Friday 17 April 2015

Irene Butler (1901 - 1944)

Irene was born on 18th March 1901 in Wooler, Northumberland.  Her mother was descended from Count St Paul of the Austrian Empire and her paternal grandmother was Josephine Elizabeth Grey, a Victorian feminist. Irene attended Downe House School, where she was a friend of Jocelyn Ashley Dodd. 

After the war, Irene worked as private secretary to Lord Robert Cecil a former cabinet minister of the British Government.   Irene never married and died on 12th June 1944 near Chard in Somerset.

I receive quite a lot of feedback about my work.   I particularly liked the following comment from a lady called Elliott, who contacted me about Volume 1 of "Female Poets of the First World War":

"My favourite poem is "An English Victory" (on page 44) by Irene Butler who was a pupil at Downe House School during The First World War.   

One of my all-time favourite poets was Ian Curtis from the band Joy Division.  The moment I read Irene's poem it reminded me of much of Ian's work and I feel it is really something that a schoolgirl from 1914 could have such a similar style as a young man in the 1970s."

"An English Victory"

A Cavalry soldier is charging,
A Highlander runs by his side,
Both men are bent on enlarging
The gap in the hosts spreading wide.

Spreading wide in the Fair land of France
The mammoth-like hosts of the Huns,
Destroying with bayonet and lance,
With rifles and swords and with guns.

See how they fly in disorder,
Their hosts have diminished in size,
They fly as far as the border,
And vanish before our eyes.

They vanish for they are defeated,
Not a single soldier stands,
The Cavalry officer seated
On his horse, with his friend shakes hands.

Then may all the brave sons of Our Empire,
Who come from the country and street,
Desire their fame to rise higher,
And for Germany's army - defeat.

Written in Autumn 1914 by Irene Butler from Wooler, Northumberland.

With many thanks to Downe House School for permission to feature some of the poems written by pupils during the First World War in this commemorative exhibition project which is in loving memory of my Grandfather, an Old Contemptible who survived the war, and my Great Uncle, who was killed at Arras on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917 - the same day as Forgotten Poets of the First World War Edward Thomas and R.E. Vernède.

Photo:  Irene Butler

Tuesday 14 April 2015

York Castle Museum Commemorative WW1 Exhibition

Many thanks to Andrew Wingrove who is writing a book about the First World War Hospital Ships of the Grand Fleet.  He visited York Castle Museum's commemorative exhibition and sent me some photos of the Female Poets of the First World War section which is in the Community Room at the museum.   Andrew tells me they have also used the recordings of poems I did for the exhibition.

To find out more about York Castle Museum's exhibition:

Andrew's amazing Facebook Page:

Sunday 12 April 2015

A poem by Nadja (Malacrida) in honour of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

For the post about Nadja Malacrida please see


Dedicated in sincere admiration to the Officers and Men of the 2/7 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

ONWARD to victory, on ever splendid,
Fluttering ribbons and pipes all ablaze,
Steady, unfaltering is the way wended,
Dogged, unflinching each calm, manly gaze.

On, ever on whilst the pibrochs are playing,
March to the lilt of those strains that can thrill,
Somewhere at home there are hearts that are praying,
Somewhere ahead there are hands that will kill.

On, ever onward with kilts proudly swinging,
On, ever on in that same level stride,
Songs of the Highlands and Home ye are singing
Men of her glory and Sons of her pride.

On then;  before you the colours are gleaming,
See that their honour be ever maintained,
So to all ages these words shall come streaming
'Argyll and Sutherlands, Vict'ry is gained!'

First published in Nadja Malacrida's anthology "For Empire and Other Poems", 1916, London, Arthur L. Humphreys, which was sold in aid of St. Dunstan's Home for Blind Soldiers in London and The Star and Garter Home for disabled soldiers in Richmond.

With thanks to Professor Brian Murdoch of Stirling University for bringing the long-forgotten work of Nadja Malacrida to my attention.  

Friday 10 April 2015

International Conference on the Legacy of WW1, The Hague, The Netherlands, June 2015

News just in from Chris Spriet:  an exciting initiative is scheduled to take place in the historic city of The Hague in The Netherlands towards the end of June 2015.

An International Conference on THE LEGACY OF WORLD WAR ONE will be held from 22nd - 26th June. Participants will reflect on a wide range of subjects, exchanging and formulating thoughts and views on ways to remember the Great War today and in the years to come.

The Conference will feature a host of top specialists and authorities in several fields of research from over 20 countries worldwide.

Apart from being an occasion which offers ample opportunity for discovering new fields of research, the Conference will most certainly offer opportunities galore for finding and exchanging information on the different fields in which everyone is studying the legacy of that Tragedy of Tragedies that was and remains the First World War.

For further information and all details on the programme see: The e-mail address is

Chris Spriet
(one of the) keynote speaker(s) on the Conference   

"We aged a hundred years" ('Wij warden honderd ajar outer) is the title of Chris Spriet's WW1 Anthology, which I reviewed for my weblog in November 2013 -

The anthology title is the first line of the poem "In Memoriam, July 19, 1914" written by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1899 - 1966), which is featured on page 48 of the anthology.  Opposite, on page 49, Chris has translated Anna's poem into Dutch.

Monday 6 April 2015

Announcement: Lady Jennifer MacLellan agrees to be our Honorary President

Lady Jennifer MacLellan

It is with great pleasure that we announce that Lady Jennifer MacLellan has agreed to be the Honorary President of our Association Female Poets, Inspirational Women and Fascinating Facts of the First World War.   

Lady MacLellan is the daughter of Forgotten Poet of the First World War Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Casson (1889 - 1944) who fought in both World Wars.  She edited and published some of her father's poems in a booklet that was on sale at Craiglockhart in Edinburgh.  Dean Johnson of the Wilfred Owen Story museum in Birkenhead (Wirral Peninsula, UK) visited Craiglockart (now a campus of Edinburgh University) with "Bullets and Daffodils", his musical drama about Wilfred Owen who met Siegfried Sassoon while they were both receiving treatment at the hospital.   Knowing that I would be interested, Dean brought me a copy of Stanley Casson's poems and I contacted Lady MacLellan to ask permission to write up an exhibition panel about Lt. Col. Casson.

Lady MacLellan very kindly replied, giving me a great deal of information about her father, so we asked her if she would like to be the Association's Honorary President and are delighted to announce that she has accepted.

The Link with Rupert Brooke

After the First World War, Stanley Casson was working in Athens when he was approached by a friend at the British Legation regarding the placing of a tomb over the grave of Rupert Brooke.   Rupert Brooke was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a Sub-Lieutenant, joining the Hood Battalion, 2nd Brigade, R.N. Division.  He took part in the Royal Naval Division's expedition to Antwerp in Belgium in 1914. Rupert's Division was en route for Gallipoli in a liner operated by the Union-Castle Line called the "Grantully Castle" that had been converted into a troopship.  The flotilla of 200 odd ships that set sail from Avonmouth near Bristol in 1915 included the Dreadnought Battleship "The Prince George". The "Grantully Castle" put into Treis Bouke Bay on the Greek Island of Skyros, as the anchorage at Lemnos was already full of ships.  Skyros is to the east of the mainland of Greece and is one of the Sporades Archipelago in the Aegean Sea (sporades being Greek for "those scattered").

According to the log of the French hospital ship in which Rupert was treated, during manoeuvres on the Island of Skyros he was bitten by a mosquito and his health deteriorated considerably.  Lady MacLellan tells me that Rupert was already ill by the time he reached the Island, having been suffering from a fever and dysentery since the ships put in to Cairo in Egypt.  He was transferred by cutter to the French Naval Hospital Ship "Duguay-Trouin", a converted French Naval destroyer, for treatment but he died on 23rd April 1915. See post on of 1st March 2015.

Under orders to depart for Gallipoli, Brooke's friends in the Division had buried him hastily in a secluded dell - an Olive grove three hundred feet above sea level, surrounded by olive trees and bordered with the lovely flowers that bloom in Greece in springtime - in which the troops had stopped to rest during their manoeuvre exercises. The ceremony was very moving with his friends from the Division present, among them Patrick Shaw-Stewart who was a member of the firing party.

Determined that he should have a proper grave after the war, Rupert's mother commissioned marble to be specially sculptured in Athens and taken to Skyros. And so it was that Casson was the man who, with his knowledge of Greek sculpture, organised and supervised the construction and transport of the two and a half tons of marble and iron railings that you will see if you visit Brooke's grave today.

The logistics of the operation are quite remarkable and are detailed in a book called "Steady Drummer" written by Stanley Casson and published in 1935 by G. Bell of London.   Lady MacLellan has kindly sent me a copy of the section concerning the grave of Rupert Brooke.  Casson had to hire a boat to transport the marble, then get to the island himself.  Once there, he had to build a small quay for the unloading of the seven or so crates containing the marble.  Once on land, there was the problem of getting the crates up the hill to the site of the grave via the only road which was a rough goat track.

Nothing daunted, Casson cut wooden rollers from pine trees and began to level the track by removing outcrops of rock on the path.   That alone took over a week.   Then the crates had to be pushed up the track and Casson mentioned how much he admired and respected the architects of Stonehenge.  During the evenings, Casson spent time with his hosts the local shepherds and goatherds on the island who offered him hospitality and shelter in their shack.   After a supper of bread and milk, they would sit round an open fire, taking about the war with the shepherds, some of whom had served in a Greek Division sent to Odessa with other Allied troops.

Returning briefly to Athens to fetch some tools to complete the task, Casson enlisted the help of Norman Douglas.  The pair returned to Skyros and oversaw the completion of the laying of marble tomb over Brooke's grave.  Finally, Casson had the tomb consecrated by the head of the local monastery of St. George.

Casson reflected sadly: "I wondered what Brooke would have thought to see this strange assembly. I came away sadly to think that here was still another of my generation accounted for.  It was a lonely world now for men of my age."  

With grateful thanks to Lady Jennifer MacLellan for agreeing to become the Honorary President of our Association, for sending me so much information and for her help and encouragement.

Photograph of Lady MacLellan taken by her Grandson.

Photograph of Rupert Brooke's grave from Google Images.

Map of Greece showing the Islands of Skyros and also Lemnos where some of the wounded from Gallipoli were taken for treatment.