Thursday 20 December 2018

Margaret Widdemer (1884 - 1978) - American writer and poer

Margaret Widdemer was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, USA on 30th September 1884. She was raised and educated in Asbury Park, New Jersey, where her father, Howard T. Widdemer, was a Minister of the First Congregational Church. Margaret graduated from the Drexel Institute Library School in 1909. She first came to public attention with her poem “The Factories” abour child labour.

In 1919, Margaret married Robert Haven Schauffler.  She also won the Pulitzer Prize (known then as the Columbia University Prize) in 1919 for her collection “The Old Road to Paradise”. The Award was shared with writer, poet, editor, singer/songwriter Carl Sandburg for his poetry collection “Cornhuskers”.

Margaret's memoir “Golden Years I Had” recounts her friendships with writers Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T. S. Eliot, Thornton Wilder, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Margaret Widdemer died on 14th July 1978, leaving a legacy of novels, poems and children’s fiction.

“The Old Road to Paradise”

Ours is a dark Easter-tide,
  And a scarlet Spring,
But high up at Heaven-Gate
  All the saints sing,
Glad for the great companies
  Returning to their King.

Oh, in youth the dawn's a rose,
  Dusk's an amethyst,
All the roads from dusk to dawn
  Gay they wind and twist;
The old road to Paradise
  Easy it is missed!

But out on the wet battlefields,
  Few the roadways wind,
One to grief, one to death
  No road that's kind–
The old road to Paradise
  Plain it is to find!

(Martin in his Colonel's cloak,
  Joan in her mail,
David with his crown and sword–
  None there be that fail–
Down the road to Paradise
  Stand to greet and hail!)

Where the dark's a terror-thing,
  Morn a hope doubt-tossed.
Where the lads lie thinking long
  Out in rain and frost,
There they find their God again,
  Long ago they lost:

Where the night comes cruelly,
  Where the hurt men moan,
Where the crushed forgotten ones
  Whisper prayers alone,
Christ along the battlefields
  Comes to lead His own:

Souls that would have withered soon
  In the hot world's glare,
Blown and gone like shriveled things,
  Dusty on the air,
Rank on rank they follow Him,
  Young and strong and fair!

Ours is a sad Easter-tide,
  And a woeful day,
But high up at Heaven-Gate
  The saints are all gay,
For the old road to Paradise,
  That's a crowded way!

Original Source: Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)

Photograph from:

Thursday 13 December 2018

Edith Nesbit (1858 - 1924) – British writer and poet

Edith is on my list of Female Poets of the First World War because she is listed in Catherine Reilly’s work but I had not yet researched her.  My thanks to Connie Ruzich for her post about one of Edith’s poems (see below) on her weblog which reminded me that I had not yet researched Edith.

Edith Nesbit, who is perhaps best remembered for writing “The Railway Children”, was born in 1858 in Lower Kennington Lane, Kennington, Surrey. This area is now considered to be Inner London.  Edith’s parents were John Collis Nesbit, a chemist, and his wife, Sara Nesbit, nee Green.

Edith’s father died in March 1862. As her sister, Mary, was not in good health, the family travelled for several years and lived in Brighton, in Buckinghamshire, in France, in Spain and in Germany, before settling for three years at Halstead Hall in Halstead in Kent.  When Edith was in her teens, the family moved to Eltham which was in Kent but is now in South London.  They then lived in nearby Lewisham, Grove Park and Lee.

Edith married Hubert Bland, a bank clerk, in April 1880.  The marriage was not a happy one as Hubert had an affair which resulted in the birth of children which Edith adopted.

Edith had the following children: Paul Bland (1880–1940), to whom “The Railway Children was dedicated”; Iris Bland (1881-1950s); Fabian Bland (1885–1900); Rosamund Bland (1886–1950), to whom “The Book of Dragons” was dedicated, and John Bland (1898–1971), to whom “The House of Arden” and “Five Children and It” were dedicated.

After the death of Hubert, Edith married married Thomas "the Skipper" Tucker, whose nick-name referred to the fact that he was the Captain of the Woolwich Ferry.

Edith died in 1924 and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary in the Marsh.

“In Hospital”

Under the shadow of a hawthorn brake,
Where bluebells draw the sky down to the wood,
Where, 'mid brown leaves, the primroses awake
And hidden violets smell of solitude;
Beneath green leaves bright-fluttered by the wing
Of fleeting, beautiful, immortal Spring,
I should have said, 'I love you,' and your eyes
Have said, 'I, too . . . ' The gods saw otherwise.

For this is winter, and the London streets
Are full of soldiers from that far, fierce fray
Where life knows death, and where poor glory meets
Full-face with shame, and weeps and turns away.
And in the broken, trampled foreign wood
Is horror, and the terrible scent of blood,
And love shines tremulous, like a drowning star,
Under the shadow of the wings of war.

First published in “The Westminster Gazette” on 11th December 1915.

Edith’s WW1 collection was entitled “Many Voices – Poems” (Hutchinson, London, 1922).  Her poems were published in four WW1 anthologies.
“English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) – page 234

Photograph of Edith, photographer unknown, from

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Elsie Spence Rae (1898 - 1973) – Scottish poet

With many thanks to Dr Alison T. McCall, independent researcher, Kintore, for reminding me that I had not yet researched Elsie.  Dr. McCall has kindly sent me scans of some of Elsie's poems from her collection of WW1 poems.

Elsie was born in Banff, in the Banff and Buchan area of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on 16th November 1898. Her parents were John S. Rae, a grocer, and his wife Annie.  Elsie had the following siblings:  Annie, Kathy, John, William and Maggie.  Elsie studied at Aberdeen University and during the First World War, she served with the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse.

On 5th April 1921, Elsie married Robert Wilson.

Alison says: “Elsie Rae's poems are a mixture of Doric (broad Scots) and English.” 

Elsie’s WW1 poetry collection is “Private John M’Pherson and other war poems” (Aberdeen Daily Journal Office, Wyllie, Aberdeen, 1918)

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 260.  Poems from Elsie’s WW1 collection kindly supplied by Alison McCall

Sources:  Find my Past
Aberdeen University Memorial Roll 1914  - 1918)
Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 260.  Information about Elsie's marriage supplied by Dr. McCall.

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Remembering WW1 female poet Nadja (1895 - 1934) on the 84th anniversary of her death

Today (Wednesday, 3rd October 2018) marks the 84th anniversary of the death of WW1 poet Nadja. 

Born Louisa Nadia Green in Hampstead, UK in 1893, during the First World War, Nadja published three volumes of her poetry to be sold in aid of St. Dunstan's Home for Blind Soldiers (now called Blind Veterans UK) and The Star and Garter Home for Disabled Soldiers. 

In 1922, Nadja married Italian Marquess Pier Malacrida de Saint-August. She died in a motor car accident on her way home to London on Wednesday, 3rd October 1934.

Nadja is included in "Female Poets of the First World War: Volume Two" on pages 34 - 37).

Nadja's WW1 poetry collections were:  

 "Love and War: poems by Nadja" (Humphreys, London 1915)

"For Empire, and other poems" (Humphreys, London, 1916); and 

"The full heart: poems by Nadja" (Humphreys, London, 1919).

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

In memory of Nadja, we planted a Malmaison Rose which was her favourite flower.

You can find out more about Nadja, who was a member of the 'social elite' in the UK during the 1920s and 1930s here:

Thursday 6 September 2018

Beatrice Mary Smylie (1871 - 1961) - British

"A poet not on your list - Beatrice Mary Smylie" - from Felix via Twitter.  Beatrice was married to the poet Robert Smylie who was killed during the Somme Offensive on 14th July 1916.  Robert was featured in the 2016 exhibition of Poets, Writers and More of the Somme, 1916.  There is a book of that exhibition - Robert is on pages 29 - 30.

Beatrice was born in 1871 in Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset. She died in Cambridge on 31st March 1961 and was buried in Swaffam Bulbeck Cemetery, grave reference: 98032325.

Felix kindly sent me a scan of some of her poems, which I hope to type out and share with you shortly.

Many thanks, Felix.

Monday 30 July 2018

Virginie Élodie Marie Thérèse Demont-Breton known as Virginie Demont-Breton (1859 – 1935) – French artist and poet

Virginie Élodie Marie Thérèse Breton was born on 26th  July 1859 at Courrières, a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Hauts-de-France region of France.   Virginie’s father was the artist Jules Breton (1827-1906), and her uncle was the artist Emile Breton.

Beginning in 1879, Virginie exhibited examples of her work in Paris. She was awarded a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition held in Amsterdam in 1883. In 1880, Virginie married the artist Adrien Demont en 1880 and they had three daughters - Louise, Adrienne et Éliane.
 In 1890, Virginie and her husband moved to Wissant, a small village on the ‘Opal Coast’ in France between Capes Blanc-Nez and Gris-Nes.  The following year they had a house built by the Belgian architect Edmond De Vigne.

Virginie Demont-Breton joined the French Union of women artists and sculptors in 1883 and was President of the Union from 1895 until 1901.  In 1894, Virginie was awarded a Legion d’honneur.

Virginie died in Paris on 10th January 1935.

See some of Virginie’s beautiful paintings here:

Virginie’s poetry collection, “Tendresses dans la tourmente: 1914-1919 poésies”, was published by Alphonse Lemerre, Paris, 1920.  I am trying to find some of Virginie’s poems.  If anyone can help, please get in touch.

With thanks to Régine Verguier for finding Virginie for me

Virginie's most famous painting "L'Homme est en mer" - English translation 'Her husband is away at sea' evokes for me the sentiments of women during the Fist World War.

Thursday 12 July 2018

Message of encouragement from the Women's History Community

"Dear Lucy London and Female War Poets

Thank you for submitting your entry to the WHN Community Prize.  I am sorry to tell you that you were not one of our prize winners, but that the judges were impressed by your work to uncover previously forgotten / unacknowledged/ unpublished women poets. One of our judges commented that this was a really interesting topic and that on a very small budget, you had promoted and shared an area of women’s history that was not well known. Keep up the good work. 

All the very best

Professor Maggie Andrews on behalf of the Women's History Community History Prize Panel"

Thank you Professor Andrews and the Women's History Community History Prize Panel - my main aim is to spread the word about the amazing women of WW1.

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Celia, Lady Congreve (1867 – 1952) – British poet and WW1 nurse

Celia was born in India on 24th April 1867. She was baptised Cecelia Henrietta Dolores Blount la Touche on 3rd November 1867, in Rajkot, India, where her father was based.  Celia’s parents were Charles William Blount La Touche, a British Army Officer, and his wife, Rosa Wilhelmina, nee Müller.

On 3rd June 1890, Celia married Walter Norris Congreve VC KCB MVO (who was later knighted and became General Sir Walter Congreve), known as “Squibs” or “Old Concrete”, at St. Jude’s Church in Kensington, London, UK. Walter was an Army officer who served in the British Army during the Second Boer War and the First World War.  After WW1, he was General Officer Commanding the Egyptian Expeditionary Force between 1919 and 1923, Commander-in-Chief Southern Command between 1923 and 1924 and Governor of Malta from 1924 until his death in Malta in 1927.

Celia and Walter had the following children: William La Touche Congreve, VC, DSO, MC, Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur, Rifle Brigade, b. 1891 on the Wirral - William, known as “Billy”, was killed in action in 1916; Commander Sir Geoffrey Cecil Congreve, DSO, RN., b. 19th July 1897, who was killed in WW2, and Major Arthur Christopher John Congreve, b. 1903, who also served in the Second World War. Geoffrey Cecil Congreve was created a baronet of Congreve in the County of Stafford in July 1927.

In 1891, Celia was registered as living in Burton Hall (later Burton Manor), Burton, near Neston, Wirral, UK.

During the First World War, Celia served as a nurse in Belgium and France and was awarded the Reconnaissance Française and the Belgian Medaille de la Reine Elisabeth for being one of the last nurses to leave Antwerp with the wounded in 1914. She was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre for her bravery as a nurse at Rosières-aux-Salines, near Nancy, France.  The hospital was shelled and bombed by aircraft in 1918.

Celia died in Harrow on 4th September 1952.

Cellia’s WW1 poetry collection was “The Castle and other verses” (Humphreys, London, 1920).  One of her poems was included in “The Fiery Cross: An Anthology”, edited by Mabel C. Edwards and Mary Booth (Grant Richards, London, 1915) and, more recently, Dr Vivien Newman mentioned Celia in her book “Tumult and Tears:  The Story of The Great War through the eyes and lives of its women poets” (Pen & Sword History, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2016).

“Lay your Head on the Earth's Breast” by Celia Congreve

Lay your head on the Earth's breast and you will hear her crying,
Sobbing, softly, hopelessly, for her sons who are dead and dying.
Splendid and gay they are marching still to the music of bugle and band,
Bravest and best of my beautiful sons they are going from every land.
Are there none who will stay of all my sons? Must you all go?
Yes; all that you love, the pride of your eyes, Mother, you'd have it so.
Mangled and torn they lie in heaps, broken, dying and dead.
O scarlet blood of my splendid sons, you have dyed my green fields red.
What can I do for you, O my sons? My last, last gift is small,
A few poor sods to cover your heads and a scatter of snow o'er all.
Lay your head on the Earth's breast and you will hear her crying,
Grieving, softly, hopelessly, for her sons who are dead and dying.

Celia Congreve.  “Country Life”

From “The Fiery Cross” p. 92

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978).'s-Breast

Sunday 27 May 2018

Ella Higginson (1862 – 1940 ) - American

I find it very exciting to discover a WW1 female poet I have not heard of  and Ella Rhodes Higginson falls into that category.

With grateful thanks to Marielle Stockton, Research Specialist in the Library of American Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, USA, for her posts on Twitter, that led to the discovery of Ella Higginson and to an exchange of e-mails, to Dr. Laura Laffrado, Professor of English at Western Washington University and the Director of the Ella Higginson Recovery Project and to Debbie Cameron for reminding me to look at Twitter.

Ella was born in Kansas, the youngest of six children. Her parents were Charles Reeve Rhoads and his wife, Mary A. Rhoads.  Ella began writing poetry at an early age and had one of her poems – “Dreams of the Past” -  published in  “The Oregon City” newspaper in 1875.

Ella Rhoads married Russell Carden Higginson. He came from a prominent family on the east coast that had established themselves during America's colonial period. Russell Carden Higginson is a cousin of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the editor of Emily Dickinson's poetry. Ella is therefore relatec by marriage to the poet Mary Thacker Higginson, who was the wife of Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

During the First World War, Ella was a volunteer with the Bellingham Branchy of the American Red Cross and received the Red Cross Medal for her service.

“Song of the Evergreen Pine” is a poem that the Washington State Federation of Women’s Clubs asked Higginson to write for their 1915 convention. This poem appears in Ella Higginson: A Tribute, a slim volume published after her death in 1940 in which she selected many of the poems that would appear in it. This poem appears in no other books of Higginson’s.

The rivers to the ocean flow,
The sunsets burn and flee,
The stars come to the darkling sky,
The violets to the lea;
But I stay in one lone sweet place
And dream of the blue sea.

The harebell blooms and is away,
The salmon spawns and dies;
The oriole nests and is on the wing,
Calling her sweet good-bys;
But I, when blossoms and fruit are gone,
Yearn, steadfast to the skies.

I am a prayer and a praise,
A sermon and a song;
My leaf-chords thrill at the wind’s will
To nocturnes deep and strong;
Or to the sea’s far lyric melodies
They echo and prolong

When April flashing up the hill
Freshens my green attire,
I light my candle tall and pale
With holy scarlet fire—
And straight their incense mounts to God,
Pure as a soul’s desire.

My branches poise upon the air,
Like soft and living wings;
My trembling leaves the wind awakes
To a harp of emerald strings—
Or through the violet silences
A golden vesper sings.

I am a symbol and a sign . . .
Thro’ blue or rose or gray;
Thro’ rain and dark; thro’ storms of night,
Thro’ opaline lights of day—
Slowly and patiently up to God
I make my beautiful way.

“For Honor and for God” was printed on the front page of the Bellingham Herald on September 18, 1917. It was also published in a handbook of the Bellingham State Normal School, one of the state colleges for training teachers. This poem appears in no books of Higginson’s.

America, stand up! The time has come
      To blow shrill bugle-calls throughout this land.
      Drop the white flag of peace from they're firm hand,
And bid the long, wild rattle of the drum
Quicken the blood of men from shore to shore.
      Nations, on our swords gathered is no rust!
      Peace if it may be; red war if it must!
For we love peace—but we love honor more.

Fling out again o’er every battle-ship
      That old white flag with the inspired device—
      The pine-tree springing from the lowly sod
Thrilled big with prayer to its trembling tip!
      Then will the old fire melt these veins of ice,
      And we will fight—for honor and for God!

“God Has Not Spoken Yet” appears in the American Reveille in April of 1910, but in Ella Higginson: A Tribute the poem is reprinted and there it says that it was written in April of 1918. I believe that the poem was perhaps revised by Higginson and printed in a newspaper or periodical in 1918. This poem appears in no other books of Higginson’s.

God has not spoken yet!
The world’s dread horror struggles to its close;
Where France’s slopes today with blood are wet,
Next year will bloom the lily and the rose.

God has not spoken yet!
But when God speaks—whose side will God be on?
Will he the Invaders’ crimes forget,
Give night and shame, or Liberty and dawn?

God has not spoken yet—
But courage must not fail, nor faith grow weak;
To work! for Freedom’s sun must never set!
God has not spoken—but God will speak!

[under poem in type: “(Hohenzollern changed to Invaders.)—E. H.”] 

An interview with Dr. Laura Laffrado

Follow Marielle’s tweets here

The Photograph of Ella taken during the 1890s is from her Wikipedia entry (27 May 2018).

Friday 27 April 2018

Mary Symon (1863 – 1938) – Scottish Poet

With thanks to on Twitter for reminding me that I had not yet researched Mary Symon, who is on my List of Female Poets of the First World War.

Mary was born on 25th September 1863 in Dufftown, Moray in Banffshire, Scotland. Dufftown is in the ancient parish of Mortlach.  Her parents were John Symon, a Saddler and Merchant who was a Provost of Dufftown, and his wife, Isabella Symon, nee Duncan.  Mary had a younger sister, Elizabeth, who was born in 1866.

Mary began writing poetry at an early age. She was educated locally at Mortlach Public School, then attended the Edinburgh Institute for Young Ladies. She attended classes at Edinburgh University and graduated from St. Andrew’s University .

Mary died in Dufftown on 27 May 1938

Mary’s WW1 collection "Deveron Days, poems" was published by Wyllie, Aberdeen in 1933.  Mary's poem was also published in "A Book of Twentieth-Century Scots verse" (Gowan & Gray, Glasgow, 1925). 

For an article by Leanne Welsh about Mary’s poem "The Soldiers' Cairn", please see:

“The Soldiers' Cairn” by Mary Symon   

Gie me a hill wi' the heather on't,

An' a reid sun drappin' doon,

Or the mists o' the mornin' risin' saft

Wi' the reek owre a wee grey toon.

Gie me a howe by the lang Glen road,

For it's there 'mang the whin and fern

(D'ye mind on't, Will? Are ye hearin', Dod

That we're biggin' the Soldiers' Cairn.

Far awa’ is the Flanders land

Wi' fremmit France atween,

But mony a howe o' them baith the day

Has a hap o' the Gordon green.

It's them we kent that's lyin' there,

An' it's nae wi' stane or airn

But wi' brakin' herts, an' mem'ries sair,

That we're biggin' the Soldiers' Cairn.

Doon, laich doon the Dullan sings—

An' I ken o' an aul' sauch tree,

Where a wee loon's wahnie's hingin' yet

That's dead in Picardy;

An' ilka win' fae the Conval's broo

Bends aye the buss o' ern,

Where aince he futtled a name that noo

I'll read on the Soldiers' Cairn.

Oh! build it fine and build it fair,

Till it leaps to the moorland sky —

More, more than death is symbolled there,

Than tears or triumphs by.

There's the Dream Divine of a starward way

Our laggard feet would learn—

It's a new earth's corner-stone we'd lay

As we fashion the Soldiers' Cairn.




Lads in your plaidies lyin' still

In lands we'll never see,

This lanely cairn on a hameland hill

Is a' that oor love can dee;

An' fine an' braw we'll mak' it a',

But oh, my Bairn, my Bairn,

It’s a cradle’s croon that’II aye blaw doon

To me fae the Soldiers' Cairn.

 Photof of the Cairan - Cabrach War Memorial, Inverharroch, Aberdeenshire, Scotland 

This war memorial cairn was constructed in 2015 to commemorate the Cabrach men who died in The First World War. Erected in 2015 by the Cabrach Community Association, the cairn is known as 'The Soldier's cairn' and remembers the seventeen men from the community who lost their lives in the conflict. 

The cairn also remembers those who lost their lives in The Second World War and later conflicts. The inscription includes an extract from the poem by Mary Symon (1863-1938) 'The Soldier's Cairn'. It reads: In memory of those from the Cabrach lost in the great War 1914 - 18 and in all subsequent conflicts. Lads in your plaidies lyin’ still, In lands we’ll never see, This lanely cairn on a hameland hill, Is a’ that oor love can dee.

And Find my Past

Saturday 7 April 2018

Hannah Sarah Taylor, nee Lawson - A 'silver-haired' poetess

Meanwhile, over on Twitter, BlitzDetective has found me a WW1 female poet who entertained people sheltering in air raid shelters during the WW2 Blitz by reading her poems to them.  I am hoping to enlarge upon this find.

My grateful thanks to BlitzDetective for contacting me with such an amazing find: 
Hannah Sarah Lawson was born on 21st June 1867 in Camberwell, London, UK.  Her mother was nee Barnett.  In 1889, Hannah married John Harry Taylor and they had two children – Cyril, born 17th July 1902, and Alice.

During the Second World War, in an air raid shelter in Blenheim Grove, Peckham, UK, a make-shift brazier gave out warmth and light.  A few people got out of their bunks and gather quietly in the firelight.  A little silver-haired old lady was reading from a thick exercise book:

“Forward, onward, upward and though your heart may break,

 Faith can pierce the densest mist that hides the highest peak.

Then when your life’s work’s ended, and you cross death’s silver streak

Earth will be just a little better for your climb towards the peak.”  

“I wrote that in 1914”, said 73 year old Mrs Hannah Taylor in a report in the “South London Press” newspaper during WW2:

It’s nearly 60 years since this Peckham widow wrote her first poetry – it was blank verse - a small play inspired by a recitation she had heard.  The playlette is enacted for their own amusement by herself and a few friends in her home at King’s Cross.  Since then, during a busy life, as mother of five and wife of a hard-working husband, she has gradually filled the pages of a number of exercise books with neatly written plays and stanzas, ranging over all topics – moral, political and romantic.  Many of the people who listen to her poems while the Blitz rages outside, have heard her reciting from the platform at Co-operative and Band of Hope concerts.
They may also enjoy the drawings of 38-year old Cyril Taylor hung up on the walls of the air raid shelter as a background to his mother’s poetic evening.   She has a mother’s pride in them.
Mrs Taylor told a “South London Press” reporter who saw her at her home in Copleston Road, Peckham – she said “I have never tried to get any of my stuff published.  Whenever I have something to say, I put it into poetry.  Before the war, I recited my verses at a great many concerts.  Now I have taken the books in which they are written to a shelter for safety and read them at night as some like to listen.”

This woman who has dedicated her spare time to brightening the hours for others has a heart-ache of her own.  Each time the postman knocks at her house with its boarded windows, she hurries to scan the letter hoping it will contain news of her daughter, Alice and the Belgian husband with whom she returned to Belgium after the last war.  They had previously lived at Hannover Park, Peckham.  When they last wrote, the husband, Mr Theo Larsen, was Manager of the Carleton Hotel, Antwerp and their private address was Rue Berchemhoff, no. 5, Berchem, Province of Antwerp.  This letter said that the Germans had crossed the Belgian frontier.  No correspondence had followed.

“I have written to the Red Cross but they haven’t been able to help me”, says Mrs Taylor. “I keep wondering what has happened to my girl.”  Meanwhile, reading aloud by the brazier in the shelter, she tells Hitler
“Whatever you do to our people, however you smash London Town,
We still have Old England, our England, You can’t keep Old England down.”

From “The South London Press” during WW2.

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Exhibition of Poetry written by Schoolchildren during the First World War

My latest exhibition, which features Poetry Written by Schoolchildren in the UK during the First World War, is now on display at The Wilfred Owen Story in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK.  The exhibition was opened on 17th March 2018 (the day before Wilfred Owen's birthday) and a bust of Wilfred Owen sculpted by Anthony Padgett was unveiled on the same day by local MP Frank Field.  Here is a link to a BBC North West Tonight news report of the event:
Among the poets featured are the girl who went on to use the pen-name Temple Lane, the daughter of poet E.V. Lucas and the future wife of Geoffrey Faber who founded the publishing company Faber & Faber because she did not like the smell of the Faber family brewery.
Entry is free and the WOS is open from Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 noon until 2 pm (winter opening times) but it is advisable to phone first as the museum is manned by volunteers - 07903 337995. 
The Wilfred Owen Story,
34 Argyle Street,
Birkenhead, Wirral, UK,
CH41 6AE
Panels from previous exhibitions held at the WOS, including that featuring some of the poets involved in the Battles of Messines (Mesen), Passchendaele and after in 1917, Poets of the Battle of Arras in 1917, Poets of the Somme 1916, Female Poets of the First World War, Inspirational Women of World War One and Fascinating Facts of the Great War, are available to view on file at The Wilfred Owen Story.  Other exhibitions are planned.
Photo of the exhibition panels taken by Paul Breeze of

Thursday 15 March 2018

Alice R. Cron (1859 – 1935) – British

Alice was born Alice Rebecca Taylor in Hackney, London, UK in 1859.   Her parents were Robert Stephen Taylor and his wife Alice. Alice Rebecca had the following siblings:  Mary Louisa, b. 1861, Henry Morris, b. 1863, Annie E., b. 1858 and Catherine (Kitty), b. 1869

In 1880, Alice married a German national called James Philip Cron, a glove manufacturer.   In 1891 they lived in Heathland Road, Stoke Newington and in 1911 they lived in Amhurst Park, Stamford Hill, Hackney.

Alice died on 8th August 1935 and was buried in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington.

I would love to know more about Alice.  As she is described as a writer and poet on her headstone, I would love to find other poems written by Alice and to find a photograph of her. If anyone can help, please get in touch.

Alice’s poem (see left) “The Call of their King“ was published on page 46 of “One Hundred of the Best Poems on the European War, Volume 2 By women poets of the Empire“, edited by Charles Frederick Forshaw and published by Elliot Stock in 1916.  This WW1 anthology is available to read as a free down-load on Archive:

With grateful thanks to Marina Szijanto for reminding me that I had not yet researched Alice and for sending me the beautiful photograph of Alice’s headstone, which she recently visited.

Saturday 10 March 2018

A book about WW1 poet Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland - "The Hospital in the Oatfield: The Art of Nursing in the First World War

“The Hospital in the Oatfield:  The Art of Nursing in the First World War” Edited by Natasha McEnroe and Tig Thomas, published by The Florence Nightingale Museum, London, 2014. £7.99 from the Museum Shop.

“A physician gives his blessing, the surgeon does the operation.  But it is the nurse who does the work.”  Henry Souttar, Surgeon
In 1915, French artist Victor Tardieu painted some of the scenes at the Hospital in the Oatfield, organised by Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland in France in the early days of WW1. I found out about those paintings while researching women poets of the First World War for an exhibition in November 2012 – Millicent was among the first poets I researched.   The paintings were on display for sale at an auction house in London, so I was very pleased to learn that the Florence Nightingale Museum in London had purchased them.

I was even more delighted to find out that there is a book about the paintings – this is indeed good news for those unable to visit the Museum.  In this beautiful book, you will find a chapter about Victor Tardieu, as well as lovely colour prints of his paintings.

But this is not just a book about Tardieu’s paintings, or about Millicent Sutherland. Natasha McEnroe and Tig Thomas have done a brilliant and meticulous job of editing the eight guest-written chapters and ensuring continuity.  These articles are interspersed with brief quotes taken from diaries and records kept by nurses Olive Dent and Enid Bagnold at the time of WW1, together with some amazing black and white photographs, a large number of which were taken by Dr. Oswald Gayer Morgan who worked with the Duchess of Sutherland. 

The book begins with a Foreword by Millicent’s grand-daughter, Elizabeth Millicent, Countess of Sutherland.  Chapter 1, by Simon Chaplin and Natasha McEnroe, is about the Duchess and includes contributions from relatives of two of the doctors who worked with Millicent.  Chapter 2, by Emily Mayhew is about the nurses of WW1.  Chapter 3, about voluntary and professional nursing in WW1, is by the late Sue Light, whose website Scarlet Finders is a wonderful reminder of her work.  Chapter 4, by Eric von Arni, explains the work of The Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, while Chapter 5, by, Christine Hallett, is entitled “The Traumas of Conflict”.  Chapter 6,, by Danuta Kneebone, is about Tardieu and his paintings and Chapter 7, “The Stylish Nurse 1914 – 1918” by Frederic A. Shaarf and Jill Carey, tells us about some of the American nurses of WW1, what they wore and where the sourced their uniforms and leisure wear.

The final chapter of the book, “All the Living and all the Dead” by Holly Carter-Chappell, Collections Assistant at the Florence Nightingale Museum, describes the Victorian and Edwardian ways of mourning which changed dramatically during the war to end all wars and touches upon the collective mourning experienced in Britain that continues to this day, especially for those of us who have relatives killed in the conflict who have no known grave.

I found a lot of very interesting information in the book and it is hard to pick out just a few items for the purpose of this review.  A photograph of a nurse washing her hair using a bowl on page 19, answered a question I have asked for a long time.  I wondered how on earth the nurses managed to keep clean with their long skirts and long hair in the truly awful conditions they worked and lived in.  A photograph of the dismantling of the Hospital in the Oatfield in the autumn of 1915 on page 23 is also fascinating.

I was particularly interested in a detailed explanation of gas gangrene on page 8, followed by the Carrel-Dakin method of wound irrigation. There is a photograph of the system on page 9. 

It is also interesting to read about the recreational activities of the nurses, who worked very long hours in such difficult conditions but shocking to read of the number of nurses killed or drowned by enemy action during the war. 

The last, very positive word, goes to Olive Dent, one of the WW1 nurses quoted in the book, which I feel is very fitting.

With an Epilogue, Bibliography and brief biographies of contributors, this is a book you will want to refer to again and again and it is a fitting tribute to the wonderful women who nursed during the First World War.  When you compare the standards, facilities and medication of the 21st Century with what was available in the early days of the 20th Century, their work, the number of lives they saved against all odds and their dedication and good humour in the most awful conditions, becomes all the more remarkable.

Emily Edridge (1853 – 1939) – British

It is always exciting to discover a hitherto unknown poet and, thanks to a dear friend in America, here is another.

Emily Edridge was born on 21st January 1853 in Bilston, Staffordshire.  Her parents were Richard Edridge, a tea importer, and his wife Henrietta.  Emily had the following siblings:  Julia (b. 1852), Fanny (1855 – 1949), Alice (1859 – 1924) and Kate (b. 1856).  In 1911, the family lived in Tetterhall Road, Wolverhampton.

Educated at home, Emily demonstrated an aptitude for writing poetry and had her work published in local newspapers.  Her poetry collection “Winter Flowers and Other Verses” was published in 1932 and includes several poems about the First World War.

Russell Markland included an example of Emily’s work in his anthology “Staffordshire Poets” (1928), which was co-edited by Charles Henry Poole.

My grateful thanks to Mark for sending me this information about Emily. I am now looking for some of her poems.

Thursday 1 March 2018

Emma Wright Brown 1917

With sincere  thanks to Lynne Sidaway for sending me this poem from "The Times Despatch", Richmond, Virginia, USA of 2nd September 1917. Lynne tells me that the poem seems to have been entered into a competition organised by the newspaper:

"A Poem" by Emma Wright Brown

A soldier lay dying on the battlefield:
He had been shot by a German soldier,
A Red Cross nurse by him kneeled,
To see what was the matter.

He is dying” she said. “Oh , what shall I do,
“He will die if he stays here much longer”
A moment more she thought she knew
The poor dying soldier.

Again she looked into his face;
So peaceful and calm he lay.
She asked the Lord to give her grace
To save him another day.

She did not recognize him to be
Her only beloved brother
Who had been stolen away so long ago
From his poor old darling mother.

At once she noticed a scar on his leg
That was made during his childhood:
She knew now he must be her brother
So calm and peaceful and good.

The rain now began to fall
While mournings filled the air
Then he gave up!
And his last words were
Tell Mother I’ll be there.”

Emma Wright Brown

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Chris O'Hara's "Scars upon their Hearts" composition using women's poetry of WW1

North West composer Chris O'Hara approached me some years ago via this weblog, with regard to poetry written by women during WW1.  

Chris wanted to set some of the poems written by women to music and has now completed his work.  It is entitled "Scars upon their Hearts” and Chris selected the poems “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale,“The Dancers” by Edith Sitwell, “Perhaps” by Vera Brittain and “Rouen” by May Wedderburn Cannan.

"Scars upon their Hearts" will be premiered on 24th March 2018 during a commemorative concert organised by The Manchester Chorale.  The concert is to take place at Bury Parish Church, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 0AH.  The concert features Faure’s Requiem and begins at 19.30.

Tickets are £10 or £5 concessions on the door, from Bury Tourist Board at the Fusiliers Museum or via the Manchester Chorale website