Sunday, 16 October 2016

Helen Lanyon (1882 – 1979) – British poet

My thanks to Carley for asking me to research Helen Lanyon.
Helen was born Helen Redfern in Kensington in 1882.  Her father was Clement Cotterell Redfern, a barrister and her mother was Margaret A.B. Redfern.  Helen had a half-sister called Clara, who was born in 1871 and a sister called Joan, who was born in 1882.

Helen married Charles James Lanyon, great-grandson of Sir Charles Lanyon the Irish architect, on 23rd August 1902. In his obituary in 1940, Charles's wife Helen was described as the “distinguished poet” and mention was made of her poems about the Antrim Glens and her collection entitled “The Hill O’Dreams, and other poems” (published in Dublin by Sealy, Bryers and Walker in 1909).   The poem “At Easter” is included in that collection.  This was set to music by the composer Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty (1879 - 1941).  Hamilton Harty joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during WW1 and served in the North Sea.

Helen and her husband had a daughter called Carla Lanyon Lanyon who was also a poet and writer. Carla seems to have married Edward S Hacker in 1927 and they had a son.

In this anthology, she was described as Miss Helen Lanyon :

Helen Lanyon died in 1979.

With thanks to history researchers Sue Robinson of Wenches in Trenches the Roses of No Mans Land and Kate O’Mara for their help in finding out when Helen was born, was married and died.  

All we need now is a photograph of Helen Lanyon.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Zelda F.A. West (1875 - ?) – British

Looking through Catherine W. Reilly's Bibliography of English WW1 Poetry, I found an entry for Zelda F.A. West.

Zelda Frances Annie West was born in Bangalore, Madras, India on 10th February 1875.  Her parents were Francis West and his wife Caroline.

Zelda’s poem “The Battlefield” was published in The WW1 Anthology “A Book of Poems for The Blue Cross Fund”, published in 1917 by Jarrolds, London and sold in aid of the Blue Cross Fund, which is still going strong today.  You can read all of the poems in the anthology here:

I haven’t been able to find out anything more about Zelda or if she wrote any other poems.  She was alive in 1947.  If anyone can help please get in touch.

Source:  Find my Past and Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Alexandra Etheldred Grantham (pen-name A.E.G.) (1868 - 1945) - German-born poet

With many thanks to 'Michael Bully' who reminded me that I had not yet researched or posted A.E.G.  Michael has a wonderful website dedicated to the Sea Poetry of the First World War and has recently started a website about the poetry of the Second World War:
Alexandra Etheldred Sylvia Mary Emily von Herder was born in Germany.  She was the youngest daughter of Alexander von Herder of Schloss Sabastein, Thurgen, Lake Constance and his wife, Countess Anne, nee Wilding, daughter of Count Ernest Wilhelm Wilding von Königsbrűck, 1st Prince of Radali.

Alexandra studied at Girton College, Cambridge.  On 28th April 1894, Alexandra married Frederick William Grantham, the second son of Sir William Grantham JP of Eaton Square London.  They were married at St. George’s church in Hannover Square, London.   Alexandra and Frederick had the following children:

Hugo Frederick born 1895
Alexander William George born 1899
Eric Howard, born and died 1901
And Godfrey Harry born 1911.

Frederick, who was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, had joined the Volunteers while at university.  Frederick was called to the Bar, Inner Temple in 1895.  In 1893 he joined the Post Office Rifles as a Reserve Officer and in 1899 the Militia of the Royal Munster Fusiliers.  He served in South Africa during the Boer War and was awarded The Queen’s Medal in 1902.

As a Reserve Officer, Frederick volunteered for active service on 6th August 1914. He attained the rank of Captain and was posted to France with the Royal Munster Fusiliers on 22nd September 1914.   He was killed on 9th May 1915 near Richbourg l’Avoue but was initially reported as wounded and missing, which must have been very hard for Alexandra, of German birth and with three sons, one of whom was also fighting in France - Hugo Frederick joined the 1st Battalion of the 44th Foot Essex Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant and was killed on 28th June 1915 fighting in Gallipoli.  He was mentioned in despatches.   Hugo was buried at Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery in Gallipoli.

Godfrey was killed during the Second World War in June 1942.

Alexander went on to become a Governor of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Fire Service named a fireboat in his honour.

Alexandra’s WW1 collection “Mater dolorosa” was published in 1915 by Heinemann and dedicated to Hugo Frederick Grantham.

Sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD and Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)

Alexandra’s collection “Per Aspera ad Astra“, published in 1907 is available here

Monday, 10 October 2016

Teresa Hooley (1888 – 1973) – British

My thanks to John Seriot whose question about the poem “A War Film” prompted me to research Teresa who is on my list of Female Poets of the First World War and to Debbie Cameron who found Teresa's First World War work record card.

Teresa was born in Derbyshire in 1888.  Her parents were Terah Hooley (1839 – 1927), a lace manufacturer, and his second wife, Mary Eliza, nee Swaffield (1854 - 1928) who he married in 1883.

Teresa had two brothers and Ernest Terah Hooley, the financier was her half–brother.  Her brother Noel Joseph was born in 1885 and her brother Basil Terah Hooley was born in 1893.   Another brother, Paul Terah Hooley, died the year of his birth in 1899.

Basil served with the 7th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters and was a tank commander at Amiens in 1918.  He was awarded the Military Medal in November 1918 for conspicuous gallantry, survived the war but died in the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. 

During the war, Teresa did her bit, working at home:

Teresa married Frank H. Butler in 1920 but the marriage does not appear to have lasted.

Teresa’s most famous poem “A War Film”, which is still in copyright but you can read  here, is the subject of much discussion, including this weblog

I agree with the writer that the poem would have been written during the 1920s.  Here’s why:

The “Old Contemptibles” Association (of which my Grandfather was a member and a President), was formed a few years after the end of the First World War in 1925.  

Although there were films shown during the conflict, the film “Mons” about the retreat from did not come out until 1926.
Teresa’s poem “A War Film” was included in her collection “Songs of all Seasons”, published by Jonathan Cape in 1927.

Her other collections were:

“Songs of the open”, published by Jonathan Cape in 1921; “Twenty-nine lyrics”, published by Jonathan Cape in 1924, “Collected Poems” published by Jonathan Cape in 1926 and “The singing heart”, published by Muller in 1944.

Sources:  Find my Past and Free Births, Marriages and Deaths; Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography", published by St. Martin's Press, New York in 1978.  Photo of Teresa's WW1 work record card kindly supplied by researcher Debbie Cameron.

NOTE:  “The Old Contemptibles” was the name given to the British professional soldiers who went to Belgium and France between August and November 1914.  They were awarded a special medal – The Mons Star.  The term was possibly coined by the British Propaganda Bureau who spread the word that Kaiser Wilhelm held the British Army in contempt, saying that his forces had been stopped by a “contemptible little army”.  Apparently this was not true but the name stuck and an Association of Old Contemptibles was formed in 1925.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Marie C. Lufkin (1863 - 1936) - British

I had a request some time ago from Nicholas Miller, a serious amateur historian with a particular interest in following first-hand accounts of events. Nicholas is from Newcastle and he had found a poem by Marie and the information about the man it is written about - Corporal George Wilson - among some papers belonging to a nurse at the 5th Northern Base Hospital in Leicester.  Her name was Helen Freer and she was the wife of a local dignitary who lived at The Stoneygate, Leicester. She was a volunteer and fund-raiser during WW1.

Nicholas wanted further information about Marie and I was able to find out a little about her.
Marie Christiana Lufkin was born in Middlesex in 1864.  Her parents were George Lufkin and his wife Elizabeth Christiana Lufkin, nee Harvey.  George was an Architect Surveyor who worked for the British Government in India.  Their other children were Helen Elizabeth born 1862, Clara Harriett, born 1865, George Harvey, born 1867 and Ursula Maud, born 1868.
In 1871 the family lived in Thistle Grove, West Kensington.  Elizabeth Christiana Lufkin died in 1873.  By 1891 the Lufkin family were living at Beaconsfield, Grange Road, Sutton, Surrey and George was a widower. The family went to live in Parkstone, Dorset when George retired and Henry became a Church of England clergyman.   In 1911, Helen, Marie, Clara and Ursula were living with their father in Poole, Dorset. And Ursula Maud was a hospital trained nurse.

It seems likely that Marie may also have trained as a nurse or that she volunteered to work as an orderly for she was working at the 5th Northern Base, Leicester during the First World War.  However, there is nothing on record at the Red Cross, who kindly checked their records for me for both Marie Christiana Lufkin and Maud Ursula Lufkin. 

Marie never married and died in Devon in 1936.

Here is another of Marie C. Lufkin's poems:                                            


'THAT we may bear His beacon lamp aloft,

Till all false ideals shrink beneath its ray,

Shorn of their tarnished glamour, stricken, mute, —

God bids us fight to-day.


Our sacred trust from all the ages past ;

For this, Life's heritage, the sword we wield.

E'en though our dear ones, to His bugle call,

We must the sooner yield.


And they, who hearing, pass to fuller life,

With clearer vision shall look forth and see

Something of that vast, wondrous plan which works

For all eternity.

From :  Volume 2 of  "One Hundred of the Best Poems on the European War" Edited by Dr. Charles Forshaw, FRSL,  Founder of the International Institute of British Poetry, published by Elliott Stock in 1916.

Photo:  Poem by Marie C. Lufkin typed on a piece of paper, courtesy of Nicholas Miller.
If anyone has any information about Marie or Corporal Wilson, please get in touch.  I should also like to find a photograph of Marie. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Nora Bomford (1894 - 1968) - British poet

Nora was born in India on 24th March 1894.  Her father, Sir Gerald Bomford, was a Surgeon General in the British Army and her mother was Mary Bomford, nee Eteson.   Nora’s siblings were Hugh, born in 1883, Lorna, born in 1884 and Guy born in 1900.   When in England, the family lived in Dover.

During the First World War, Nora did social work among the poor in north London and Lorna worked in the Food Rationing Service.   On 8th June 1938, Nora married her cousin Major-General Claude le Golchey, MC in Holburn, London.  The couple had no children.

During the Second World War, she looked after her nephew while her brother Guy was in India.  Nora died on 12th May 1968.     Her WW1 poetry collection “Poems of a Pantheist” was published by Chatto & Windus in 1918 and was dedicated to “P.Q.R.”.    

Photo:  Nora in Cairo in 1939, reproduced with kind permission from

A relative of Nora with whom I have been in contact, sent me this about Nora's collection which received mixed reviews:

"According to Nora's inscription in the front of my copy, a review in “The Nation” was 'the best of 15 reviews'. There was a photo in the “Daily Mirror”, and a 'scathing account' in “The New Witness”. The photo from the “Daily Mirror” (I assume) is pasted into the book (copy attached), but I haven't found any of the reviews."


Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) and “Poems of a Pantheist” by Nora Bomford

E-mails from Richard Bomford

And with grateful thanks to Dr. Margaret Stetz who is the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Delaware in America for her continued support and encouragement of this commemorative exhibition project. Without her help I would not be able to do as much.

I stopped what I was doing the other day to answer an SOS e-mail from Suzy Glass.  There is to be an event at the Edinburgh Art Festival on Sunday, 31st July 2016 at which one of Nora Bomford’s poems will be read and they needed information about Nora.  Here is information about the event – tickets are limited so if you are interested don’t delay:

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Marie Nizet (1859 – 1922) – Belgian Poet

In honour of Belgium's National Day - 21st July - here is a Belgian Poet

Marie Nizet was born in Brussels on 19th January 1859.  She was the daughter of Belgian writer and poet Francois-Joseph Nizet, who worked at the Royal Library in Brussels.

Marie studied in Paris and while there met several Rumanian people which probably inspired her interest in Rumanian mythology.  At the age of 19, Maris published a book entitled “Captain Vampire” – seventeen years before Bram Stoker published his book.

Marie married, divorced and brought up her son alone.  She died in Etterbeek, Belgium in 1922.

Here is the first line of Marie’s Poem “Fins Derniers” (Tr. Final Endings or perhaps Loose Ends?)

C’est fȇte aujourd’hui, mon amour,

Je viens frapper à votre porte.

Notre Bonheur est de retour :

Vous ȇtes mort et je suis morte.


From “Fins Derniers” first published in “Pour Axel de Missie”, Editions De La Vie Intellectuelle, Brussels, 1923.

Here is my translation of those lines: 

Today, my love, is a holiday,

I’m knocking on your door to say

Our happiness blooms again

But I am dead and you are slain.

With thanks to Peter Parsley for his help in finding the photograph of Marie.