roll of Honour, in the Chapel at Trinity College, Cambridge and in Salisbury Cathedral.

Osmund Bartle Wordsworth was one of the featured writers in the exhibition commemorating poets, writers and artists of 1917.  If you missed the exhibition, there is a book of the exhibition panels available from

From time to time people contact me via my weblogs with information for me to update my posts.  Tim Adair recently sent me this link that explains how the unmarked grave of Osmund Bartle Wordsworth in the Cemetery at Ecoust-Saint-Mien, France has now been identified due to DNA research.  This is indeed wonderful news. Read the report here:       
Thank you so much, Tim. 

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Commemorating The Centenary Of The Death Of Isaac Rosenberg

Sunday, 1st April 2018 marks the Centenary of the death of the poet and artist Isaac Rosenberg, who was killed at Fampoux, north of Arras on the Western Front.

Isaac's great-niece, writer and poet Robbi Nester, who lives in America, has written a special poem dedicated to Isaac which she recorded. 

David Windle, Director of Music at Blackpool Tower Circus, has given us his permission to use the piece of music he wrote in memory of the violinist Hugh Gordon Langton, who was killed at Passchendaele on 26th October 1917, to use with the poem.


Clive Bettington is organising a commemorative walk in honour of Isaac Rosenberg on 1st April 2018 called "The Whitechapel of Isaac Rosenberg", which starts at 11am from Aldgate Tube Station. Tickets are by donation (suggested amount £10) from Clive

Robbi Nester, MFA and PhD from University of California, Irvin, is the great-niece of poet and painter Isaac Rosenberg. She is the author of three books of poetry, a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012) and two full collections: A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014) and Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017). She also edited two anthologies of poetry, The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014) and  an Ekphrastic e-anthology, Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees--celebrating the photography of Beth Moon (accessible at Her poetry, essays, articles, reviews, and interviews have been widely published in journals and anthologies, as well as on websites and weblogs.

David Windle, who studied classical organ at Huddersfield School of Music (now University), previously worked as Musical Director for P & O Cruises (Oriana) and as Deputy Musical Director/Band Leader for Cunard (QE2), was inspired to compose a piece of music with a violin cadenza in honour of Hugh Gordon Langton.  He has called the piece "Carmen Milita" or  “Langton’s Theme”.  Singer Lynne Fox produced a short video to accompany the music David composed:

The local brass Band at Harelbeke near the cemetery in Belgium where Hugh lies have also composed a piece of music which they play every year at Hugh’s graveside. For further information about his composition, please contact David Windle on

Monday 26 March 2018

BOOK REVIEW: “Led by Lions: MPs and Sons who fell in The First World War” by Neil Thornton, published by Fonthill Media Ltd., 2017

In this extremely interesting book, Neil Thornton writes about the Members of Parliament who served in the Armed Forces during the First World War who were killed or who died, as well as the Members of Parliament who were too old or infirm to serve and whose sons were killed during the conflict.  Beginning with the Introduction, in which the origin of the phrase “Lions led by Donkeys” is explained, the book is divided into two sections – MPs and sons of MPs - in alphabetical order with date and place of death and where they were buried.   Also included are photographs, a list of the members of staff of the House of Commons, extensive notes and a bibliography.   

Due to my own research into the First World War, I was particularly interested in the different theatres of the conflict – Palestine, Egypt, Gallipoli, Jerusalem – and the different services i.e. not just the Army but also the Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Navy, Royal Flying Corps – in which the men served.  I also like the way Thornton mentions the First World War service of some of the mothers, wives, sisters, etc. of the men, as they are so often overlooked. And I was pleased to see two of the Forgotten Poets of WW1 on my list – Tom Kettle and Raymond Asquith – included.

With a Foreword by John Bercow, Speaker of the House and a Preface by the Hon. Ian R.K. Paisley, Jnr., Member of Parliament for Antrim, I think  you will agree with me that this hard-to-put-down book is a very welcome addition to the library of anyone truly interested in the history of the First World War.

Friday 23 March 2018

T.:P. Cameron Wilson (1888 – 1918) – British

Remembering Theodore Percival Cameron Wilson who was killed 100 years ago.  T.P. was born in Paignton, Devon on 25th April 1888.  His parents were Theodore Cameron Wilson, Vicar of Christ Church in Paignton, and his wife Annie Fredeline Wilson, nee Smith.  T.P.’s siblings were Christopher, b. 1883, Mary, b. 1885, Alice, b. 1889, John, b. 1890 and Charles, b. 1899.   The family moved to Little Eaton in Derbyshire, where T.P.’s father became rector of Little Eaton Parish Church St. Paul’s.  Charles and Mary also became writers – Mary wrote under the name of Marjorie Wilson.

After studying at Oxford, T.P. left without a degree in 1907 and became a primary school teacher at Mount Arlington preparatory boarding school in Hindhead, Surrey.  One of his pupils was the son of poet Harold Monro who founded the Poetry Bookshop in London and encouraged aspiring poets.  T.P. and Harold became friends. T.P.’s novel “The Friendly Enemy” was published in 1913.

In August 1914, T.P. enlisted as a Second Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards. Transferred to the Sherwood Foresters, he was a Captain at the time of his death on the Western Front during the German Spring Offensive on 23rd March 1918 at Hermies, France.  He has no known graves and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial and on the lynch gate at St. Paul’s Church, Little Eaton, Derbyshire.

“Magpies in Picardy” was published by the Poetry Bookshop, London, with an introduction by Harold Monro, in 1919.

The full text of those poems, some of which, including T.P.’s most famous poem, “Magpies in Picardy”, were published in “The Westminster Gazette” “The English Review” and “Poetry and Drama”.  His poems were included in 12 WW1 poetry anthologies.

Thursday 22 March 2018

Colin Mitchell (1890 - 1918) - British poet

Remembering today COLIN MITCHELL (1890 - 1918) - British Soldier Poet who was killed 100 years ago on 21st March 1918.

Colin featured in the Somme Poets exhibition held at The Wilfred Owen Story in 2016 but we could not find a photograph of him.  Now we have – with many thanks to Catherine Avak.

Born in Mere in Wiltshire in September 1890, Colin was the youngest of eight children – six boys and two girls. Colin’s father, John Thomas Mitchell was a farmer, and his mother was Emma Jane Mitchell, nee Parsons.

Colin was educated at Shaftesbury Grammar School as a boarder. While there, he won a prize fo...r English Literature. He was interested in amateur dramatics and music and on leaving school became a bank clerk.

Colin joined the 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade during the First World War and was killed in action on 22nd March 1918. The 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade (together with the 7th and 9th battalions) was part of the 41st Brigade of the 14th (Light) Division of XV Corps which saw action at Ypres and on The Somme. At the time of his death, Colin was a Sergeant. Colin is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial in Ovillers-la-Boiselle, France and in Mere Cemetery in Wiltshire.

Colin’s poetry collection was entitled ‘Trampled Clay’ and was published in 1917 by Erskine Macdonald, London.

He also had a poem included in ‘The Malory Verse Book’ edited by Editha Jenkinson and published by Erskine Macdonald in 1919.

Source: Catherine W. Reilly, ‘English Poetry of the First World RememberiWar: A Bibliography’ (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978.

Additional Information kindly supplied by Mere Museum and Historical Society.

 HOOGE: (JULY 31st 1915)

Hooge! More damned than Sodom and more bloody,

‘Twas there we faced the flames of liquid fire.

Hooge! That shambles where the flames swept ruddy:

A spume of heat and hate and omens dire;

A vision of a concrete hell from whence

Emerged satanic forms, or so it seemed

To us who, helpless, saw them hasten hence.

Scarce understood we if we waked or dreamed.


“Stand To! Stand To! The Wurtembergers come!”

Shouting vile English oaths with gutter zest.

And boastful threats to kill they voice, while some,

In uniforms of grey and scarlet dressed,

Wear flame-projectors strapped upon their backs.

How face a wall of flame? Impossible!


“Back, boys! Give way a little; take the tracks

That lead to yonder wood, and there we’ll fill

Such trenches as are dug, and face the foe,

And no Hell-fire shall move us once we’re there.

We’re out to win or die, boys; if we go

Back and yet back, leaving good strongholds bare,

We’ll save our lives, perhaps, but not our name.

There’s no one in this well-trained company

Who’d save his skin and perjure his good fame.”


We hold the wood, but, oh, how can it be?

The shells are raining down amidst the trees,

Snapping the full-girthed trunks that downward crash

In dire proximity to us. The breeze

Bespeaks hot human blood. The scarlet splash

Shows everywhere, and everywhere the maimed

Are crawling, white-lipped, to a dug-out where

The doctor in a drip of sweat seems framed,

So hard he works to hide the horrid stare

Of wounds adrip; while many pass away,

And need no lint to bind their frailty,

For God has ta'en them; 'tis their triumph day,

And all their sins shall expiated be.


Thus are we thrown in Life's great melting-pot,

Humanity much matrixed; but the ore,

Looms purer when the crucible is hot:

'Tis on this truth that we should set our store