Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gen. Hallam, Col. Dudley, and the Ten Missing Pages

Mail's in!

I've received parcels from England and Australia in the last couple of days, but they haven't quite lived up to the excitement of the arrival of the 1933 edition of Meredith and Co. last week.

A real disappointment came from Australia, whence I received a a partial copy of Col. Dudley A. Mills's significant publication, British Diplomacy in Canada: The Ashburton Treaty. It was published, not as a stand-alone piece of literature, but in United Empire: The Royal Colonial Institute Journal, New Series 2 (Oct 1911) on pages 681-712, and included the apparently definitive 'Mitchell Maps' [above, left].

Unfortunately, I've received only pages 681-702.

Dudley Mills is the uncle of George Mills, and spent his career traveling the world with the Corps of Royal Engineers. A brief biographical sketch on-line describes him in this way [my emphasis]:

"Dudley Acland Mills was born at Eastbourne in 1859. He appears on the 1861 census staying at Killerton House at Broadclist in Devon, the home of his grandfather Sir Thomas Dyke Acland. His parents were Agnes Lucy (née Acland) and Arthur Mills, the M.P. for Taunton from 1857 to 1865 and the M.P. for Exeter from 1873 to 1880.

Dudley Acland Mills joined the Royal Engineers as a Lieutenant in 1878, rising to the rank of Captain in 1889 and Major in 1897. In 1896 he married Ethel Joly de Lotbinière. They had one son and two daughters. Colonel Dudley Acland Mills died on 22 February 1938. According to his obituary in The Times (26 February 1938), he was 'an authority on things Chinese and early maps and a man of all-round culture and knowledge.'"

Researching the Ashburton Treaty is on my big "to do" list of all things Mills, but the journal United Empire itself describes Mills's well-researched document full of painstakingly reconstructed maps as "a valuable step towards clearing away misapprehensions which, in the past, have sometimes clouded the relations between Canadians and their Mother-land."

I'd like to think I could report on the entire article, but may only be able to survey through page 702, depending on the reply I receive from Serendipity Books in West Leederville WA, Australia, about the missing pages.

I also received printed material from Alton, Hants in the U.K.: A brand-new, apparently self- or privately-published edition of An Account of Stewardship: 1979-1984 by Major General Giles Hallam Mills, Resident Governor and Keeper of the Jewel House, Her Majesty's Tower of London [title page, right]. It has been implied that General Mills [not to be confused with the American cereal company] is a relative of George Mills and family, but I've been unable to verify that independently.

It's a thin, 41-page text, hand bound by E. A. Weeks and Son, London, and is comprised of nicely reproduced photocopies of typewritten pages, probably "pica" if I'm correctly recalling the days before word processors when a "font" was better known as a reservoir than as a typeface. It promises to be a very factual read.

How Hallam Mills is related to the Mills family of our interest isn't quite known, but I'll read the volume anyway. At least it arrived with all of the 41 pages intact.

Meanwhile, wish me luck in my quest to receive the missing pages 703 to 712!

It's a gorgeous, sunny, hot morning here in Florida, and I'm still basking in the glow of pitcher Roy Halladay's perfect game for my beloved Philadelphia Phillies last night in Miami [left]. It was only the 20th perfect game in the history of baseball, and the second this year. The last time there were two perfectos in a season was 1880, accomplished by pitchers from the Providence Grays and the Worcester Red Rubys—the first two perfect games ever thrown.

I'm not sure exactly how a perfect game might translate to cricket, but I have read exciting passages in the books of George Mills about bowlers striving for "hat tricks." My cricket knowledge is obviously not exactly what it should be.

I recently read about the triple-centuries in Test cricket, accomplished by only 20 different players since 1930. Would this be a similarly rare accomplishment?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Haywards Heath, the Brighton Line, Teddy Boys, and Uncle Sam's Trousers

Rounding out the week, here are a few words on my recent writings from the savvy and sagacious Barry McAleenan. They have been culled from a variety of sources, and poorly plastered together here by yours truly…

On Haywards Heath, and my 'virtual' ride along Cuckfield Road this week:

"There is now no Cuckfield Road in Haywards Heath, but a road from Hurstpierpoint (going northwards) to Cuckfield is so-named in places. The coming of the railways to HH blew Cuckfield out of the water commercially. It had thrived as an overnight stop for the coaches travelling from London to Brighton. Apparently, this is why it is to be found on so many 'older' maps."

Barry's thoughts on George Mills using 'Haywards Heath' as the location for Parkfield School:

"In the days before post codes, the full postal address effectively included the chain of sorting offices, and with the coming of the railways, this would have changed. From Wikipedia (for background):

• On 10 January 1840, the Uniform Penny Post was established throughout the UK, facilitating the safe, speedy and cheap conveyance of letters, and from 6 May could be prepaid with the first postage stamp, known as the Penny Black.

• The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) (commonly known as "the Brighton line" or "the Brighton Railway") was a railway company in the United Kingdom from 1846 to 1922. [...] Haywards Heath was in use by 1858.

A dedication would tend to abbreviate the address, thereby denying us the actual village where the school may have been, and assuredly tell us where the main railway station was."

So, if I understand correctly, Parkfield may not have been in Haywards Heath per se. The alleged relationship between any past Parkfield School and Cuckfield would only have been established by the fact that there are now, along the internet, a few mentions of a "Wick and Parkfield School" on Cuckfield Road. The websites that school is mentioned on are of fairly recent vintage.

Barry continues: "There is a prep school in HH called 'Tavistock and Summerhill' who may be able to offer you an answer that may help."

I'll see what they may be able to tell me, but, ironically, schools can be a very "iffy" proposition when it comes to disseminating information. For every Windlesham House and Warren Hill, schools and communities who embrace their history and freely offer up archival information, there's an Eaton House Prep and a Magdalen College School, institutions that are not disposed to respond to enquiries, at least not to those of an historical nature.

Now, Barry was, as we know, a student at Seaford's Ladycross Preparatory School during the 1950s, and was there when George Mills taught a summer term in 1956. In regard to the changing hairstyles on the children in the Mills books throughout time [and the uniforms as well]:

1950's Hair-styles

Check out Teddy Boys in Wikipedia on

We Ladycross prep school boys were living a very isolated existence in the mid-50s: No TV, no radio and a copy of the Daily Telegraph in the Games Room; teenagers had hardly been invented and we were essentially very cowed pre-teenagers. The record player in the Music Room was only used for classical music on 78's. To be specific, the updated hair-styles [on the 1957 edition of Meredith and Co., pictured left] are wrong. We had a 'short, back and sides' cut about once a month, leaving us tousle-haired and essentially ungroomed [pictured, below, right] - not long and slicked back [per Vernon]. I think we would have considered that look to be a bit 'spivvy'. A few boys came back from holiday with Crew cuts.


Blazers and short grey flannel trousers were Sunday-best so not likely for japes and scrapes. The white edging on blazers in the school photo was used to signify that cricketing colours had been awarded.

I can't speak for other schools since we only met them in sports kit. In the summer we wore fawn 'Aertex' short-sleeve shirts, red tie, khaki shorts with a 'snake belt', ankle socks, and sandals on a daily basis, with a V-neck school pullover when the weather was bleak. We had full-length dressing gowns - not the jacket-style theatre dressing-room look. Pyjamas were not quite as bold-striped [pictured above, left] as your Uncle Sam's trousers.

I rather like writing these emails, so keep on asking the questions. I hope you are making sense of the contemporary vernacular!

I hope I am, too! It would seem the Brocks [C. E. and H. M.] both seem to have had the correct hairstyle of a prep school boy in place, as described above. The long hair illustrated by "Vernon" [circa 1957] wouldn't have been quite accurate, so it seems that hair might simply have been updated to nudge sales along. But Barry does point out: "In those less egalitarian times, there were plenty of publications (including comics like The Dandy, and Enid Blyton's Malory Towers novels) that suggest that there was entertainment value in the doings of the posh kids."

I certainly owe many thank to Barry for helping me steer through British history, geography, and popular culture. I can't even begin to say how much I appreciate his patience and his knack for shaping the details of the world I'm exploring!

It's our Memorial Day holiday this Monday and we have a long weekend to celebrate, barbecue, and hit the beach. It was created as Decoration Day after the War Between the States, but was adapted following the First World War. It's a different holiday than our Veteran's Day [formerly Armistice Day] which I believe would correspond with the U. K.'s Remembrance Day.

Nonetheless, it's also the unofficial kick-off of summertime in the U. S., the calendar be damned! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Past, the Present, the Future, and the Mysterious Mr. E. M. Henshaw

Sometimes a person is surprised, and sometimes there's simply a level of virtual shock. That happened to me last evening when my 'first edition' copy of Meredith and Co.: The Story of a Modern Preparatory School by George Mills arrived!

I mean, I knew it was coming, but it was coming from half the world away:

Camberwell Books has confirmed your order.-----


Title: Meredith and Co. - the Story of a Modern Preparatory School.

Description: Oxford University Press, London, 1933. 288 pp, coloured frontispiece, minor damage at top of spine, else near fine copy in illustrated, papered boards.. Great C. E. Brock cover illustration showing injured bulldog.

Message from the seller:-------------------------
Will send

The address of Camberwell Books places it in Victoria, Australia, but the parcel was posted from New Zealand. What a stunningly long journey this book took, both through time and space, to find itself here on my shelf.

I was stunned: The text itself is simply gorgeous. The three watercolour plates by the great C. E. Brock are truly wonderful, and the edition itself is simply a tactile delight! The 'tooth' of the paper upon which the text has been printed is fine and creamy white enough to actually paint a fine watercolor upon, and the thickly calendared leaves each will stand stiffly and straight up without assistance, defying gravity and age. Were it not for the small tear at the top corner of the spine and a light blue streak across the back, I would think someone had just purchased this book a couple of years ago. The word 'lustrous' comes to mind—this was money well spent!

Take away all I said regarding book publishing during the Great Depression during my reading of Arthur Mills's The Apache Girl: This book is gorgeous, a sumptuous volume that certainly belies the woeful state of the world's economies, circa 1933!

Overnight observations of a few of the details of this beautiful tome lead me to a pair of new ideas.

First, just yesterday I was writing about the possibility of George Mills having been out of work and striving to put food on the table during the bleak years of the depression. I have to say, I've reversed my course on that line of thinking, at least regarding 1933. The quality and sheer presence of this impressive book makes me think that Meredith and Co.—apparently the first tale of its kind in accurately portraying the lives of schoolboys, their behaviors, and their slang and idioms—was well thought of by Oxford University Press. Weighing in at 5 kilograms and measuring 4.5 cm (2 inches!) thick, this appears to be a real heavyweight championship contender of a book, quite unlike the tiny, cheaply produced edition of The Apache Girl, also published in 1933 [its fifth impression since 1930], that I finished reading a few weeks ago!

I had thought that Mills star might have been rising in 1938 and 1939 when he published his final three books, but to me he clearly had a bright future in the eyes of O.U.P. earlier in that decade. They even assigned Brock—one of the top illustrators of the era—to depict full-colour scenes his initial novel. Mills and this book, it would seem, were not considered marginal.

A second thing that jumped out at me was something I'd just been tinkering with: Its preface! Or I thought I had been tinkering with its preface. A quick glance immediately told me that something was different in the original preface, true Mills aficionado that I have become. There were far too many initials!

Just three days ago we looked at the preface of the 1957 edition, and here's Mills's final sentence: "I am also very much indebted to that splendid specimen of boyhood, the British Schoolboy, who has given me such wonderful material."

Here's that same sentence from the 1933 edition, with the additional words in bold face: "I am also much indebted to Mr. E. M. Henshaw for his devastating, but most useful, criticisms, and especially to that splendid specimen of boyhood, the British Schoolboy, who has given me such wonderful material."

Mr. E. M. Henshaw? Who the heck is Mr. E. M. Henshaw?

'Devastating criticisms'? Useful or not, Mills certainly went out of his way to make sure that we, the readers, knew he had been painfully wounded by those obviously not-so-gently phrased suggestions!

In the short term, Henshaw certainly was acknowledged for his contributions to the publication of Mills's book. In the long term, he ended up being excised like a bad appendix. In 1933, Mr. E. M. Henshaw had been spared the warmth and gratitude Mills had expressed to Mr. A. Bishop and Mr. H. E. Howell in the previous sentence of the preface, while still being acknowledged. In the time elapsed between 1933 and 1950's second impression of Meredith and Co. [then published without its original subtitle] by O.U.P., Mills must have felt any 'debt' owed to Henshaw already had been paid in full, without needing to further acknowledge him in subsequent editions [1950 and 1957].

Obviously, Mills had changed. Once known as a fellow who "made people laugh, a lot", by the late 1930s things are quite obviously different. By the decade of the 1950s, painful memories and associations have been and are still clearly being expunged from Mills psyche. It seems that a melancholy process had started when he looked back to Haywards Heath and Parkfield School at the turn of the century for the dedication to 1939's Minor and Major. Later, when King Willow was reprinted in the late 1950s, a dedication to Eaton Gate Preparatory School was scratched in favor of a lyrical ode to the future of now-unknown newlyweds Beryl and Ian.

Was the George Mills of the late 1950s still in a struggle with the present, while at the same time yearning for a nostalgic and comforting past, and hoping with all of his might for a more benevolent future for himself and those he loved?

Looking back at 1939, Mills soon returned to the military, an occupation he'd left behind as a lance corporal in 1919. Returning as a lieutenant, I suppose it would have given him a sense of real security, something I believe he was craving. It also may have provided him with a sense of purpose patriotically, and even spiritually at the outset of a conflict that certainly aroused moral as well as political issues.

Craving that security over his recent creativity, Mills apparently preferred the dependability of a regular paycheck and a dress service uniform [right] to the life of an author and a tweed jacket and a good pipe. One wonders what other occupations may have been tried by Mills between teaching positions to see him through to his next book before the War. Perhaps he needed more security; perhaps he needed it for Vera, his wife. Either way, he had felt a need that was quite real.

In returning to the service, Mills seemed to be not only revising his present life at the time, he seemed to be revising his own expectations for his future, and was even busy blue-penciling parts of his past. The eventual removal of Mr. E. M. Henshaw from the preface of Mills's most popular novel would seem to be a good example of that last bit of speculation.

References to an E. M. Henshaw abound in the 1930's and 1940's, and many of those references pertain to the field of psychology. It would be completely reasonable to believe that a psychologist might have been critical of the behavior of the boys in George's first novel, or perhaps on the possible effects the behaviors in Mills's manuscript might have had on British youth at the time. That would make sense.

However, that E. M. Henshaw was Edna Mary Henshaw, not the "Mr. E. M. Henshaw" who 'devastated' George Mills over his 1933 manuscript.

Mister E. M. Henshaw has been far more difficult for me to flush out into the open.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or information you might have about all of this…

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thinking aloud once again about George Mills

Thinking aloud: I've made quite a bit of George Mills securing a teaching position [likely a junior appointment] at Windlesham House School, then in Portslade, just after having left Oxford, quickly marrying, and buying a house on Benfield Way in Portslade, all within the course of just over a calendar year. I've wondered in print quite often about why he didn't end up staying right there for some time thereafter.

Let's review some things: Mills did not possess the Oxon Bachelor of Arts degree that, through this very year, Windlesham believed he had earned.

Despite being heavily involved in extra-curricular activities around campus, by the end of the summer of 1926, Mills apparently was simply no longer there—and there is no record as to why. In fact, it is apparently only speculation that Mills had been hired to teach "English or 'English subjects'" at the school. The only thing that seemed to be eminently clear is that he "made people laugh, a lot."

By the time he published Meredith and Co. in 1933, Mills listed his subsequent teaching assignments as Warren Hill in Eastbourne, The Craig in Windermere, and the English Preparatory School in Glion, Switzerland. This is somewhat corroborated by a "Mrs. Charles" [possibly Mrs. Charles Scott Malden, principal at Windlesham] in 1935 when George drops by her house in Springwells, Steyning, West Sussex, for a visit, telling her he'd written a book "largely about Windlesham" and had been at "2 or 3 schools since, but is very faithful to Windlesham."

In 1938, however, Mills published his second novel, King Willow, then revealing he was at the time, or had been recently, associated with the Eaton Gate Preparatory School in London, S.W.1.

In 1939, Mills published two more books, Minor and Major and Saint Thomas of Canterbury. My original hunch was that his career as an author was really taking off, and I couldn't help but wonder what seemed to have nipped it in the proverbial bud.

I now have to admit, the dedication to Minor and Major that we peeked at last time suddenly has me rethinking some things.

George Mills married Vera Louise Beauclerk in 1925 and they settle into a nice house near his work. Over the next 13 years or so, Mills teaches in at least four more schools, even one in Europe. We have no way of knowing how many of those 13 years he actually spent working at the schools he'd mentioned. I've been assuming all along that he was employed at one place or another during the entire span.

His 1939 "shout out" to Parkfield makes me wonder about that now, though. There are no acknowledgements in it, no thanks to any individual or two or a current employer, just a hearkening back to the early years of his boyhood, circa 1905-1910, in Haywards Heath. Were times that hard? And was Mills yearning for a simpler, happier time?

Were things truly going badly for Mr. and Mrs. Mills? Had Meredith and Co. been written, not as an amusing diversion in 1933, but as a way to bring some money into the household. George's brother, Arthur, and Arthur's wife, Lady Dorothy, had written articles, stories, and novels as a means of support from 1916 well into the 1920s when, at last, their careers seemed to take off. With the world paralyzed by a dire economic depression by 1933, did an unemployed George decide to do the same?

Despite a respite—likely some sort of employment at 'Eaton Gate'—was George soon out of work again, and for an extended time in 1939? Was his relatively prodigious output of books that year not a creative outpouring, but simply a way to put bread on the table for Vera and himself? Was he grateful for the chance to publish, but even more eager to secure a steady job that would make him less susceptible to the vagaries of the publishing houses, the economy, and the fickle reading tastes of the general public?

We know that by the onset of the war in late 1939, Mills had returned to the military, becoming a 44-year-old lieutenant in the Royal Army Pay Corps. After settling back into a uniform for the first time since the close of World War I when he left for the university, he would never write and publish a brand-new book again.

Vera died in London in 1942. Mills subsequently relinquished that commission in 1943 due to ill health. Almost thirty years later, he died in Devonshire, childless and apparently having never remarried.

During the intervening time, we know Mills worked for a summer in Seaford at Ladycross School in 1956, just before new impressions of his three prep school novels were printed in Czechoslovakia and re-released in the U. K.

Thirty years before those reprints, Mills had written a prologue and songs for a staff concert at Windlesham during the Michaelmas term in 1925. He had written articles for the school magazine. He was involved in productions by Windlesham's Amateur Acting Association. He later became a novelist of at least some renown, dedicating much of his success to Windlesham—as well as the mysterious and unkown trio of J. Goodland, A. Bishop, and H. E. Howell.

This seemingly-creative, humorous, talented, outgoing, and decidedly people-oriented fellow disappears in to the military in 1939, and then into the woodwork for the rest of his life.


I have to think back to an e-mail I received from Heather at Peakirk Books, Wednesday, 10 March 2010, at 8:26 AM. Here's what she had written, but that I'd never recorded here:


Keep hunting - and I would be interested to know anything you discover [about George Mills]. Likewise I will let you know any information I discover. I will try contacting the author of the boys school stories book I consulted to see if he knows any more.

[In answer to a question about why Mills might not have continued to publish,] It is possible he just got fed up with writing!

Kind regards

Heather & Jeff Lawrence
Peakirk Books
Cherry Tree Lodge
Guist Bottom Road
Nr. Fakenham
NR21 0AQ

"It's possible he just got fed up with writing." Heather is probably correct. I just couldn't see that then. Since March, however, I'm beginning to see how the chips may have fallen in such a way that George Mills may have, indeed, simply become "fed up with writing."

I'd love to have a look at Vera's obituary, if one exists. Perhaps there might be a clue or two in there…

Exploring Haywards Heath

Working once again through the preface to Meredith and Co. (1933) reminded me of my unsuccessful attempts to probe into the dedication of the third novel of George Mills, Minor and Major, published in 1939.

The edition I own and am reading right now [published by Spring Books in what would appear to be the late 1950s] has a dedication that reads: 'To the Headmaster, Staff, and Boys of Parkfield, Haywards Heath, where I received my early education, this book is affectionately dedicated.'

Information about the life of George Mills and his family around the turn of the 20th century is sketchy at best. Mills was born in Cornwall in 1896, and his father, Barton, took a position at the Chapel Royal of the Savoy in 1901, moving the family to London before George's 5th birthday.

George was then at Harrow School from 1910 to 1912. Would it be correct to assume that Mills likely attended Parkfield from approximately 1905 through 1910? I'll assume that, having 'named no names' in his dedication above, he was not currently working there, and was simply reminiscing about a happier, less complicated time in his life.

I haven't had much luck regarding a Parkfield School or Haywards Heath. It appears there had been a "Wick and Parkfield Preparatory School" in Haywards Heath, but all I've really been able to find out about it on-line is that it would have been located on Cuckfield Road and once had full inspection in 1936. Google Maps didn't help much, either. I "drove" up and down rural Cuckfield Road [B2114], east of Haywards Heath itself, from B2115 up to Handcross and only "passed" one school: Newish-looking Brantridge School in Staplefield.

Neither three enquiries sent to the Independent Association of Prep Schools, nor two enquiries of the Haywards Heath Archives, have brought so much as a single reply, let alone any information. It seems to be somewhat of a black hole in the landscape of Sussex history. [UPDATE, 30 July 2010: I apologize for my reference to a "black hole." Thanks to brilliant research by Barry McAleenan and Liz Graydon, we've located Parkfield School!]

Given the difficulty that I've had investigating prep schools, I appreciate all the more the gracuious offers of help and exceptional assistance rendered by the Eastbourne Local History Society during my search for Warren Hill School in Meads, and from Windlesham House in Brighton. Thanks once again to everyone involved in those investigations for all your help!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Seeking Mr. A. Bishop and Mr. H. E. Howell

As long as we are fishing for information in 1933's Meredith and Co., the first published work by George Mills, we might as well backtrack for a moment and take a peek at his preface to the volume. Some of it will relate to upcoming adventures at fictional Leadham House School, but other aspects will be germane to my last few posts, and to a thread that's been running through all of this "Millsness." This, then, would seem to be a good time to take look.


ALTHOUGH all the incidents in this book, with the exception of the 'bait charts,' are imaginary, the book gives an accurate impression of life in a Boys' Preparatory School.

I wish to acknowledge, with much gratitude, the help and encouragement received from many friends; particularly from Mr. A. Bishop, the Head Master of Magdalen College School, Brackley, and from my old friend, Mr. H. E. Howell, who have read the book in manuscript form. I am also very much indebted to that splendid specimen of boyhood, the British Schoolboy, who has given me such wonderful material.

------------------------------------------------------------------------ G.M.

The first paragraph above would seem to confirm that the events described by Mills in the 1933 text are an amalgam created using elements of many similar situations Mills had experienced in class-rooms between 1925 and 1933. That seemed evident as he described the first day of teaching—ever—of Mr. Mead.

Mead was idealized in that situation and able to perceive things that a nervous novice simply would not have been able to. Mills has idealized the first day of teaching, at least as far as its outcome might go. He may not have learned that "registering" laziness trick until years later, for example. Still, there is palpable anxiety regarding new routines and how a room full of children may react to a strange teacher. It's especially interesting regarding the grandstand play we saw Mr. Mead pull yesterday, ordering the time-wasting boys back for a Saturday night class. As he gathers up his books and stalked out of the classroom, we're privy to the reaction of the boys and immediately know it "worked." Mead, however, waited to have its success confirmed by Peter (Dr. Howell Stone), the Head Master.

Also of some interest are the two gentlemen named as having helped and encouraged Mills as he worked on the manuscript for Meredith and Co. With only initials to work with, it is difficult to track down individuals with the unremarkable surnames Bishop and Howell, especially since almost 80 years have intervened.

Magdalen College School and their 'Old Brackleians Society' failed to respond to an enquiry related to the identity of "Mr. A. Bishop." I'll prod them again today to see if I can turn up any information on someone who may not have been merely a sage proofreader of this text, but an older friend who may actually have helped steer the 29-year-old George Mills into taking a stab at the career in education we've been reading about the last few days.

Regarding Mr. H. E. Howell, I found a reference to such a person in the 1913 edition of The Devonian Yearbook, and a newspaper obituary regarding his attendance at a well-attended funeral. On 5 April of this year, I sent the following message to All Saints, Margaret Street:

Hello! I am an American researching a British author of children's books named George Ramsay Acland Mills. Two of his novels about preparatory schools acknowledged the help of a dear friend, Mr. H. E. Howell, and a main character was named "Howell" in both, I suspect in tribute.

In trying to discover the identity of the actual Mr. Howell, I happened upon a Times obituary from 26 August, 1935. In it, a "Mr. H. E. Howell" represented "All Saints', Margaret Street" at the funeral that was held for Revd J. B. L. Jellicoe.

While obviously not a reverend himself, did an H. E. Howell have any connection with All Saints, Margaret Street? Also, is there any way of knowing if the author, Mr. George R. A. Mills, was a member of the congregation? Mr. Mills was also a schoolmaster at Warren Hill School in Eastbourne and Eaton Gate Preparatory School in London during the 1930s.

Lastly, did Revd Barton R. V. Mills have any association with All Saints? Interestingly, the Revd Mills held the distinction of being a holy cleric in the Anglican Church while at the same time having converted to Roman Catholicism. That is what I would consider to be an unusual combination for a man who served as a vicar in Cornwall and served as an assistant chaplain in the Chapel Royal of the Savoy after his conversion. I found it particularly interesting when I read that your church is considered Anglican Catholic.

Revd Mills passed away in 1932. He was the father of George R. A. Mills, and he had daughters named Agnes Edith and Violet Eleanor.

Any small bit of information you may be able to provide may lead me to more, so may I please enlist your assistance? It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for your time, patience, and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you!

The next day I received this reply:

Dear Mr. Williams,

I will get our archivist on the trail of the people you mention. Fr. Basil Jellicoe was a famous at St. Mary's, Somers Town, next to Euston Station between the wars. He was a crusader for decent housing and started the housing association movement to provide it for the poor. He certainly had connections with All Saints.

with best wishes,

Fr. Alan Moses

Once again, we find a connection between the ostensibly Anglican Mills family and Catholicism. Howell is described in Meredith and Co.'s preface as being an "old friend," so there is the implication that Mills was connected with Howell before the death of his father, Rev. Barton Mills. Knowing that Howell was so well-connected with All Saints Church that he represented that entire institution at the funeral of a well-known and heroic public figure, Fr. Basil Jellicoe [pictured, from left: Charles Eddington, Prince George, and Jellicoe], it's hard for me to believe that it was simply coincidental that Mills became a trusted friend of such an important church figure with no regard whatsoever given to either's faith.

And one wonders if uncertainty of faith isn't at least part of the reason that so many of the surviving relations of Mills and his nuclear family have been so distanced from Mills, et al, for so long that they no longer remember much about Barton, Edith, Arthur, George, Agnes, and Violet—despite the relative fame of some of them as authors—if they, indeed, even know them to have existed at all. They even seem to have been somewhat distanced from each other: Half-brother Arthur F. H. Mills, a published author himself, neither helped nor encouraged George with his 1933 manuscript.

And that's the odd part of all of this: Relatives of the nuclear Mills family of my interest here seem to have little interest in that same extinct little clan of their own relations headed by Barton R. V. Mills—again, that's if they even know who those people are. That's not necessarily a knock on the descendants I've found; it's just a fact. One does wonder why that's the case, though.

So I'll continue, at least for a while longer, poking at institutions that may have some bit of information about members of a family that have been cut adrift in time, culturally and genealogically.

I know I'd want someone—anyone—to posthumously look for and remember me if I were to end up in the same situation: Essentially forgotten. I guess that's why it will be so difficult on the day—and I believe it may be coming soon—that I finally decide to abandon the Mills family myself. Meanwhile, I'll still be trying to find what "A." And "H. E." stand for in the names above...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Armed for the Fray

No matter what sort of 'breakfast' one might have with the boys—and Mr. Mead seems to have had a good one to start his first day—the real adventures begin, as they say, once the class-room door actually closes. How much of the following text is actually based on the first day George Mills ever taught, and how much is a pastiche constructed from bits of many of his subsequent first days, is open to conjecture.

See what you think as we proceed into Mills's Meredith and Co. (1933):

Mr. Mead spent the first hour of school in the common room, smoking. He was wondering how he should meet his first class. He was not looking forward to the ordeal. He remembered Peter's advice.

'I'll give them a good deal of work to do, and keep them busy. I won't do more talking than I can help,' he said to himself. Five minutes before the second lesson was due, he stood in the corridor, waiting.

The Head Master came along, and smiled.

'Well, Mead, armed for the fray?'

The boys were changing over, and several of them ran past into their class-rooms.

'Yes,' Mr. Mead answered.

'Ah, well, your boys are waiting for you now. That is the room, the one facing you. Let them have it! Good luck!'

Mr. Mead walked along the corridor to his room. The door was being held open by a boy who was wearing tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles.

'Thank you,' said Mr. Mead as he swept past Headlights [Dimmer]; 'now go and sit down.'

Dimmer shut the door, and went to his place. Mr. Mead lost no time. He walked to his desk, sat down, and produced his mark book.

'Just give me your names,' he said.

While he was taking names he looked at the boys. They were sitting like angels, with expressions of complete guilelessness upon their faces. They stared at him as much to say, 'Well, you may try it if you don't believe us, but butter wouldn't melt in our mouths!' Mr. Mead had the uncomfortable sensation that he was being summed up. And so he was! No one sees through a man quicker than a boy, and Mr. Mead put an abrupt end to the mental X-raying process.

Even after 28 years of teaching, the first day of school—like Opening Day of baseball—is still a powerful event, a rebirth for both the children and for the teacher. At least, that is, when I have been the teacher. I've heard that Laurence Olivier often vomited before performing on stage, but that's likely a legend that has its roots in a panic attack he had before going on stage at the age of 57. Still, he apparently was nervous before a live performance. Likewise, my next restful night before the initial day of school will be my first one!

As mentioned in yesterday's post, children often have an extremely accurate sense of which adults can be trusted and which can't. They can frequently spot a phony from a mile off. I can't say that Mills would have been aware of this on his first day at Windlesham. It's far more probable that those initial moments with his first class went by in a blur, and time would have seemed to be moving much more quickly for him than he describes it here due to anxiety.

This passage is a collage of first day experiences at Windlesham, Warren Hill, The Craig, and at Glion, acquired over time. One does not have the ability to anxiously do paperwork while surmising the inner workings of the minds of a group of students through careful observation. That sort of inference just isn't made by a new instructor, fresh out of university, facing a group of strange faces, angelic though they may be!

Let's return to this Leadham House class-room:

'Open your exercise books, and your Translations. Page 32. French into English. If you do not know a word, look it up. Go straight on until you are told to stop.'

Having said this, Mr. Mead sat back in his chair and surveyed the class. Peter had been quite correct, and there was no attempt at open ragging, but the master noticed the boys were not really working. Dimmer opened his desk, and produced a piece of blotting paper; Meredith dropped his pen, and stooped slowly down to pick it up. He tried it, found that it would not function, so changed the nib. Renton was frowning at the inkpot, from which he had fished a large piece of blotting-paper. The only two boys who were working were Murray and Potter I. Mr. Mead smiled to himself. The boys were trying it on! He was no fool, and started on a plan of campaign. Leaning forward, he took up a pencil and continued his watch. Every few seconds he would make a little tick on the paper in front of him. Murray and Potter, who both sat at the same desk, looked up from under their eyelids and observed what he was doing. They nudged each other and smiled. Mr. Mead made no comment, but he was busy with the pencil. he could not help thinking what poor economists boys are. The Sixth formers were giving themselves a great deal of trouble to get out of work. They went to endless pains to waste time.

They thought that it was well worth while. The man was too good to be true! He said not anything, and they were having a glorious slack, and could look forward to a term of leisure. Three minutes before the end of the lesson Mr. Mead suddenly spoke, and the boys stopped work.

'I have here,' Mr. Mead announced, 'a little piece of paper on which I registered a mark whenever a boy wasted time. There has been a great deal of time wasted. Blotting-paper has been dropped; pens which should have been overhauled before school, have had to be replaced. Only two boys in the room have been working properly. They are,' here Mr. Mead consulted his register, 'Murray and Potter I. On my paper there are twenty marks, representing an unnecessary waste of time. I am wasting time now, but that is your fault. The time must, unfortunately, be made up, and you will come here on Saturday evening for half and hour. That is to say, all except Murray and Potter I.'

Mr. Mead had been horribly nervous during this pronouncement. At the end of it he gathered up his books and left the room. For some seconds there was complete silence. The boys looked at each other, and disgust, surprise, and bewilderment were depicted on their faces. Headlights was the first to speak.

'Well!' he said, 'of all the dirty tricks, that takes the cake. It seemed so easy, too!' He stabbed at the desk viciously with his pen, and added, 'That man is the sticky limit! Shut up, you two idiots, it's not funny!' This remark was addressed to Murray and Potter I. They were sitting at their desk hugging each other with rapture, and laughing loudly.

That afternoon, as they were walking to the cricket field, Mr. Mead told Peter all about it.

'That's right!' said Peter, laughing. 'I thought they might try it on. Well, you have won your victory, and should have no further trouble.'

No further trouble getting adolescent boys to do class work? Windlesham and Warren Hill must have been very special places, indeed!

That aside, I think it's interesting how many terms from the military are applied here to teaching: "armed for the fray," "a plan of campaign," and "won your victory." Some may say that those metaphors are improper, and that the relationship between a teacher and his or her charges should be one of a community working together, rather than adversarial. I couldn't argue about those sentiments in any way.

In reality, though, there are many situations during the course of a lesson, a day, a week, or a term, in which a teacher and a student, or even a teacher and an entire class, each digs in the proverbial heels in a mighty struggle against the other. War? A wild west showdown? A duel in the sun? Characterize those moments any way you wish—they happen and those confrontations often need to be "won" by a teacher who intends to last the rest of the term.

Teachers who intend to last an entire career, however, tend to come out ahead in these situations without causing the students to "lose face" in the aftermath, and that's not something the Mr. Mead accomplished above. I wonder if Mills ever mastered that trick, or could it have been one of the reasons he moved around a bit as an educator?

Anyway, let's check back in one more time, later in Mr. Mead's first day of classes and extra-curriculars:

Uggles followed the Hawk along the corridor. He found it rather trying, poor dog, as the afternoon was a hot one. The Hawk opened his desk, and sat Uggles beside him on the seat.

It chanced that Mr. Mead was on his way to the master's cottage for a cold shower. He was still in flannels and tennis shoes, and he walked noiselessly down the corridor. The sound of a boy's voice made him stop at the open door of a class-room, and he saw the Hawk seated at his desk, the lid of which was raised and rested against his head. The boy, having his head inside the desk, was utterly unaware of the master's presence, and was talking to Uggles.

'Yes, old chap,' the Hawk was saying, 'I am quite sure you will like him. He likes dogs, too; he told me so at breakfast!'

The reality working for Mr. Mead—and probably Mills—in this situation is that he has won over a key boy in the school. While the Hawk is not a Sixth former, nor a scholarly boy, he's athletic, honest, and extremely likable. His status among the boys of the school is near the top, and having the Hawk as a powerful ally will pay off for Mr. Mead, despite the master's perceived "dirty trick."

There'll be even more about Mr. Mead and Mills next time…

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Breakfast with the Hawk and the Boys

It's a lovely, hot, early summer day here in the Sunshine State. The lawn is unruly after some recent rain, and I'm putting off going out to do battle with it. Instead, I think we'll check in on George Mills's fictional alter ego, Mr. Mead, at Leadham House School. Let's thumb ahead to Chapter XVII of Meredith and Co., and recall that last time, Mead was off to bed, anxiously awaiting his first day of teaching French.

MR. MEAD arose early in the morning, and walked across to the school with the Jewel [Mr. Gold]. He was anxious to see as much of the school routine as possible, and stood by the side of Gold as he read the roll call. Mr. Mead stood looking at the row of strange faces, and wondered what sort of task he would make of teaching. All the boys were perfect strangers, and he was thinking how best to break the ice during breakfast. As they were going downstairs the Jewel told him that his table was the one next to his own.

'You will have several members of the Third and Fourth forms. they are quite well-behaved, but rather talkative.'

After grace had been said, Mr. Mead sat down. He was not quite certain of the correct procedure. Should he help himself from the sideboard, or would he be waited on? He noticed the Jewel helping himself to coffee, so he joined him.

'Sorry, Mead, I ought to have told you that we help ourselves. If you want a second cup send a boy for it.'

Mr. Mead took a cup of coffee, and a plate of porridge. When he sat down, he looked at the boys who were seated at his table. He noticed particularly the boy to his right. He was a small, dark boy, with a happy care-free expression. Conversation was limited, as it often is in the presence of a stranger. Mr. Mead had just finished his porridge when the boy on his right spoke.

'Er, sir, do you like dogs?'

'Yes, very much. Do you have a dog at home?'

The boy became quite talkative.

'Rather, sir; hundreds! At least, not exactly hundreds, sir. But there's a topping dog here, sir. He belongs to one of the boy's maters, sir. He's a bulldog, and is called Uggles. Shall I get you some eggs and bacon, sir?'

My hunch is that this is an idealized first conversation with a student, invested with a great deal of "I-wish-it-really-had-been-that-easy." Upon the publication of Meredith and Co., Mills had already experienced at least four "meet and greets" with boys, having taught at Windlesham House, Warren Hill, The Craig, and the seemingly completely forgotten English Preparatory School in Glion, Switzerland between 1925 and 1933.

With so much movement from place to place, it's no wonder that Mills focuses on Mr. Mead's desire to quickly learn the "correct procedure."

Also despite Dr. Howell (Peter) Stone's advice the night before—all of which revolved around the classroom—Mills is letting us know in no uncertain terms here that the first true hurdle to be cleared is meeting the boys and establishing himself quickly. It's open to conjecture how long it may have taken Mills, at first, to win over the boys at Windlesham House, but as he was apparently a very personable fellow who enjoyed making people laugh, my hunch is that it must not have taken too awfully long.

Interestingly, we find that a real ice breaker here is the subject of dogs. Mr. Mead is immediately presented with an opportunity to win over a key boy in his form by simply admitting to a fondness for canines. I'd better dollars to doughnuts that it all didn't come off so readily in reality, but that once Mills knew man's best friend was a metaphorical foot-in-the-door with his charges, he used dogs to his advantage in all of his new teaching locales.

This isn't to imply that Mills exaggerates his fondness for dogs here simply for social gain. We do know already of his propensity to share a family story from well before he was born about his father's family taking their dogs along to church, and having one actually take in the service from a pew on one occasion.

Yesterday, we also learned that Mills's love of cricket could have helped him land at least one teaching job as Mr. Mead is welcomed by Mr. Marshall as an assistant with the Leadham House eleven. And, here, his love of dogs helps him open lines of communication with the boys.

Let's see how that breakfast conversation comes out:

Mr. Mead gave his plate over to the boy, and asked his name.

'Falconer, sir,' said the boy, and he went off, and returned with some eggs and bacon. Mr. Mead liked the Hawk. He was so natural, and his frank, open manner appealed to him. The meal proceeded most satisfactorily; Mr. Mead inquired the names of the boys, and was entertained with several stories of the holidays. he found all the boys very friendly—not the sort that tries to 'suck up' to a new master, but animated with a genuine desire to be on good terms. He found the atmosphere delightful.

[A quick aside: From this last paragraph, can we surmise that this genuine sort of student behavior was not always the way it was at Windermere and Glion?]

The Hawk looked up.

'Please, sir,' he asked, rather diffidently, 'what is your name, sir?'

Mr. Mead enlightened him, and the Hawk continued.

'What are you taking, sir?'

'French,' added Mr. Mead, shortly.

'Oh, sir, I hate French, sir. I only got seven for the exam last term.'

''Well,' said Mr. Mead, laughing, 'we shall have to improve on that!'

'Please, sir, are you taking us all in French?'

'Yes, I believe so.'

To the person who does not know the mind of the preparatory schoolboy, all his questions must appear to be rude curiosity. But in this case they served to break the ice, and enabled the boys to talk about something. The small boy is usually limited in intelligent conversation, and if he can, by asking questions, get someone else to talk, he does so.

That last paragraph is a great insight, and insight into the hearts and minds of prep students seems to have been Mills's long suit, at least early in his career.

In this scene, we see in microcosm Mills's fledgling days as a master in a preparatory school. While not the finest written lines in the history of English literature, this excerpt does display a comfortable, conversational genuineness—similar to the characteristics that Mead admires in young Falconer—full of both story-telling warmth and keen observation.

Having spent a day or two getting my feet wet at a new school now and then along my own way, Mills's concerns are real concerns. His wonder about his new students and his desire to get off on the right foot all ring perfectly true. And, despite the fact that Mr. Meads does have the ice completely broken unusually quickly in this scene, it does accurately portray the amazing speed at which children will determine whether or not an adult is trustworthy, and hence, worthy of hearing or participating in meaningful conversation among them!

So, after two excerpts from Meredith and Co., we find Mr. Mead—and Mills—possessing the 'people skills' necessary to be successful in a teaching career: He's an engaging fellow, seemingly dutiful to more experienced adults and to the needs of the boys.

Next time, let's step inside Mr. Mead's class-room as he begins his first hour teaching the Sixth form….

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mr. Mead's First Evening at School

I get the feeling that we're nearing the end of this quest for George Mills & Co. Those who've been willing to help have really helped quite a bit. Those who weren't so keen were sometimes prodded into helping. And some couldn't be bothered replying to requests for help even with a simple "no."

Oh—and there have been those whose replies have focused on me paying them for research and information. One of the funniest phrases I've bumped into: 'Our volunteers charge ₤10 per hour.'

So, feeling as if I've run out of other options, let's see what George Mills had to say about himself—or at least his first days teaching at Windlesham House, and subsequently at Warren Hill School in Meads, Eastbourne.

From Meredith and Co. (1933):

Mr. Mead enjoyed his first dinner at the school. Peter kept an excellent table, and was splendid company. Mead was given the post of honour near his hostess. He had met his future colleagues before dinner and had approved of them. After dinner there was a conference in the study.

'Make yourselves comfortable,' Peter said. 'Coffee over there; cigarettes and tobacco, too.'

When the men had settled down, Peter spoke again…

'Now you have met Mead. He is going to take French throughout the school, and help you, Marshall, with cricket. You can do with some help, I expect.'

'Yes, indeed, I can.'

Peter gave them a hint.

'Well then, we shall meet again in the morning. Good-night. Mead, if you have done all your unpacking, perhaps you will stay behind and finish your pipe.'

Remember, according to Dr. Tom Houston of Windlesham, "Peter," or Dr. Howell Stone, corresponds to Mr. Charles Scott Malden of Windlesham House, circa 1925. Malden and Mills would have worked under headmaster Mr. H. D. L. Patterson, with Malden becoming principal in 1927, after Mills had gone. Malden, however, apparently already had been considered a joint headmaster before that, however.

Mills had been a junior appointment at the time, a position Dr. Houston states was "seldom held for long," although Mills immediately married and purchased a home in Portslade near Windlesham, which was at the time at "Southern Cross" in Portslade, not in Brighton. Mills had come to the school to teach English or "English subjects."

Let's continue with Meredith and Co. [frontispiece, 1950 edition, right]:

When the rest of the staff had left the study, Peter turned to Mead.

'Now then,' he said, 'sit down, and make yourself at home.'

Mr. Mead sat down and waited.

'You said,' Peter started, puffing at his pipe, 'that this will be your first experience of teaching. Do you mind if I tell you a few stories of my first attempts?'

This was a delightful way of putting it, and Mr. Mead appreciated it.

'No, sir, I shall be most grateful.'

'Well,' said Peter, 'everything depends on your first hour in school. You stand or fall by that hour. I am starting you off tomorrow in the Sixth-form. It will help you to start with the bigger boys. You will be out of school the first hour. Books are given out then, and serious work starts next hour. But I want you to make those bigger boys work. Three of them, Meredith, Potter I, and Dimmer I are in for their Common Entrances this term, and will have to get down to it. You will not find that they will try to rag you; they know me too well for that; but they will see how far they can go in the way of taking things easy. Boys always do; I did so myself, and came a cropper! Let nothing pass in the way of inattention and fidgeting about. If you do, you will be at their mercy. When I first started teaching we had a young man on the staff who went into his class-room to take his first lesson, and stood in the doorway and said, "Good morning!" A chorus in the ascending scale greeted him; then he went to his desk and sat down, uncertain what to do next. The boys started playing about, and the young man never kept order at that school! I won't dictate to you how you should teach, but keep the class busy every moment of the time. If you have any trouble, send the boy to me. I shall think all the better of you if you do so, and will support your authority. If you start off by standing no nonsense the boys will respect you all the more for it."

This was very sound advice, to which Mr. Mead listened intently; and the more he saw of the head master, the more he liked him. Peter regaled him with a few funny stories about his early attempts at teaching. He then looked at his watch.

'Dear me, it is half-past eleven! Well, we shall meet again in the morning. By the way, any small thing you want to know ask Marshall, and if you are in difficulties don't hesitate to come see me. Good-night!'

It's difficult to imagine those words aren't to a great degree autobiographical. At the time, Mills was 29 years old, likely fresh from university, and engaged to be married.

Prior to that, Mills had served from 1916 through 1919 in the Great War, rising from a Private in the Rifle Brigade to a Lance Corporal in the Royal Army Service Corps. He began attending Christ Church in 1919 and Oxford in 1921. Dr. Houston speculates that Mills arrived at Windlesham shortly after departing Oxford where he did not take examinations or earn a degree—something Windlesham House believed he had done.

Mills [left] obviously respected Malden greatly, modeling the character of "Peter" on him. Seven years after leaving Windlesham, Mills wrote this book, describing Peter/Malden as "a splendid man with whom to work… as straight as a gun barrel."

It seems that George Mills loved working with Malden. Mills was engaged, just about to be married, and just about to purchase a home on Benfield Way in Portslade at the time. After just four terms, however, Mills no longer appeared on the Windlesham staff list by the end of the summer of 1926.

Houston speculates that Mills "could, like a handful of other prep school masters, have been excited by the General Strike (that term)."

The long-term ends of that work stoppage wouldn't seem to have dove-tailed very nicely with the more immediate needs of Mills's own situation in 1926, being a new husband, home-owner, and provider.

Still, it's still just the evening before the first class Mr. Mead—and I suspect Mills—would ever teach. There'[s so much more yet to happen.

Next time, let's follow Mr. Mead to his debut breakfast with the boys of fictional Leadham House School in Merdedith and Co. I have a hunch we'll find the 29-year-old George Mills sitting at that table as well…

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Some Questions for a Sunday Morning in May...

Right now, my side project is working on researching the life and myriad of accomplishments of Col. Dudley Acland Mills [pictured, left, as a youth in the 1860s] and his family. In trying to gain insight into Col. Mills, I hope to find helpful connections to the family of his brother, Rev. Barton R. V. Mills. I can't even begin to tell you how exciting for me it would be to gather more information that would be useful in fleshing out the lives of Mills family members of our interest here!

Right now, I'm still creating a "Dudley Mills Time Line and Genealogy" that will enable me to order his life story and family, and help generate research questions for me to pursue. Meanwhile, here are some questions about the Mills family that remain unanswered. Perhaps we may soon be able to shed some light on them:

Arthur Mills, M.P.:

What happened to any letters, papers, family photgraphs, etc., of Arthur Mills after his death? Were they given to the British Library, a university, or are they somewhere?

What kind of man was he known to be? The only reference I can find to him personally is extremely scathing, but his friends included J. S. Mill and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Barton Reginald Vaughan Mills:

Under what circumstances did Barton's first wife, Lady Catherine Hobart-Hampden, pass away? Why did Barton leave his vicarage upon her death and live with his father for three years?

Why did he and his young family (children aged 14, 5, and 2) leave Cornwall and a secure rectory on Bude for London to become assistant chaplain of the Chapel Royal (Queen's Chapel) of the Savoy? And why did he leave there in 1908?

Is there any reason that Barton Mills would have been quickly and almost forgotten by the Ramsay side of the family, the kin of his wife, Elizabeth Edith Ramsay? Why was she forgotten as well?

When did Edith pass away, under what circumstances, and how did it impact the children?

How long did the family live at 7 Manson Place, London, after the 1920 death of Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay, with whom they resided? When did they move there?

What kind of man was Barton Mills? What was Edith like? What were they like as a couple and as parents?

How was Barton making a living after he left the Savoy in 1908?

Did he leave any letters, papers, research, or memorabilia behind? Are there any photographs of him or his family?

Arthur Frederick Hobart Mills [Barton's elder son];

Concerning Lady Catherine's death, how did his mother's passing affect young Arthur, as a youngster and as a man?

Was Arthur close to his family, as a youth, as a young man, and later in life?

What sort of fellow was Arthur? What was his relationship with his father? His stepmother?

What was Arthur's wedding to Lady Dorthy Walpole like? Was the wedding ring really made from the bullet that was removed from his ankle in the First World War?

What were the circumstances of Lady Dorothy's car accident returning from Ascot, and what was the reaction of the Mills family? Did they help care for her?

Did Arthur end up living in Hampshire because he had relatives there?

How did Arthur's marriage to Lady Dorothy affect him and the family? Was she close to the Mills family?

Did Arthur's profession—crime, adventure, and romance writer—bother his family at all?

At age 52, Arthur joined the war effort for 8 days in 1939, then relinquished his commission. Under what circumstances did he leave the military (health, age, etc.)?

Why did Arthur fail to write a book from 1940 to 1947 anfter writing at least one book per year from 1920 to 1940 (health, the war, etc.)?

I hate to ask, but what were the circumstances of his divorce in 1932-33?

To whom did the copyrights to his books go?

George Ramsay Acland Mills:

What sort of fellow was George? What was his relationship with Barton?

What was his relationship with his sisters?

Was there any special interest put into George's schooling?

Under what circumstances did George become a schoolmaster?

Is there any reason George moved from school to school—even to Switzerland to teach—during the late 1920s and early 1930s? Did Vera go with him to every locale?

Under what circumstances did he meet his wife, Vera Louise Beauclerk, who had been born in China?

How posh was his wedding and reception?

What were George and Vera like as a couple?

Was George involved in the General Strike in 1926?

What was George's reaction to his father's passing in 1932?

What was the family's reaction to the publication of his first book, Meredith and Co., in 1933?

What was George doing between 1933 and 1938, the years between his first and second books?

Why, suddenly, did George publish three books in two years (King Willow, Minor and Major, St. Thomas of Canterbury)? Why did he then never again publish a book?

What were the circumstances of him returning to the armed forces in 1940 as a paymaster?

What were the circumstances of Vera's death in 1942? What was George's reaction to it?

Under what circumstances did George leave the armed forces due to "ill health" in 1942? Did this have anything to do with the passing of Vera?

Where was George during the war, and where did he live and what did he do from 1943 through his arrival at "Grey Friars, Budleigh Salterton, Devon," where he presumably passed away?

How did he come to work at Ladycross Catholic Boys' Preparatory School in Seaford, Sussex, for a term in 1956? Did he live nearby?

Did he live with or near Agnes and Violet Mills in Devon?

What were the circumstances of his death in 1972?

To whom did the copyrights to his books go?

Agnes and Violet Mills:

What sort of girls were they? Were they devoted to their mother? Their father? Both?

Had they opportunities to marry? What was it like for young women, daughters of a clergyman, in London during the years between the World Wars?

Where were they schooled?

How were they involved in the Girl Guides?

In 1938, they were living in "Cadogen Gardens, S.W." London with "Barbara Mills". When did they relocate there? Who is Barbara Mills?

In 1947, they donate the papers of the late Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay, their grandfather, to the British Library. Under what circumstances was this made, and where were the girls living when they made the donation?

When did the girls move to Devon? Did they live with George or nearby? What was their relationship with him as youths and as they aged?

What were the circumstances of their passing in Devon in 1977?

What happened to any papers, letters, memorabilia, ephemera, and/or family photographs they may have been holding?

If they held any family copyrights (Barton, Arthur F. H., George) to whom did those rights go after the death of Agnes and Violet?

General Question:

How is Brig. Gen. Giles Hallam Mills related to this family?