Saturday 6 April 2024

Mildred Huxley (? - ? ) - possibly British - no apparent link to Aldous Huxley

While trying to find out if the author Aldous Huxley wrote any poems during the First World War, I discovered another female WW1 poet but cannot find out any definite information about Mildred - whether Huxley was her maiden name, married name or a pen name... However, it would seem from the following poem that she may have been British. 

 If anyone can help please get in touch. 


And I — I watched them working, dreaming, playing,

⁠Saw their young bodies fit the mind's desire,

Felt them reach outward, upward, still obeying

⁠The passionate dictates of their hidden fire.

Yet here and there some greybeard breathed derision,

⁠"Too much of luxury, too soft an age!

Your careless Galahads will see no vision,

⁠Your knights will make no mark on honour's page."

No mark? - Go ask the broken fields in Flanders,

⁠Ask the great dead who watched in ancient Troy,

Ask the old moon as round the world she wanders

⁠What of the men who were my hope and joy!

They are but fragments of Imperial splendour,

⁠Handfuls of might amid a mighty host,

Yet I, who saw them go with proud surrender,

⁠May surely claim to love them first and most.

They who had all, gave all. Their half-writ story

⁠Lies in the empty halls they knew so well,

But they, the knights of God, shall see His glory,

⁠And find the Grail ev'n in the fire of hell.

Mildred Huxley


"Shadows" (Mar 1910)

"World Conquerers" (May 1911)

"Recalled" (Aug 1911)

"Big Boy's Lullaby" (Mar 1912)

"On the New Road" (Oct 1912)

"As a Man Soweth" (Jun 1913)

"Subalterns: a song of Oxford" (Sep 1916)


From A Treasury of War Poetry, ... 1914-1919 (1917):

"Subalterns", p. 127; "To My Godson", p. 401.

According to Catherine W. Reilly in her fantastic book “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978), on p 177,  Mildred Huxley had a poem or poems published in 8 WW1 anthologies.

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Olive L. Gillespie (1889 - ?) - Canadian. A poem written in memory of her brother Fred Learn kia in France 1918

With thanks to Dave Barlee for sending us this information. Dave says:  “I’m doing some research on soldiers in Crouy British Cemetery and came across the story of Private Fred Learn of 52nd Battalion Canadian Infantry and discovered this poem written in his honour by his sister.”



Written in memory of Fred H. Learn, who died of wounds on 8th August 1918, in France, by his sister, Olive L. Gillespie, 595 Rathgar Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Beneath a bed of poppies red, he sleeps – and knows no pain,

Not the troubled sleep of the fighting ones, where battles are fought in the brain.

No roar of guns, nor flash of fire, can disturb his peaceful rest

For he sleeps in the arms of “Mother Earth”, while she folds him to her breast.

For us ‘tis hard to understand, why life ceased, ‘ere it scarce begun,

And over many a cherished plan, dark clouds covered his sun.

Not now, but perhaps in future years, we’ll sometime understand

Why he was called from life so soon, to answer the “Last Command.”

I would that our tears could atone, for the precious blood he shed,

But the poppies over him will bloom, poppies bright as his blood was red.

He died a hero for Freedom’s cause, and nobly he answered the call,

Like many a one, who has gone before, he was glad to give his all.

And though we grieve in our earthly way, for the one lost for a little while,

It won’t be long ‘ere he welcomes us, with the “Sunshine of his Smile.”

Dave has researched the Learn family:

Frederick Harding Learn was born on 18th October 1889 in Aylmer, Ontario, Canada.  His parents were Charles Arthur Learn and his wife, Ella May Learn, nee Fitch, who were married on 19th March 1884 in Yarmouth Township.  

Charles was born in Yarmouth about 1871, the son of Charles and Harriet Learn, and was living in Port Stanley at the time of his marriage.  He was a fruit grower and market gardener.  Ella May Fitch was born in Nova Scotia about 1875, the daughter of Theodore and Lydia Trena Fitch.  She was living in Yarmouth at the time of her marriage.

Charles & Ella are found on the 1891 Yarmouth Township census (Div. 1, page 51).  They have not been located on the 1901 or 1911 census.  They had at least one other child, Olive Pearl, born June 15, 1888 in St. Thomas.

Fred moved to Winnipeg where he is found on the 1911 census, age 21. He was lodging at the Y.M.C.A., and was employed in a jewelry store.

Fred enlisted for service on 19th January 1916 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  He was living at Ste. 10, Ashland Court, Winnipeg, and was working as an optical stock keeper.  He had previously served two years with the 90th Winnipeg Rifles.  He lists his next of kin as his mother, Mrs. Ella Mae Learn, of the same address.

Information gathered by the Elgin Military Museum states that Pte. Learn served in the 144th Battalion in Canada, and the 52nd Battalion in France.  He was wounded at Amiens.

Fred died on 8th August 1918 at the age of 28.  He was serving with the 52nd Battalion of Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment). He is buried in Crouy British Cemetery, Crouy-sur-Somme, France.

A photo of Fred accompanying the following notice of his death appeared in the Aylmer Express, September 5, 1918:

Pte. Fred H. Learn, son of Charles A. Learn, and grandson of C. O. Learn, of this place, who was killed in action on August 8th, in France.  Pte. Learn went to school in Aylmer, but enlisted with a Winnipeg battalion, in which city he was living some two years ago.  He has been in France for many months, and has seen some hard fighting.  He always wrote a very cheery letter home, and was hoping to return to Canada to be married soon.  A letter written but a short time before his death appears in another column of this issue

The above mentioned letter was printed in the same issue of the Aylmer Express:


He was Killed in France, August 8th

The following is the last letter written his father, Charles A. Learn, of this place, before me made the supreme sacrifice.  A trench card stated he was well and dated August 7, the day before he died, was received on Tuesday.

Base, France, July 20, 1918

Dear Dad:

Yours of June 5th came a couple of days after I had written my last letter to you.  In your letter you refer to doing of which you have read and I have escaped, if you want to call it an escape, but it doesn’t worry us any, and your old saying about the “miss being as good as a mile”.    I hear good reports of the excellent crop conditions in your part of the Dominion and know how very busy you must be now, and I wish you all good wishes for a very successful year.   Regret to hear of grandfather’s poorly condition and trust he improves because I want him to be well when I get home so we can take a nice walk, and enjoy a cigar, etc.  You will have to congratulate Lou Winder for me on his latest move and I trust I will be doing the same as soon as it is possible, and it doesn’t look very far away just now. 

It is indeed nice to hear of my old friends and Claude Monteith is still in the old town.  Give them my very best regards. 

I did have a fine time where I was but am badly bent just now, however, I will recover, but it is a grand place to enjoy one’s self, when the dough is plentiful.

Will be dangling along some of these fine days and you will know I am always with you all in thought, and think of you many times.

Am on guard tonight, so it gives a fellow a little time for writing.  It has just gone eleven o’clock and all is quiet and peaceful. I wrote grandfather and grandmother a short while ago, and hope the letter arrived safely. Trust this letter finds all well both in London and Aylmer and in closing, my kindest regards to the old friends and much love to you and all.

Ever your loving son,

Fred H. Learn,

Crouy British Cemetery, Crouy-sur-Somme, France.


Service Number: 829442

Canadian Infantry 52nd Bn.

Date of Death 08 August 1918

Age 27 years

Buried or commemorated at


Grave Reference: V. A. 18.

Preliminary Source:  Information supplied by Dave Barlee

Additional information from:

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Eloise A. Skimings (1837 - 1921) – Canadian poet, author, newspaper columnist, musician, music teacher and composer

With thanks to Historian Lizbet Tobin for finding this poet for us 

Born in Goderich, Ontario, Canada on 29th December 1837, Eloise’s parents were James Skimings and his wife, Mary Rielly Mason Skimings. Eloise had two brothers - William and Richard - and one sister, Emma Jane, who died when she was two years old.

Eloise became the Principal of Goderich School and wrote for the local newspaper.  She started writing poetry and songs long before WWI and worked as a columnist for the “Clinton News-Record” newspaper. Described as “one of Goderich’s best-known citizens” and “The Poetess of Lake Huron”, Eloise had a profound influence on future generations of women in South Western Ontario. 

Eloise was still writing in 1918 and the local museum has updated their search options for some of her collected material :

Eloise died at House of Refuge in 1921 and is buried at the Maitland Cemetery in Goderich, ON. Her obituary was published in the “Clinton News-Record”.

The archive resource at the Huron County Museum consists of textual records and other material created and accumulated by Eloise A. Skimings during her career as a newspaper correspondent, teacher, poet, and composer in Goderich.  Eloise received a great deal of correspondence and letters, including thank-you letters, letters from her family and friends, news correspondence from her time at the “Clinton News-Record”, and payments for her poetry book. Some of these letters were written by well-known people of the time, from political figures to royalty. A finding aid can be found on the Museum’s website – Huron County Archives | Huron County Museum - for researchers interested in reading more.

I am still trying to find poems by Eloise written about or during the First World War.  In the meantime, here is a poem she wrote and sent to Princess Patricia of Connaught:

Princess Patricia of Connaught (1886 - 1974)

Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth was one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters.  She was born on 17th March 1886 in London.  Her Mother was Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia and her Father was Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.   Princess Patricia was a bridesmaid at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York – the future King George V and Queen Mary.

Princess Patricia travelled with her family to Canada in 1911 when her Father was appointed Governor General of Canada.   Her portrait was on the One Dollar note of the Dominion of Canada issued in March 1917.  

When the War broke out, Canada answered the call immediately. Montreal millionaire  Andrew Hamilton Gault – who had served with the Royal Canadian Rifles in South Africa – decided to found a unit of elite troops who had already experienced action. He raised a regiment of light infantry and asked permission to use Princess Patricia’s name.  So Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry came into being and the Princess was their Colonel-in-Chief until her death.  She designed and embroidered a banner for the regiment to carry into battle  Princess Patricia also designed the cap badge and collar badges for the regiment – depicting a single daisy, in honour of Hamilton Gault’s wife, Marguerite.


Saturday 20 January 2024

Gladys L.H. Cromwell (1885 – 1919) – American poet and WW1 Red Cross worker

With thanks to Yvonne Fenter for finding this poet and to Connie Ruzich for reminding me that I had not yet posted Yvonne’s findings.

I wrote briefly about the Cromwell twins for my Inspirational Women of World War One weblog in July 2014

Gladys L.H.  and Dorothea K. Cromwell were twin sisters, born in Brooklyn in 1885. Educated at private schools in New York City, they then studied and travelled abroad. They were descendants of Oliver Cromwell and were women of great wealth, each having inherited a fortune from their father, who served as a trustee of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York City.

The twins volunteered together for the American Red Cross in the First World War. They went to work in France, near the front at Chalons-sur-Marne and Verdun, in a canteen and as nurses. Harriet Rogers, assistant head of the canteen, described the Cromwell twins as follows: “They are angels who not only do first-class work on day or night service, but also find time to visit the soldiers in the French hospitals and to befriend the little French refugee children. Everybody loves them and admires their efficiency and courage in real danger.”

In the Biographical Note to Gladys’s book of poems, published in 1919, their Red Cross work in France is described as follows:

"For eight months they worked under fire on long day and night shifts; their free time was filled with volunteer outside service; they slept in “caves” or under trees in a field; they suffered from the exhaustion that is so acute to those who have never known physical labor; yet no one suspected until the end came that for many months they have believed their work a failure, and their efforts futile. . . . overwhelming strain and fatigue had made them more weary than they realized, and the horrors of conditions near the Front broke their already overtaxed endurance."

The Cromwell twins became celebrities in France. And they were happy to continue their work there, even after the armistice of 11th November 1918 had ended combat. But their only brother, Seymour, urged them, with the war having ended, to come home, and they relented, boarding the SS La Lorraine on 19th January 1919, at Bordeaux Harbou r, for the voyage back to their home in New York City.

United States Army Private Jack Pemberton was on duty on the upper deck of the La Lorraine the night it started for America. As he huddled against a brisk wind and a cold mist, he saw two women, each wearing a black cape, walking arm-in-arm, talking. They then separated, and one of the women climbed atop the ship’s rail, then disappeared. The second woman followed, also climbing the rail and disappearing into the blackness. Pemberton heard two faint splashes below. He ran to the corporal in charge of sentries, who alerted the bridge, and the alarm was sounded. But it took 15 minutes, during which the ship traveled 5 miles, before the ship could be slowed. By that time the river channel was too narrow for the ship to turn around and search for bodies.

In New York, their brother, Seymour (who died in 1925 and is buried in section 70, lot 1792), who served as the president of the New York Stock Exchange, was unconvinced when word arrived of their deaths and the possibility that they had been suicides. He had received what he described as “a cheerful letter” from them just a week before they were to sail. Two days after the La Lorraine sailed, he had received a cable from the sisters stating that they had missed that ship and would be sailing soon on another ship. He had cabled French organizations for more information, but it had been slow in coming. When his inquiry to the shipping line was forwarded to the captain of the La Lorraine, the captain had cryptically cabled back that the sister’s baggage was in their state room, but they were not on board. But then came information that a note had been found in their stateroom, addressed to the head of their Red Cross unit, stating that they intended to “end it all.” Friends confirmed that both had complained of being tired, both physically and mentally.

Many witnesses aboard the Lorraine reported that one of the sister had been extremely unhappy. According to a report in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, four people on the Lorraine saw the sisters jump to their death. On January 26, The New York Times reported that the police commissioner of Bordeaux had confirmed that their deaths were by suicide.

It appears that the Cromwell twins, subjected to the horrors of war, ranging from shelling to dealing with the carnage of the injured and dead–had been the victims of shell shock, a term that emerged with the horror of World War I–what today we would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Miss Rogers, their Red Cross supervisor, was quoted, in what certainly sounds a bit quaint and uninformed today, given what we know about PTSD and its impact on even the toughest of individuals, mistakenly attributing their shell shock to their “sympathetic” nature: “If they suffered a nervous reaction after the great need for effort was over, the same thing occurred to some of the best men in the allied armies. Such souls, who, besides giving their best in service, are too sympathetic to endure the sufferings of others, are entitled not only to our warmest sympathies, but our truest admiration.”

A memorial service was held at St. Bartholemew’s Church in Manhattan on  5th February.  Many Red Cross nurses in uniform and prominent society people attended.

The bodies of Gladys and Dorothea Cromwell were recovered on 20th March. Both Cromwell sisters were awarded France’s Croix de Guerre and were burried with full military honours in Surennes American Cemetery, on a hill overlooking Paris. The cemetery is the final resting place of 1,541 Americans who died during The First World War and a place of remembrance for 974 Americans who were lost at sea, as well as for 24 American soldiers who have no known grave and are “known only to God.”

Gladys Cromwell’s poem “The Extra”

Sheltered and safe we sit.

Our chairs are opposite;

We watch the warm fire burn

In the dark. A log I turn.

Across the covered floor

I hear the quiet hush

Of muffled steps; the brush

Of skirts; — then a closing door.

Close to you and me

The clock ticks quietly.

I know that we exist

Two entities in Time.

Our vital wills resist

Enclosing night; our thoughts

Command a Truth above

All fear, in knowing Love.

But a voice in the street draws near;

A wordless blur of sound

Breaks like a flood around:

“Trust not your hopes, for all are vain,

Trust not your happiness and pain,

Trust not your storehouses of grain,

Trust not your strength on land or sea,

Trust not your loves that come and go,

Trust only the hate of the unknown foe,—

War is the one reality.”

Are we awake or dreaming?

On the hearth, the ashes are gleaming.

Listen, dear:

The clock ticks on in the quiet room,

It’s all a joke, a poor one, too.

Or else I’m mad! This can’t be true?

I light the lamp to lift the gloom.

My world’s too good for such a doom.

One fact, if nothing else, I know,

I’ll die sooner than have it so!

            — Gladys Cromwell

From: “Poems” by Gladys Cronwell, published in 1919

In his introduction to Gladys’s poems, Padraic Colum wrote about the Cromwell twins:

“A year ago the soldiers in the Chalons section were speaking of herself and her sister (two beings indeed with a single soul) as “the Saints.” The government of France recognized their devotion and the worth of their service by the decoration it gave. These sisters were like twin spirits caught into an alien sphere, strangely beautiful and strangely apart, and the heavy and unimaginable weight of the world’s agony became too great for them to bear.”

Read more of Gladys’s poems here