Monday, 12 September 2016

Vera Barclay Update

My grateful thanks to those wonderful researchers Debbie Cameron and Jane Crossen who spotted Vera's grave recently.  Jane has taken some photos of Vera's grave.

I never realised until I read up about Vera that DIB DIB DIB was in fact 'Do Your Best' and DOB DOB DOB was 'Do Our Best'.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Vera Charlesworth Barclay (1893 - 1989) – British writer; co-founder of the Cubs (Scout Movement)

Vera used the pen-names Margaret Beech, Vera Charlesworth, Hugh Chichester

 “It is impossible for a woman, however observant, however experienced who has not been a boy, to understand, to be in tune with, the boy’s mind.  J.S. Wilson in the preface to “The Scout Way”, 1919, one of Vera’s many published works.

An e-mail from writer Fiona Mercey suggesting that I include Vera in my Inspirational Women of World War One exhibition prompted me to look into Vera’s fascinating life.

Vera was born in Hartford, Hertfordshire, UK on 10th November 1893. Her father was the Reverend Charles Wright Barclay, a Church of England Minister, and his wife, Florence Louisa Charlesworth, a writer.  Vera’s siblings were Magdalen (b. 1882), Muriel (b. 1883), Cyril (b. 1884), Ursula (b. 1886), Guy (b. 1887), Claudia (b.1895) and Angela (b.1900).  In 1901, Vera's father was Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Little Amwell, Hertford.  The girls were educated at home by a governess.

The family travelled regularly to Switzerland where Vera liked skiing and sledging.  She was one of the first women to try the Cresta Run.  At that time it was still unusual for women to wear anything but long dresses, so Vera's sporting outfits were skirts or riding breeches.  Vera injured her knee during one of those vacations.

Vera’s mother Florence became ill and was bed-ridden for a while.  During that time she began writing novels and in 1910 had a novel published that became No. 1 best-seller in America.

In 1912 Vera joined the Scout Movement, which began with a camping trip to Brownsea Island in Dorset in the summer of 1907 organised by Lieutenant-General Robert Baden Powell.  Baden Powell came up with the idea of the Scouts after successfully employing school boys as assistants during the siege of Mafeking in the Boer War in 1900.

Vera soon became one of the first Scoutmistresses.  She also noticed the eagerness of younger boys to emulate the older boys who were members of the Scout movement as their regular meetings looked like fun and decided to do something about it.

During the First World War, Vera volunteered to work with the Red Cross and went to the Red Cross Hospital in Netley, Hampshire.  

In 1916, encouraged by Baden Powell, Vera came up with the idea of having a similar group for younger boys and on 16th June 1916 the Wolf Cub section was formed at Caxton Hall in London.   Baden Powell used the ideas of his friend Rudyard Kipling in his “Jungle Book”.

Vera resigned from her nursing job, which had become more difficult due to her earlier knee injury, and concentrated on organising Cub packs in Britain.  Between 1923 and 1926, she went to Chamerande in France to set up Cub and Scout packs and train leaders. Vera went to live in France in 1931, returning to Britain in around 1939.

Retiring to Sheringham in Norfolk to be cared for by her niece, Vera died in Sheringham's St. Nicholas Nursing Home in 1989 and is buried in Sheringham Cemetery.

Netley Military Hospital was built on the south coast of Hampshire after the Crimean War and opened in 1863.  During WW1, a large Red Cross Hospital was constructed in huts to the rear of the main hospital building, with a capacity of around 2,500 beds.  Demolished in the 1970s, all that remains of the original building are the Hospital Chapel and Military Cemetery.   There is also a Facebook Page dedicated to the commemoration of Netley Military Hospital.

Sue Robinson of Wenches in Trenches set up the group in memory of her grandmother who nursed at Netley Hospital in WW1

Sources:  “The Years of Promise” by Cecil Roberts (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1968)

Fiona Mercey’s book about Vera’s scouting activities in France - “Le Grand Jeu de l’Enfance” - has recently been published by Carrick Publishing in France

Photo of Vera Barclay's grave in Sheringham taken by and reproduced with kind permission of Jane Crossen.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Elizabeth Jungmann (1894 – 1958) – German

Elizabeth was born in Lublinitz, Upper Silesia I 1894.  Her parents were Adolf and Agnes Jungmann and her siblings were Otto Jungmann and Eva Gabriele a sociologist whose married name was Reichmann.

Elizabeth served as a nurse on the Wester Front for the German Army during WW1.  After the war she became secretary/interpreter to Gerhart Hauptmann from 1922 – 1933.  She then worked for German poet Rudolf G. Binding who wanted to marry her but was prevented from doing so by his Nazi convictions.

Prior to the Second World War, Elizabeth went to live in the United Kingdom. In 1956 she married her friend Sir Max Beerbohm, whose secretary she became after the death of his first wife in 1951.

Elizabeth died in Italy on 28th December 1958.