A. D. Gristwood

Today I’ve been reading A. D. Gristwood’s novella ‘The Coward’ (published in 1927 as the second half of the volume The Somme). It’s well-told and I wondered whether I could find out more about Gristwood.

A few minutes searching on ancestry.co.uk has indicated this:

He was born Arthur Donald Gristwood in 1893 in Catford. His father was a commercial traveller in the paper trade.

In the 1911 census the family was living in Hornchurch, Essex, and young Arthur is described as a ‘Civil Servant’ – which could mean any number of things.

He enlisted and joined the 5th London regiment. I couldn’t find his attestation papers online, but here is his medal record (You’ll need to click it to see it properly):

gristwood medals

This tells us that he was still a private at the end of the War. But what does SWB List TP/4934 mean?

And what does that top line on the back of the card say?

He published his two novellas together in 1927, with an introduction by H. G. Wells. This reminds me of R. H. Mottram, who could only get his Spanish Farm published when it had a note by John Galsworthy at the front to make it more saleable. Did Gristwood also have problems with publishers before he got Wells’s endorsement?

Gristwood died in 1933, while still in his thirties. The probate registry details his will:


Margaretta was his mother, so we can presume that he never married. he didn’t have much to leave her.

Rather a sad life for someone who wrote two noteworthy novellas. Does anyone know any more about him?



  1. Jonathan Lighter
    Posted May 25, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    You’ve probably looked at Hugh Cecil’s “Flower of Battle” (1996).

  2. Roger Allen
    Posted May 25, 2014 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    According to Wikipedia SWB stands for Silver War Badge and Gristwood was honourably discharged wounded or sick and TP/4934 refers to the relevant roll and the reason for his discharge:
    “If there is no Silver War Badge Card, then the details of the soldier’s discharge can be found out by a visit to the National Archives at Kew. … On the Silver War Badge roll it should mention at the very least the number of the badge, the official reason and date of his discharge.”

    £251 14s 5d wasn’t a bad sum for someone to leave in the 1930s, especially a member of the working or lower-middle class, presumably in poor health for some time.

  3. Posted May 25, 2014 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Of course! I should have remembered that Hugh Cecil writes about Gristwood.
    Cecil says that he enlisted in 1915, and was seriously wounded twice. After the War suffered a breakdown of some sort. Which doubtless accounts for the small legacy.
    Gristwood’s father had a slight acquaintance with Wells, who helped with the publication of the book – but also made extensive use of Gristwood’s account of the War in his own Mr Blettsworthy on Rampole Island. Cecil calls it ‘blatant plagiarism’, but reckons that Gristwood may have been flattered by the great man’s use of his material.
    Maybe I’ll look up his SWB card next time I’m at Kew.

  4. Jonathan Lighter
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    If Gristwood himself didn’t object, perhaps Wells, his father’s acquaintance, had his permission?

    If so, the emphasis would be on “blatant” rather than “plagiarism.”

    Bad form not to rewrite thoroughly though, or to give credit in either case.

  5. Bill
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    The impression given in some books is that Wells closely advised, if not coached, Gristwood through the writing of “The Somme”. Presumably their letters – which I presume Hugh Cecil read – would give a clearer picture.

  6. Posted May 27, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know Wells’s Mr Blettsworthy? Is it worth reading?

  7. Jordan Knowles
    Posted May 29, 2014 at 12:19 am | Permalink


    I do apologise for the somewhat irrelevent comment, but when I was looking through your blog, a particular book came to mind, and I was wondering if you’d read it.

    First off, I haven’t read it, neither is it a First World War novel. It’s a Second World War novel called From The City, From The Plough by Alexander Baron. It’s fairly obscure in terms of war fiction, and though I own a copy, I’m interested in seeing the kind of reach it’s had among people interested in war fiction (despite your preferences clearly leaning towards the First World War. Plus, if you haven’t read it, perhaps it deserves as many readers as it can get.

    • Posted May 29, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the suggestion. It’s one of those books I’ve been vaguely meaning to take a look at for a while.

    • Alan Allport
      Posted May 29, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      FTC, FTP is a great book and well worth the time. Baron’s short story collection The Human Kind is also very good.

  8. Roger
    Posted June 3, 2014 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    From The City, From The Plough is a fine novel, but I don’t think ‘obscure’ is the right word- it’s still in print, for one thing.

    • Bill
      Posted June 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      “Still”, is an interesting use. It was brought back into print, like a few of his other books, by a small publisher in the last few years. Still, surely, implies continuously in print. It is good to see Baron re-emerging, but I think “obscure” is still fair.

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