Vera Brittain, feminist, poetess and war poet

Russell’s comment in his diary that Erskine Macdonald was “a clever but unprincipled man” attracted my attention and piqued my interest, for Macdonald was of course the publisher of “The Glory of Belgium” He also records that Macdonald had settled his claim and that the Poetry Society was now seeking his assistance with regard to similar claims of their own, which led me to thinking “hello. hello, what was all this then”?

My research discovered that Erskine Macdonald on occasion used an alias, Galloway Kyle, and was considered by contemporaries to be a mountebank, often withholding royalties from authors. At this time, a young feminist poetess, Vera Brittain got wind of this and withdrew from a contract with him. Brittain’s subsequent career is legendary, I discovered. Her daughter, Shirley Williams, inherited so much of this mantle, I feel.

Her literary talent apart, she is linked to Russell Markland by family marriages and this kinship can be traced further through my listing of the Groves family that follows later. My wife, our children and their children share these genes. Your scribe’s are more prosaic – see Ducking and Diving in the index.

What has turned up in my research, which I find intriguing, is that Vera Brittain of whom I shamefully confess to have had scant prior knowledge, died within a mile of where I have lived for the past 50 years. Research shows that she died 29th March 1970 in a nursing home, 15 Oakwood Rd, Wimbledon, recorded as West Wimbledon.

I know of no Oakwood Rd Wimbledon, SW19. but I do know Oakwood Rd SW20. Hyacinth Buckets and estate agents. might call it West Wimbledon but oldies , the train station, and I hazard the Vera Brittains, still call it Raynes Park, so there.

Brittain and Freston both responded to what they felt was a deeply held call of duty, The former to return to Oxford University, the latter to perish in France.

Both are recorded in their College archives, one Sommerville the other Exeter.