Sunday, 26 January 2014

Beatrix Brice Miller (1877 - 1959) - British


Beatrix was born in Chile of British parents – her Mother was Mary Louise Brice Miller, nee Walker, from Charlton, Kent.  Beatrix was educated privately.

When her Father died, the family returned to England and Beatrix lived in Goring-on-Thames and later Chelsea.

Beatrix and her Mother served with the BEF, travelling to France in 1914 as  Red Cross VAD ‘Lady Helpers’ (as opposed to ‘Trained Nurses’). 

After the War, Beatrix dedicated herself to ensuring the exploits of the brave ‘Old Contemptibles’ of the First Seven Divisions were not forgotten – that our debt to them be repaid and their memory honoured.

Beatrix wrote the poem “To the Vanguard” which was first published in “The Times” newspaper of 2nd November 1916 and which became among the best-remembered verses of the War.  

Beatrix and her Mother, Mary Louise Brice Miller were mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s dispatch published in the London Gazette on 29th May 1917, among the names of the trained nurses and lady helpers to be honoured by the King in a special investiture in Hyde park on 2nd June.

In 1917 Beatrix organised a special pageant in the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate the battles of the original BEF and collaborated with General Sir William Pultenay in “The Immortal Salient” which was a record and guide to the Ypres.

In 1937 she worked on a documentary for the BBC about the fighting from Mons to Ypres from August to November 1914.   According to “The Times”, this was broadcast in August 1939.

After her death on 25th May 1959 at the age of 82, Beatrix left in her will a bequest to ensure the building of a memorial to the BEF, 1914.

 An e-mail from David Reynolds, Beatrix Brice Miller’s great nephew corrected my initial spelling of her name which he found through my weblog.  David continued:  “She wrote the poem that begins ‘Oh little mighty force that stood for England…’ in 1914 about the BEF.

It became quite famous and was a favourite among the old soldiers of those regiments, nicknamed ‘The Old Contemptibles”.  When she died, there was a memorial service at St. Martin in the Fields church.  I was a child and don’t remember much about it, except that the church was full of old soldiers in uniforms with medals.” 

Internet Sources:  “The Times” Archive 1959-06-24-12 and “British Journal of Nursing”, 2nd July 1917 and e-mail from David Reynolds

With thanks to Sue of The Scarlet Helpers website for  her help in finding out what 'Lady Helpers' were -