Saturday, 14 September 2019

Ella Dunnington Jefferson (1888 – 1934) - WW1 VAD and poet

Ella's Red Cross Record Card
It is always exciting to find a hitherto undiscovered poem – here is one, written by Ella Dunnington Jefferson during the First World War - with thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for this post and to Anne Houson of Clements Hall History Group for sending me the full poem.

Before World War One, the world famous York firm, T. E. Cooke, had been making scientific instruments and equipment for the military, including rangefinders and surveying equipment. They opened a new factory in Bishophill in York in 1915 and took on women to help with production.  Ella Dunning Jefferson was one of those women.
Ella Dunnington Jefferson (1888 – 1934) was born in York, Yorkshire, UK in May 1888.  Her parents were Mervyn Dunnington Jefferson, a former Army officer and Justice of the Peace, and his wife, Louisa Dunnington Jefferson, nee Barry.  Ella had two older sisters and a younger brother.

The family lived in Middlethorpe Hall, Middlethorpe, Yorkshire until 1911, when they moved to Thicket Priory, near Thorganby, which they owned. Their home had originally been a priory but the Dunnington Jefferson family demolished this in the 1840’s and built a brand new country house. Curiously, the family sold Thicket Priory in 1955 to the Carmelite sisters of Exmouth and it became a religious house once more. 
With thanks to the Red Cross WW1 website

Ella joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and worked as a nurse and orderly at Clifford St and Nunthorpe Hall Auxiliary Hospitals, before going to work at Cooke’s.

Records for T. E. Cooke which are now held at the Borthwick Institute, include the humorous “A Munition Dirge” that Ella Jefferson wrote about her experiences at Cooke’s. It paints a picture of an assortment of displaced ‘ladies’ who are only working at the firm ‘on suffrance’. Their foreman, Harrison who terrifies them, holds them in check. The Dirge includes the following line “There was Harrison our Overseer, Who caused us all to quake with fear” but ends on a patriotic note, however and Ella seems proud to be doing her bit towards World War One.

Photographs of the women at work at Cooke’s in 1916 showed that the work was clean enough not to require overalls – it looks as though most of the girls are wearing their own clothes with some, but not all of them wearing aprons. It is highly likely that some of the girls on the photograph are the ones mentioned in Ella’s Munition Dirge.

"A Munitions Dirge"

I was a nurse, a nurse was I,
Methought at Cooke’s I’ll have a try.

The rain poured down, the wind blew shrill, 
O’er Cookes-s’ss works at Bishophill.

I knocked upon the factory door, 
I stood upon the office floor.

The manager spoke unto me:
“Munitions worker you would be?”

Quoth I, “I am a V.A.D.
But if you’re kind I’ll work for thee.”

Quoth he, - “It is a stiffish job’”
You’ll have to come for 17/- Bob.

‘”Be here quite sharp at early dawn
And unto secrecy be sworn.”

“At Bishophill you’ll stay until 
You faint before the awful drill.”

They led me from the fated room
Into a dungeon full of gloom

I sat upon a wooden stool, 
I vowed I was an awful fool.

I painted reel, I painted drum
I cut my hand, I pierced my thumb.

I drove the nail, I turned the screw
I did whate’er there was to do.

But when I saw the ladies there, 
My heart leaped up, they were so fair.

Miss Tennant took me by the hand, 
“Oh welcome to Munitions Land.”

“I’ll give you buns, I’ll give you tea, 
And Chocolate Biscuits I’ll give thee”

And dear Miss Carr, She said to me:
“We’re only here on suffrance see” – 

Miss Blaylock works whate’er may hap, 
She swallowed strip, she swallowed flap

E D Jefferson

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Capel Boake – pen-name of Doris Boake Kerr (1889-1944) – Australian writer and poet

With thanks to Yvon Davis and to Dominic Sheridan for their help.

Dominic’s Australian Great War Poetry project is on and on Facebook

Doris was born on 29th August 1889 in Summer Hill, Sydney. She was the elder daughter of  Gregory Augustine Kerr, a civil servant, and his wife, Adelaide Eva, née Boake. Doris’s maternal grandfather, Barcroft Capel Boake (1838-1921), emigrated to Australia in the late 1850s. His son was the poet Barcroft Boake (1866 – 1892). By 1915 the family had settled at Caulfield, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Although she attended a state school, Doris claimed that 'she was self-educated at the Prahran Public Library'. She left school and worked as a shop-assistant, before becoming a typist, then a librarian. Doris’s first story was published in the “Australasian” in January 1916.

Doris never married.  She was an active member of P.E.N. International and a foundating member of the Society of Australian Authors.   By the early 1940s, Doris was working as secretary to J. K. Moir, who was credit manager at Paynes Bon Marché Pty. Ltd., who was a supporter of Australian literature.

Doris died on 5th June 1944 at Caulfield and was cremated.

A collection of Doris's verse with a foreword by her friend Myra Morris was published in 1949 as “The Selected Poems of Capel Boake” and her two main novels were “Painted Clay” and “The Dark Thread”.

“Anzac Day” by Capel Boake

The Scarlet poppy burns again,
The tender grasses wave,
The bitter almond sheds her leaves
On many a nameless grave.
The earth has healed her wounds again
Where Turk and Christian met,
And stark against an alien sky
The cross of Christ is set.

From north and south and east and west,
With eager eyes aflame,
With heads erect and laughing lips
The young Crusaders came.
The waves still wash the rocky coast,
The evening shadows creep
Where through the dim, receding years
They tread the halls of sleep.

O sacred land, Gallipoli!
Home of our youthful dead;
How friendly is the springing grass
That shields each narrow bed!
The toiling peasant turns to pray,
Calling upon his God,
And little children laugh and play
Where once their footsteps trod.

Mourn not for them, nor wish them back;
Life cannot harm them now;
The kiss of death has touched each cheek
And pressed each icy brow.
Yet, on this day when first they died,
Turn back the troubled years;
Pause in the press of life awhile;
Give them again – our tears.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served". Observed annually on 25th  April, Anzac Day was originally devised to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the Great War (1914–1918).

Founded in London in 1921 by Catherine Amy Dawson Scott to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere, PEN International is a worldwide association of writers.  The first president was John Galsworthy and early members included Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth Craig, George Bernard Shaw, and H. G. Wells.

PEN originally stood for "Poets, Essayists, Novelists", but now stands for "Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists" and includes writers of any form of literature, such as journalists and historians.

Sources:  Australian Great War Poetry

Friday, 16 August 2019

Poems written in response to John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields"

Following on from Heather Johnson's response to my post yesterday about Moina Belle Michael :, (Heather said:
"A Canadian pointed out to me once that Miss Michael's poem is remarkably similar (some lines identical, in fact) to that of R. W. Lillard's poem 'America's Answer', which was in circulation nigh on three months before Miss Michael penned hers."),

this morning I set off on a voyage of discovery and found several other poems in response to John McCrae's. I am now trying to find out more about the poets - if anyone can help please get in touch.

“We Shall Keep the Faith” by Moina Belle Michael (181869 – 1944) – published In “The Miracle Flower: The Story of The Flanders Field Poppy” by Moina Belle Michael and Leonard Roan (Dorrance & Co., Philadelphia, 1941)

Oh! You who sleep in Flanders' Fields
Sleep sweet - to rise anew;
We caught the torch you threw,
And holding high we kept
The faith with those who died.

We cherish, too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led.
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
But lends a lustre to the red
On the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders' fields.

And now the torch and Poppy red
Wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught:
We've learned the lesson that ye taught
In Flanders' fields.

“America's Answer” by Robert W.illiamLillard (1859 – 1952) - first published in the New York Evening Post and included in "Prose and Poetry, Eighth Year" (The L. W. Singer Company, New York, 1929) Edited by Fannie L. Avery, Mary M. Van Arsdale, D. Emma Wilber

Rest ye in peace, ye Flanders dead
The fight that you so bravely led
We've taken up. And we will keep
True faith with you who lie asleep,
With each a cross to mark his bed,
And poppies blowing overhead,
When once his own life-blood ran red
So let your rest be sweet and deep
In Flanders Fields.

Fear not that ye have died for naught;
The torch ye threw to us we caught,
Ten million hands will hold it high,
And freedom's light shall never die!
We've learned the lesson that ye taught
In Flanders' fields.

“In Flanders Fields (An Answer)” by Charles Burleigh (C. B.) Galbreath (1858 – 1934) – American writer and poet, State Librarian of Ohio

In Flanders Field the cannon boom,
And fitful flashes light the gloom,
While up above; like eagles, fly
The fierce destroyers in the sky;
With stains, the earth wherein you lie,
Is redder than the poppy bloom,
In Flanders Field.

Sleep on, ye brave, the shrieking shell,
The quaking trench, the startled yell,
The fury of the battle hell,
Shall wake you not, for all is well.
Sleep peacefully, for all is well.
Your flaming torch aloft we bear,
With burning heart, an oath we swear
To keep the faith, to fight it through,
To crush the foe, or sleep with you,
In Flanders Field.

Galbreath’s WW1 collection was entitled “This crimson flower: In Flanders fields, an answer, and other verse” (Stoneman Press, Columbus, OH, 1919); ISBN 978-1-140-31899-6

“Reply to In Flanders Fields” by John Mitchell

Oh! sleep in peace where poppies grow;
The torch your falling hands let go
Was caught by us, again held high,
A beacon light in Flanders sky
That dims the stars to those below.
You are our dead, you held the foe,
And ere the poppies cease to blow,
We'll prove our faith in you who lie
In Flanders Fields.

Oh! rest in peace, we quickly go
To you who bravely died, and know
In other fields was heard the cry,
For freedom's cause, of you who lie,
So still asleep where poppies grow,
In Flanders Fields.

As in rumbling sound, to and fro,
The lightning flashes, sky aglow,
The mighty hosts appear, and high
Above the din of battle cry,
Scarce heard amidst the guns below,
Are fearless hearts who fight the foe,
And guard the place where poppies grow.
Oh! sleep in peace, all you who lie
In Flanders Fields.

And still the poppies gently blow,
Between the crosses, row on row.
The larks, still bravely soaring high,
Are singing now their lullaby
To you who sleep where poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

“In Canadian Fields” by Floyd Zurbrigg (? b. 1937 - )

In Flanders Fields the poppies grow
When I hear that famous poem I know
That our soldiers went to a far off shore
And gave their lives in an awful war
I’m aware of the hardships they endured
So our peace would be assured
But the poem that I cannot find
Tells the stories of those left behind
Of wives and sweethearts, kissed at the train
That never saw their men again
Of parents, brothers and sisters too
Who worried, because they never knew
If their soldier was alive or dead
Many tearful, heartfelt prayers were said
To the one’s at home, we owe a debt
They suffered too, let’s not forget
While in Flanders Fields the poppies grew
The folks at home were heroes too

In 1919, when people were still optimistic about the new future of the world, the Canadian poet Edna Jaques wrote 'In Flanders Now'.

“In Flanders Now” by Canadian poet Edna Jaques - Edna Parliament Jacques (1891–1979)

We have kept faith, ye Flanders' dead,
Sleep well beneath those poppies red,
That mark your place.
The torch your dying hands did throw,
We've held it high before the foe,
And answered bitter blow for blow,
In Flanders' fields.

And where your heroes' blood was spilled,
The guns are now forever stilled,
And silent grown.
There is no moaning of the slain,
There is no cry of tortured pain,
And blood will never flow again
In Flanders' fields.

Forever holy in our sight,
Shall be those crosses gleaming white,
That guard your sleep.
Rest you in peace, the task is done,
The fight you left us we have won.
And 'Peace on Earth' has just begun,
In Flanders now.

The poems by Galbreath and Lillard were I ncluded in “In Flanders' Field” (The Whittier School Press, Oak Park, Illinois, 1920)
OCLC Number: 1029560667

"The fugitive poems in this booklet are so expressive of courage, heroism, and unselfishness that they are here brought together for study and preservation by the pupils of the Oak Park schools."
Description - 13 pages ; 16 cm

The Appeal --
An Answer --
The Promise --
The Fulfillment --
The Soldier --
O, Little Cross in Flanders --
Afterwards --
Ye That Have Faith --
The Perfect Comrade --
But A Short Time to Live.

McCrae, John, -- 1872-1918.
Lillard, R. W.
Galbreath, C. B.
Frost, Meigs O., -- 1882-1950.
Brooke, Rupert, -- 1887-1915.
Hughes, Agnes Lockhart, -- 1866-1942.
Horne, Cyril Morton, -- 1885-1916.
Coulson, Leslie, -- 1889-1916.
Seeger, Alan, -- 1888-1916.

Sources:Heather Johnson's website and…/nationaux-nouvelles-de…

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Moina Belle Michael (1869 - 1944) – American poet and teacher - "The Poppy Lady"

Moina Belle Michael was born on 15th August 1869 in Good Hope, in Walton County, Georgia, America.. She was the eldest daughter and second of seven children born to John Marion Michael, a Confederate Veteran and Alice Sherwood.

In Germany when the First World War broke out in August 1914, Moina travelled to Rome, where she assisted around 12,000 US tourists to find a passage home across the Atlantic. She returned to the US on the RMS “Carpathia”, the ship that rescued the survivors of the RMS “Titanic” tragedy, and returned to teaching at Normal School in Athens, Georgia.

She was a professor at the University of Georgia when the U.S. entered the conflict in April 1917, took leave of absence from her work and volunteered to assist in the New York-based training headquarters for overseas YWCA workers.

The idea of using red Flanders poppies as a means of commemoration came from Moina after she read Canadian Medical Officer John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields".  Moina was determined not to 'break faith' and vowed always to wear Moina travelled to Paris, France for a conference of YMCA Secretaries of the Allied Nations in 1919.

After the War, Moina returned to the University of Georgia and taught a class of disabled servicemen. Realizing the need to provide financial and occupational support for these servicemen, she pursued the idea of selling silk poppies as a means of raising funds to assist disabled veterans. In 1921, her efforts resulted in the poppy being adopted as a symbol of remembrance for war veterans by the American Legion Auxiliary, and, later that year, by Earl Haig's British Legion Appeal Fund, which later became known as The Royal British Legion.

Moina died on 10th May 1944.  During her lifetime, she received numerous awards. She retired from the University of Georgia in 1934, and published an autobiography in 1941, "The Miracle Flower: The Story of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy".

John McCrae
John McCrae was born in Canada in 1872.  He studied medicine and also served as an Artillery Officer in the Canadian Artillery during the Second Boer War.  He was among the first Canadian troops to go to the Western Front in 1914.  Incidentally, it was John McCrae who observed that the massive use of manure in the fields of northern France caused infections in wounds sustained during the fighting in that area.

John wrote the poem after the funeral of his friend Lt. Alexis Helmer, who was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres.  McCrae noticed some poppies were blooming in the cemetery. They appeared to be the only flower that flourished in the mud and mess.   McCrae apparently threw his poem away (as one does!) but it was rescued by a fellow officer who sent it to "Punch" Magazine in England.  They published "In Flanders Fields" on 8th December 1915.   Following his service as an Artillery Officer at the Front, McCrae was sent to work in a military hospital in Bologne - away from the shells. He fell ill on 27th January 1918 with Pneumonia, died the following day and was buried in Wimereux Communal Cemetery, Wimereux, Pas de Calais, France.

British historian Lord Macaulay wrote in 1855 about the site of the Battle of Landen in the Province of Brabant. The battle took place in 1693, during the Nine Years War between the French and the English when William III was on the throne.  Landen is in Belgium and is approximately one hundred miles from Ypres.  The French lost 9,000 men and the English 19,000:
Mary Riter Hamilton painting "Poppies on the Somme", France 1919

 "The next summer the soil, fertilised by twenty thousand corpses, broke forth into millions of poppies. The traveller who, on the road from Saint Tron to Tirlemont, saw that vast sheet of rich scarlet spreading from Landen to Neerwinden, could hardly help fancying that the figurative prediction of the Hebrew Prophet was literally accomplished, that the earth was disclosing her blood, and refusing to cover the slain."

1948 U.S. Commemorative Stamp

Memorial Marker in Georgia

Moina Michael 1948 U.S. commemorative stamp
U.S. Post Office Department

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Sara Teasdale (1884 – 1933) - American poet.

Sara Teasdale 1910
Sara was born Sarah Trevor Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouri on 8th August 1884.

Sara's first poem was published in a local newspaper, in 1907 and her first collection of poems, "Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems", was published that year too.

On 19th December 1914, Sara married Ernst Filsinger, an admirer of her poetry, after which she used the name Sara Teasdale Filsinger.

Sara Teasdale's third poetry collection, “Rivers to the Sea”, was published in 1915.  In 1916 Sara and her husband went to live in New York City, where they lived in Upper West Side on Central Park West.  In 1918, Sara won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1917 poetry collection “Love Songs”.

On 29th January 1933, Sara died after taking an over dose of sleeping tablets.   She was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.

Award-winning British composer Chris O'Hara recently set Sara’s poem “There Will Come Soft Rains” to music for his commemorative work "Scars upon their Hearts”.  Other poems included in Chris’s work are “The Dancers” by Edith Sitwell, “Perhaps” by Vera Brittain and “Rouen” by May Wedderburn Cannan.

“There will come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale

(War Time)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Anna Gordon Keown (1899–1957) - British author and poet

With thanks to Connie Ruzich for reminding me that I had not yet researched
Anna Gordon Keown who is on the List

Anna Gordon Keown was born on 8th December 1899, the daughter of Robert Keown, a London wool merchant, and his wife Sarah, nee Gordon. Anna had the following siblings: : Robert, born in 1894 and Elizabeth, born in 1895.

Anna and her sister were educated initally at home by a Swiss governess and then at Cheltenham Ladies College and in Dresden, Germany. In 1921, Anna married William H. Seymour but the marriage did not last and in 1927 the couple divorced. 

In 1943, Anna married writer and physician Dr Philip Gosse (1879–1959), son of the poet Sir Edmund Gosse. When Anna died, Philip presented a large collection of literature to the University of Leeds in her memory. This is known as the Keown Collection and is contained within the Brotherton Collection.

“Reported Missing” by Anna Gordon Keown was written during the First World War

My thought shall never be that you are dead:
Who laughed so lately in this quiet place.
The dear and deep-eyed humour of that face
Held something ever-living, in Death's stead.
Scornful I hear the flat things they have said
And all their piteous platitudes of pain.
I laugh! I laugh! -- For you will come again -
This heart would never beat if you were dead.
The world's adrowse in twilight hushfulness,
There's purple lilac in your little room,
And somewhere out beyond the evening gloom
Small boys are culling summer watercress.
Of these familiar things I have no dread
Being so very sure you are not dead.

“War Verse” New York Crowell 1918 Ed. Frank Foxcroft and 7th Edition

The introduction to Anna Gordon Keown’s Collected Poems, published in 1953, was written by Siegfried Sassoon, whose family were close friends of the Gosse family.


Find my Past and Free BMD

Catherine W. Reilly, “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)  p. 187 “Collected Poems” by Anna Gordon Keown (Caravel, London, 1953) with an introduction by Siegfried Sassoon

Illustration:  Cover of one of Anna's books.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Ena Limebeer (1897 – 1984) – writer, artist and poet - schoolgirl poet of WW1

Ena was featured in the Exhibition of Poetry Written by School Pupils during the First World War, held at The Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead, Wirral, in March 2018

Ena Victoria Limebeer was born on 17th June 1897 in St. Mary Islington, Middlesex, in the north of London, UK. Her parents were Alfred J. Limebeer, an electrical mechanician, and his wife, Annie Emilia, nee Jefford.  Ena had two siblings – Alfred John, b. 1891, and Effie, b. 1895.

Educated at the North London Collegiate School in Camden, a school exclusively for girls, founded in 1850 by Frances Mary Buss, Suffragette and pioneer of advanced girls' education, Ena went on to study art and become a writer and artist.

On 9th June 1923, Ena married political scientist, originally from Bucharest, David Mitrany (1888 - 1975). The couple went to live in Kingston Blount, near Oxford. In 1929, Ena and her husband moved to America, where David had a visiting professorship at Harvard University and lectured at Yale University. In 1933, he became a permanent member of the newly established Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University. In September 1939, Ena and David returned to Britain.

After their return from America, Ena and David lived at The Lower Farm in Kingston Blount and also had a flat in London in Grove End Road, London NW 8. David Mitrany died in July 1975 and, following the death of her husband, Ena lived in Westminster, London.

Ena had poems and short stories published in magazines such as “New Age”, “The New Statesman”, “The Nation” and “The Athenaeum”, where Leonard Woolf was the literary editor. A collection of Ena’s poems was published by the Hogarth Press in July 1924: "To a Proud Phantom" - hand-printed and hand-bound by the Woolfs.

Ena also became famous for her watercolour paintings and exhibited them in the UK and at the Paris Salon during the 1960s. She painted all her life and after the publication of her last novel, focused entirely on painting. Ena signed her pictures in block letters: either EB or ENA LIMEBEER.  She died in the winter of 1984 in Westminster.

 “A Hero” by E. Limebeer, Form VI, North London Collegiate School

Was he dead? Had I heard it aright?
No, for there was his image imprinted in gold on my mind.
Does he live? The prince of men’s sight
No, for I wander ‘neath cypress, his flower-decked tomb to find.

Then ‘tis true? They told me, I know:
But I find not his tomb in the shadows down in the cypress glade.
And softly they answer and low,
“Only a rough wooden cross stands quiv’ring ‘neath Ardennes’ grey shade.

“Not as other men died,
Fighting with failing breath.
None were close at his side,
To sweeten the pangs of his death.

“Straight he stood and his eyes
Saw more than his slayers knew.
He watched his life sun rise,
His death star fade from view.

“They laugh at him who died
To keep his captain’s word,
And deeply in his side
In scorn they plunge their sword.

“And now beneath the shade
Of Ardennes’ leaves he lies.
Mourn not! All stars must fade
When Suns in glory rise.”

(First published in North London Collegiate School Magazine, 1915) and reproduced here by kind permission of Jenny Bartlett, Librarian, North London Collegiate School, to whom grateful thanks are due for her help in finding other poems written by pupils during WW1.

Ena also features in Volume 2 of Female Poets of the First World War -

“To a Proud Phantom”. Hogarth Press, London, 1924

Exhibition of Poetry Written by Schoolchildren during WW1,
WOS, March 2018

Here is a link to a news report about the opening of the exhibition of Poetry written by Schoolchildren during WW1 at the WOS on 17th March 2018:

Additional information from:

Self Portrait by Ena from