War correspondents in the First Balkan War

There has been much discussion here recently about the (sometimes good, sometimes awful) paintings of C. R. W. Nevinson. By chance, the book I’m currently reading has a photograph of his father, Henry Nevinson, the distinguished war correspondent.

nevinson and gibbs

Here he is with Horace Grant and Philip Gibbs and two unknown Serbians, getting ready to report on the Balkan War of 1912.

The book is Adventures of War: With Cross and Crescent, by Philip Gibbs and Bernard Grant. Gibbs was reporting the war for the Daily Graphic, and Bernard Grant was a photographer for the Daily Mirror. Gibbs was with the Serbians and Bulgarians, and Grant was with the Turks, so the book reports both sides of the struggle, and is something of a marvel of instant history; its publication date is proudly stated as December 19th, 1912, just a month after the last calamities recorded in the book. The war itself did not actually end until well into 1913.

The Balkan Wars are now rarely remembered outside the territories affected, but they were of immense historical importance, since they meant the ejection of Turkey from eastern Europe, and the end of the last vestiges of the Ottoman Empire.

I’ll write a fuller report of the book later, and describe some of the horrors that Grant saw among the defeated Turks. For now I shall just quote some of Gibbs’s reflections after Turks had fled a battle in panic: Read More »

W. Pett Ridge and the future war

I knew, of course, that before 1914 there were plenty of Future War novels and stories, making the British public’s flesh creep with the prospect of invasion.
Still, it was a surprise to come across this in the middle of W. Pett Ridge’s rather cosy family saga: Thanks to Sanderson (1912). heading for work, Mr Sanderson chats with the station bookseller:

Bookstall clerk, rather anxious concerning the intentions of a foreign gentleman whom he calls William, occasionally becomes so apprehensive that one can almost hear the tramp of German soldiers marching past the church and over the bridge, with Messrs. Smith’s wooden shelves and their contents as the principal objective.

James and his acquaintances discuss the topic briefly on the train, but they soon

find in flower-gardening a more acutely interesting matter for discussion, and specimens are taken from buttonholes and passed around for discussion.

Pett Ridge obviously doesn’t take the war threat very seriously, but this vignette is still an interesting little snapshot of pre-war public opinion.
W. Pett Ridge is one of those turn-of-the-century bestsellers who were famous in their time, but now almost entirely forgotten. Read More »

C. R. W. Nevinson

nevinson soldiers

Yesterday at Leeds Art Gallery Sue Malvern (author of the excellent Modern Art, Britain and the Great War, Witnessing, Testimony and Remembrance ) gave the latest in their series of talks on art and the Great War. Her subject was: ‘C.R.W.Nevinson, the “bad” boy of modernism.’
It was a good bracing talk. She doesn’t rate Nevinson highly, though she reminds us that during the War he was often seen as the pre-eminent war painter, with a greater reputation than, for example Nash. She sees his talent as mostly one for gaining publicity (and can’t you just think of some a couple of today’s artists of whom that is equally true?) and poured especial scorn on the truly dreadful ‘problem pictures’ he produced in the 1930s, like this one, The Unending Cult of Human Sacrifice (1934). It’s a horrible hectoring picture, seemingly intent on seeing how many clichés can be collected in one aesthetically dead image. (c) IWM (Imperial War Museums); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Sue Malvern quoted an Anthony Blunt review of Nevinson in the 1930s, from the Spectator. I looked it up in the Spectator’s (much improved) archive, and here is his assessment in full: Read More »

Register of effects – Julian Grenfell, Edward Thomas, Saki

Yesterday I mentioned the Register of Soldiers’ Effects, which lists monies paid to the family of those killed in action, and showed Isaac Rosenberg’s record as an example. Officers’ records are listed by initial rather than by full Christian names. Here, from early in the War, is Julian Grenfell’s record. Click on it for a full-size image.

grenfell effects

Later records seem to have become less full. Here is Edward Thomas’s record, which does not tell us who the money was paid to. Read More »

Isaac Rosenberg’s death payment

Online now at Ancestry.co.uk is a new resource, the Soldiers’ Effects Registers, which show the money paid by the British Government to the next of kin of men killed in action in WWI and the Boer War.
As an example, here is the record of Isaac Rosenberg. It shows the final balance of his pay, plus a gratuity of £11 paid to his father, who must have been listed as next of kin. Apparently the average settlement was £10.7s, and mothers were the relative most often named as next of kin.rosenberg effects
Click on the image to see a larger version.

Wodehouse and Buchan


For the Sheffield Reading 1900-1950 book group this month, I’m reading P. G. Wodehouse’s Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, a high quality 1940 collection of stories, four of which are about Bingo Little. Mrs Bingo, of course, is better known as the romantic novelist Rosie M. Banks (that middle initial irresistibly recalling Reading Group favourites such as Ethel M. Dell and Ruby M. Ayres.) She is the author of such novels as A Red, Red Summer Rose; Only a Factory Girl; ‘Twas Once in May; and A Kiss at Twilight. In The Mating Season (1949) Wodehouse gives us a summary of Banks’s Mervyn Keene, Clubman. Keene, ‘young and rich and handsome, an officer in the Coldstream Guards and the idol of all who knew him’, loves Cynthia Grey, but just as he was about to speak his love, found that she was engaged to another. Therefore:

[H]e spoke no word of his love. But he went on worshipping her, outwardly gay and cheerful, inwardly gnawed by a ceaseless pain. And then one night her brother Lionel, a wild young man who had unfortunately got into bad company, came to his room and told him that he had committed a serious crime and was going to be arrested, and he asked Mervyn to save him by taking the blame himself. And, of course, Mervyn said he would.

Read More »

Huddersfield’s Roll of Honour 1914-1922

The best Christmas presents are always the unexpected ones, and one that I certainly wasn’t expecting was this volume: Huddersfield’s Roll of Honour, 1914-1922. Thank you, Jo and John.


The book is a work of extraordinary scholarship, by Margaret Stansfield. In 1985 she joined a tour of the Great War battlefields in France and Belgium, and because of the experience was moved to compile a full register of all those soldiers (and sailors, too) from the Huddersfield area who died in the Great War.

This book is the fruit of her labours; it contains 3,349 entries, each recording everything she has been able to discover about a particular soldier. Typically this includes his date of birth and some family details, including the family address; the school he attended, and his work; his regimental number, and his unit; details of his death; details of where he is buried, and the Huddersfield memorial on which he is listed. In many cases there are quotations from letters home from officers or comrades, explaining how the man was killed. Many of these include consoling words such as ‘I am glad to say he had no suffering as his very sad death took place instantaneously.’ Well, sometimes these kindly-meant words were true, I expect. Read More »

T. S. Eliot and Haig’s funeral

On 7 February, 1928, T. S. Eliot wrote a letter to his mother, describing Douglas Haig’s funeral procession, on its way to Westminster Abbey:

The funeral started at the Scotch church, which was flying the Scotch flag at half-mast [….] Well then there were the Scotch pipers of the Guards, and they started the ‘Lament for Flodden’, the Scotch national anthem, and there is nothing more dismal and melancholy than the pipers  playing that tune. It tears your nerves to pieces. The crowd was very quiet, with its hats off; so you only heard the guardsmen marching to the slow step that is only used for funerals, shuffling, and that horrible Scotch dirge grinding away on the bagpipes. Then came the Grenadier guards, and Coldstream Guards, and shuffle of feet, and all very quiet; and then Belgian troops and French troops; and then Haig’s horse, led by his old servant; and the gun-carriage with the coffin on it, covered with a Union Jack and lots of red poppies; and then the pallbearers, innumerable field marshals  with hats covered with feathers; old Lord Methuen, the senior Field marshal and a Boer War veteran, first, and then French, and Foch, and Pétain, and all the English generals; and then the Prince of Wales and his brothers; and then the diplomatic representatives; and everybody you could think of; and church dignitaries; and more Guards and troops all with arms reversed and shuffling in the silence; and then it was Chopin’s Dead March, and you could hear it going on blocks and blocks away as everyone was so quitet; and that is how they buried Haig. So he went to the Abbey; and from the Abbey to Euston Station; and thence to Edinburgh; and thence to be buried with his family at Bemersyde in Scotland.

Read More »

What became of Henry Dabelstein?

I’ve now posted a slightly enlarged version of my Marginalised Mainstream paper on Evadne Price/ Helen Zenna Smith as a page on this blog.

After writing this paper, and doing some work on the Evadne Price Wikipedia page, I’m left with one big question:

What happened to Henry Dabelstein?

According to the Australian records, Eva Price (before she became Evadne) married Henry Dabelstein, a German-born actor, in Sydney in 1909. She came to England without him, in about 1914, and married Charles Fletcher in 1920, presenting herself as Eva Price, spinster.

Had Henry died? Or had she just decided that he was best forgotten? I wish I could find out.

Kipling, ‘Lyde’, Lloyd and Lauder

The Kipling Journal arrived yesterday. The journal is now eedited by Janet Montefiore, who seems to be full of good ideas, especially about special issues devoted to a particular Kipling topic. This issue concentrates on Kipling’s poetry, and includes a range of his poems, each with a commentary by an expert or enthusiast.

All are good to read, but I was especially pleased to be reminded of ‘A Recantation’ of 1917, subtitled ‘To Lyde of the Music Halls’.

Here’s the poem, in full:

What boots it on the Gods to call?
  Since, answered or unheard,
We perish with the Gods and all
  Things made–except the Word.

Ere certain Fate had touched a heart
By fifty years made cold,
I judged thee, Lyde, and thy art
O’erblown and over-bold.

But he–but he, of whom bereft
I suffer vacant days–
He on his shield not meanly left
He cherished all thy lays. Read More »


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