Friday, July 30, 2010

Finding Parkfield...

Lately, I've been catching up on many things that I've been working on. Today I'd like to share some information someone else has been working on—and I really appreciate it!

The following is an exchange of information from friend of the website Barry McAleenan and Liz Graydon, the webmaster of the interesting site Cuckfield Compendium. It was Barry who determined that, although George Mills wrote in the dedication to his 1939 book Minor and Major that he had attended a school called Parkfield in Haywards Heath, the school was likely in nearby Cuckfield. You can read the dedication above, left.

Here's the exchange that Barry began back in May…

On 27/05/2010 11:04, Barry McAleenan wrote:

Dear Liz

I'm trying to find out about the above school in the years 1900 to 1914. All I have established is that its address was: Cuckfield Road, Haywards Heath.

It could have been anywhere between Hurstpierpoint and Cuckfield proper. One of the masters retired to Purcells. I hope he was musical! Can you help?

Kind regards

Barry Mc

Liz Graydon wrote:

There was this mention on Friends Reunited:

Wick and Parkfield Preparatory School
Cuckfield Rd, Haywards Heath, Sussex

The school closed in the Summer of 1974. Created from the merger of two preparatory schools, hence the unusual name, it had existed for around 70 years.
Try googling Parkfield Prep School, there are a few mentions. Cuckfield Road is really bewteen Cuckfield and Staplefield, or so Google maps tells me.


On 03/07/2010 00:30, Barry McAleenan wrote:

Dear Liz

Many thanks for your industry. I only wish that there were more webmasters of your calibre.

For your shoebox: I have since accessed the Historical Directories website and found this entry:

Kelly's 1915 for Haywards Heath, page 444: Commercial section [Private, similar] Bent, Ernest Lionel, boys' preparatory school, Parkfield, Brighton Road.

I suppose it's possible that the name of the original house may have moved with the school.

With kind regards

Barry Mc

Date: Sat, 03 Jul 2010 09:59:38 +0100
From: Liz

That's interesting, thanks.

When I was googling I kept getting references to George Mills who was both a teacher and a writer. He was at Parkfield

Friends Reunited also show there being a Wick and Parkfield school in Isaacs Lane, Haywards Heath, but does not indicate whether it is a prep school or not.I expect the West Sussex County Records Office (Chichester) will have records of schools in the area too.

I may be repeating what you have already been able to do. The attached is the 1901 census [right] for Earnest [Ernest] Lionel Bent, schoolmaster at Butlers Green, [:] Parkfield. Butlers Green is on the outskirts of Haywards Heath in the Isaacs Lane area. He was born in Essex.

Attached is the 1891 Census for the likely the same person. (aged 10 years younger and born Essex, same occupation - mathematics) The attached 1881 shows him with his parents as does the 1871.

Wishing you well with your searching


[NOTE: Liz had attached copies of the 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901 census forms for Ernest L. Bent. The 1901 U. K. Census form is the one that would be closest in proximity to the time George Mills would have attended the school, which he would have sometime between approximately 1903 and 1909. This 1901 form shows the school being at Parkfield and names several schollmasters, some of whom probably taught young George Mills. Click to enlarge and read it.]

Date: Saturday, July 03, 2010 6:40 AM
From: Barry McAleenan []

Dear Sam

This is what Liz Graydon has just sent me. Butlers Green is now part of Haywards Heath - pretty much to the right of the T into the 2028 on the old map (which I now date to circa 1925 - since reference was found to the partitioning of Ireland). The 2028 is also known as Isaacs Lane, but the actual junction has been moved. I read the census as Ernest Bent. Parkfield would have been in Butlers Green, which included the top end of Isaacs Lane. [This may have been known as 'the Brighton Road' since it would have been a 'route', if nothing else - but that's only a guess.]

Kind regards


As always, thank you very much, Barry!

Taking a quick "virtual drive" down Isaac's Lane, I didn't find much: Mostly trees. One thing I did know was that, in looking for the addresses of my own relatives near Manchester, the homes have either been there, or they've been paved over in favor of apartments, subdivisions, or office parks. The fact that I didn't see any of those along Isaac's Lane led me to believe that the school hadn't been "developed" [read: demolished] into another structure or structures.

At one point, I stopped, spun around, and peered up a drive into a place called "Downlands Park [pictured, right]," which was marked with a medical red cross on Google Maps. It certainly evidenced the characteristic size, shape, and multiple chimneys that we've seen on Victorian school buildings like Warren Hill School in Meads and The Craig in Winderere.

Some quick research came up with the fact that the building was Downlands Park Nursing Home, run by an international organizaton called Bupa. I flipped through their on-line PDF brochure for the place and it looks beautiful, missing only Tom, Diane, Jane, and Harvey from Waiting for God—in fact, I think I did see Jane! [For a look around the home and its grounds, click HERE.]

Anyway, I contacted Bupa, who put me intouch with Lorraine Lane, the administrator at Downlands Park, who wrote:

Dear Mr Williams,

Thank you for your enquiry into the history of Downlands Park and yes it was indeed a preparatory school in the early 20th century. I will try to find out some more details for you and contact you as soon as I find out.

Kind regards

Lorraine Lane

Administrator Bupa Care Homes

Downlands Park Nursing Home, Isaacs Lane, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 4BQ

It's anyone's guess how long that might take, even if she remembers to do it. Still, it was awfully nice of her to reply so quickly. Thanks, Lorraine!

After letting him know of Ms. Lane's reply above, I received the following message from Barry:

Thursday, July 22, 2010 11:28 AM

Dear Sam

I've finally found Parkfield for you. You will find it just south of the crease [on the attached scan (map, shown)] where the west-going A272 from Haywards Heath junctions with the south-going A273 (Isaacs Lane). In passing, my house is shown on the North East boundary of the large school [Warden Park] in Cuckfield. Purcells is close by, but the mapping resolution of these houses is not good. The school boundaries were straightened out in 1960 or so. This doubled the size of the properties' back gardens. Before this, the land had been a golf course on top of a hill.

Kind regards


Brilliant! The location of Parkfield on Isaac's Lane near Butler's Green Road is exact location of Downlands Park! [Note: Parkfield is to the far left on the pictured map, showing its proximity to Haywards Heath.]

One more metaphorical piece can be put in my puzzle of the life of George Mills. Parkfield [interior pictured, right] , where Mills had spent time as a boy, has been found.

Well, another mystery solved, and quite satisfactorily I might add. Parkfield School had certainly seemed cloaked so completely in the metaphorical mists of time that I was afraid it had been essentially lost. It's nice to have found it, putting one more piece into the puzzle that is the life of George Mills.

It also heartens me that we may eventually gain information about and insight into the existence of two more schools that figure into the life and professional résumé of Mills: Eaton Gate Preparatory School in London, S.W.1, and the English Preparatory School at Glion, Switzerland, both of which existed at least in the era of the 1920s and/or 1930s.

I can't adequately express my appreciation to Barry Mc for help in gaining leads and insights into research that otherwise would have been beyond me. Thanks once again, Barry—and Liz and Lorraine—very much!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Exclusive: A Photographic Tour of North Cornwall

A good friend of Who Is George Mills? is David Harcourt Maule Wingate, a distant relative of George Mills, who recently traveled to North Cornwall. David was kind enough to send me images of the 'old stomping grounds' of the Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, his wife Edith Ramsay, Barton's son, Capt. Arthur F. H. Mills, Barton's daughter, Agnes Mills, and her younger brother, George.

Admittedly, Agnes was 6 years old, George, 5, and Arthur away at Wellington College when the family left Cornwall for London, where they would spend the rest of their days. Still, these photographs capture places they knew and loved, places in which grow the roots of our story of George Mills.

I hope you'll enjoy seeing them as much as I have! At the upper left, you can see the windows of St. Olaf's Church in Poughill, where Barton Mills was Vicar from 1887 to 1889. You can click any image to enlarge it for a better look. Now, here are more images of St. Olaf's...

And here are images from St. Michaels & All Angels Church in Bude, where Rev. Mills had been a "Steward of the Mystery" from 1891 to 1901...

David also sent photographs of St. Andrew's in Stratton, Cornwall...

The window to the right is dedicated to Rev. George Wingate, David's great-grandfather.

Above, we see the final resting place of Major Reginald Ramsay Wingate, D.C.L.I., David's grandfather, next to his father, Rev. George Wingate. We read about Maj. Wingate once before.

Finally, below, we see the World War I Memorial form St. Andrews Church in Stratton. I'd like to take a moment to thank David for taking us along on this whirlwind tour of beautiful North Cornwall before he headed for holiday on the Isle of Man. It was very kind of him to include us, and I want to express my deepest gratitude!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"I never knew what real happiness was until I got married. And by then it was too late" -- Max Kauffman

With so many entries of late revolving around subjects of war and the military, let's divert ourselves and attend a wedding!

The London Times of 9 June 1916 proclaimed, in a column called 'Forthcoming Marriages' that "A marriage has been arranged, and will take place on Thursday, the 22nd inst., at St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, at 12:45, between Capt. Arthur Hobart Mills, D.C.L.I, elder son of Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, 38, Onslow-gardens, and the late Lady Catherine Mills, and nephew of the Earl of Buckinghamshire, and Lady Dorothy Walpole, only daughter of the Earl of Orford. No invitations will be issued, but friends are very welcome at the church. Lady Dorothy is staying at 13, Grosvenor-place."

The Earl of Orford, Robert Walpole, was a widower at this time and had no heir to the Earldom. He and his daughter, Dorothy Rachel Melissa Walpole, have traveled the world fishing and adventuring in exotic locales.

In her autobiography, A Different Drummer: Chapters in Autobiography [Duckworth: 1930], Lady Dorothy Mills writes of the years before her engagement:

Halfway through my teens, the inevitability of me had become apparent, life changed. "Tom-boyish-ness" was discouraged, and it was subtly instilled in me that I had a part to play in the world. Slowly the beauty of my heritage began to dawn on me, the pride of prospective possession, and with grew also the realization that I was but a cog in a great machine, the juggernaut of Family Tradition. My looks and my accomplishments were dealt with, I was in general tidied up, and at eighteen I "came out." For awhile the world seemed to be mine to play with. I adored it all, the frocks, the parties, the dancing, the flirtations, the young men who sweated under the collar when they proposed and whom I had no intention of marrying, though I knew that some day I would have to make a "good match," a prospect that I classed alongside a visit to the dentist.

Lady Dorothy's father thought he had made a "good match" in 1888, marrying Louise Melissa Corbin, daughter of multi-millionaire American magnate D. C. Corbin [right] of Spokane, Washington, in Paris. Louise, 21, was 12 years younger than Walpole and would soon become mistress of the Mannington and Wollerton estates, both of which were desperately in need of repair. Her father was 56, and the Earl would have expected Louise to easily outlive the elder Corbin, anticipating a tidy inheritance.

Louise, however, died in 1900, leaving Walpole with only a daughter, Lady Dorothy, after a son, Horatio Corbin Walpole, born in 1891, died on 20 May 1893. According to, during Louise's life, D. C. Corbin "visited Lord and Lady Orford at their country estates and townhouse in London, where he gave his daughter a box at the opera, among other things." However, they also reveal that "Lord Orford’s diary makes it clear that, during his marriage, little money had been forthcoming from his rich American father-in-law."

Supporting multiple estates [Mannington Hall is pictured, left], a townhouse in London, a hunting lodge in Devon, and frequently traveling around the world in search of fishing thrills, the Earl of Orford was naturally cash-starved. As it turned out, the only beneficiary of D. C. Corbin's 1918 death in his family was Lady Dorothy, and Corbin had an iron-clad stipulation that she could not claim her inheritance until after the death of her father, the Earl. It seems that Corbin was making certain that the spendthrift Earl was not going to get any of his money, ever!

So, when one reads of a "good match" in Lady Dorothy's autobiography, one can be sure that it means a match that came with money that could be channeled the Earl's way.

Her bitterness over that very real situation becomes far more clear in the next section, almost ten years after her "coming out" into society. Lady Dorothy continues:

Then in due course I fell in love, with a young man possessing most of the world's assets except money. But that "Except" had a capital "E." It was the one unforgivable sin, and was visited with everything old-fashioned and unpleasant that nothing but the Inquisition or an old-fashioned family could have devised. Marriage or disinheritance, that was the choice that lay before me, complicated by the advent of the Great War.

Wouldn't the choice have been 'marriage or inheritance'? Anyway, it's easy to see that the Walpoles were apparently less than thrilled with her choice: The nephew of the Earl of Buckinghamshire, true, but in reality a mere captain in the infantry.

Did captains in the infantry—a segment of the military where men have frequently been disposable pawns in a war—make far less than captains in other areas of the Army? If Mills had been a Royal Engineer, cavalry, or artillery, I feel certain he could have made enough to support himself and wife. As we already know, however, Mills was seemingly unable, even as a captain, to make enough money to support a wife at home during the First World War.

More from Lady Dorothy as her plans progressed:

In 1916 I got married after a three years' family warfare; warfare that one might say ended in a draw, in that on the one hand I had done what I intended, on the other that I was cast into utter darkness, to become the Outlier I have ever since remained. I had no trousseau, we had no prospects and no money, scarcely enough even to pay for the wedding celebrations. For though everyone advised a registry office, I decided on a church wedding, and a fashionable one too, that should be, if needs must, my last defiance to a sceptical world. I was the first London bride to wear a gold wedding dress, and incidentally, that bit of gold brocade was to be the last evening frock, except of my own making, that I was to know for several years, until finally it was turned economically into a sofa cushion!

I had never arranged a wedding before and had no one to help me, and I learnt then that arranging a fashionable wedding is harder work than running an African safari. I was so tired when the moment came to walk up the aisle of the church that the flowers and the people and the strains of sweet music seemed to whirl about me in a mist. But the wedding was well worth the trouble it gave me, and the money it cost that we hadn't got, for it proved that even an Outlier has friends and wellwishers angelic in their kindness and goodwill.

One thing we can probably assume is that there was no help forthcoming from the Mills family. Arthur's mother, Lady Catherine, had passed away during the previous century when Arthur was just two years old. Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, Arthur's father, had been married to Edith Ramsay since 1894, over 20 years, and had three children with her. They lived close to Edith's mother and father in Kensington, and the family must have been, after 22 years, very Ramsay-centric.

Include the fact that Barton and Edith, realizing they had their own daughters, Agnes and Violet, aged 21 and 14 in 1916, were likely anticipating the expense of two weddings of their own in the very near future. Given that, the idea of springing for an additional wedding, and that for a Lady of the Earldom of Orford, whose own landed family was against an alignment with their son, Arthur, made the prospects of much help from the Mills quite small.

Still, although it subtracted any of Arthur's savings and put the fledgling couple in debt, Lady Dorothy had her grand wedding. Lady Dorothy, according to the Times, "wore a short dress of white and gold chiffon brocade, the bridal veil falling from a wreath of gold leaves, and carried a bouquet of white orchids."

The bride was given away by Sir Mortimer Margesson, Arthur's uncle, who had married his Arthur's mother's sister, Isabella Augusta. The Times also carried an abridged roster of what were termed "invited guests": "The Earl and Countess of Buckinghamshire, the Earl and Countess of Dundonald, the Earl and Countess of Kimberly, the Countess of Roden, Viscountess Campden, Lady Albinia Donaldson, Lady Vere Hughes, Mr. and Lady Isabel Margesson, Lord and Lady Hollenden, Lord and Lady Mostyn, Lady Lawrence and Miss Lawrence, Lady Maxwell, Catherine Lady Decles, Sir Thomas Acland, Sir Edward and Lady Stracey, Sir George and Lady Cooper, Lady Dixon Hurtland, and Colonel and Mrs. Horace Walpole."

Invitations, it seems, had been delivered to some quests after all. It is odd among London wedding pieces of the era not to have named the bride's attendants. After all, Lady Dorothy herself had been listed in the Times as a bridesmaid at a good many weddings earlier in the decade. Was the rift with her family something that caused the Times to reduce coverage of the affair? Or was the dearth of coverage of these nuptials orchestrated by Lady Dorothy herself—a woman who knew exactly what she wanted out of this wedding, far beyond merely acquiring a husband.

In closing, the article on the wedding adds: "Captain Arthur Acland, of the bridegroom's regiment, was the best man." Not only was Arthur Frederick Hobart Mills nine year older than his half-brother, George Mills, and hence they were probably not close, but it's likely that George, having enlisted in the Army Reserves on 15 January 1916, was already at the Rifle Depot by 22 June, not at St. Paul's [pictured, right]. An Acland family relative and fellow soldier stood up for Arthur instead.

Having now read quite a few early 20th century wedding pieces in the London Times, I can't say there have been many—if any—in which the living parents and siblings of a bride or groom, being in attendance, were not mentioned. Is it possible that Rev. Mills, his wife, Edith, and Arthur's step-sisters Agnes and Violet, were either uninvited or chose not to attend? Or was this short article manipulated to be a shot across the proverbial bow of the Walpole family, showing them clearly that Arthur and Dorothy's angelic "friends and wellwishers" were still extremely gentrified, despite her "disinheritance."

Let's take a few more moments to peek into the life of our newlyweds, now setting sail on the seas of marital bliss, already in debt:

That first year of marriage was my first taste of the economic problem. I had no knowledge of house-keeping in any shape or form, I knew nothing of petty household and personal economies and makeshifts, I had never before learnt to do my own hair without a maid, or how to mend holes in my stockings, and my first attempt to lace up my own boots gave me a headache and intense desire to cry. In fact, never had there been such a useless young creature, till necessity turned me into a very fair Jack-of-all-trades.

Forgive me my inclination to just smack this 27-year-old who'd never done her own hair or laced her own boots right upside the head!

She continues:

The war was to take its toll of us, and my husband of a year who had already been severely wounded in France, went out to serve in the Palestine campaign. Those were grim months of privation, of financial worry, of work and grinding anxiety in a world where nothing seemed stable, where the future did not bear dwelling on. Again my general uselessness in all vital things became apparent to me. Other young women were doing heroic things at home and in France; my purely decorative upbringing and my various accomplishments had taught me little that could be useful under the existing conditions. I worked at the East End of London [pictured, left and right] until my health gave out, I hammered ineffectually at a typewriter, I served in a war shop. I was of little use, I am afraid, but I learnt a good deal. And in the evenings, when the bulletins were more reassuring, I mingled with the unhappy, hectic crowd, that in dancing and noise tried to kill an ever-present gnawing anxiety. Much has been said about those war parties, but I learnt then that often they were the ultimate buffer against despair, a safety valve from recklessness and suicide.

One wonders how much of that last sentence actually is autobiographical, despite the fact that I believe it must have been intended to be written as a description of the parties and their effects on others, not as anything personal. If one reads the rest of the book, it's obvious that the former is Lady Dorothy's 'style.' Still, I think in the gravity of that last sentence, something personal, indeed, leaked from her. Is it possible that she was already regretting, if not her indebtedness regarding the cost of her wedding, then even having married Arthur at all, the marriage costing her a lifestyle that she simply couldn't afford to replace.

Lady Dorothy is soon out at night after working all day, attending parties that she later wrote about, and that she admitted gained her "temporarily the reputation of a dope-addict." She's doing her own hair, lacing her own boots, and house-keeping, all while Arthur is away in Palestine, leaving the poor thing to fend for herself. "Privation," though, seems too strong word in this case.

A charitable sort, Lady Dorothy, while she was still a Walpole, had donated a few quid now and then to The Times Fund, organized on behalf of the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John. Less than a year after her wedding, according to the 21 April 1917 edition of the Times, Dorothy was still able to come up with £4 for the Fund. Oddly, though, it is recorded in The Times as having been given, quite exactly, by "Lady Dorothy Walpole, Naples (Further contribution)." All of her previous giving also had included the tag line "further contribution." What's interesting here isn't that she was still charitable while in the midst of her "economic problem," or that she actually had £4 to send—"The City Land Syndicate, Ltd." only came up with the sum of £3 3s., for example.

No, what's interesting to me is the word "Naples." A quick check of Google Maps reveals that there is no "Naples" in England, and one would assume if it was Naples, Florida, the name of the American state would have been added. It seems to me that, in a newspaper from a European country like England, Naples means NaplesNapoli… in Italy, on shores of the beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea [left].

This couldn't have been Lady Dorothy Nevill (née Walpole), who had passed away back in 1913. This has to be our "Lady Dorothy," mailing in her latest contribution from her "economic problem" that she was obviously suffering there on the Italian coast. [Naples was attacked later during WWI, by zeppelin in August 1917. I find it odd that this wasn't mentioned by Lady Dorothy anywhere in her memoirs—either having experienced it, or having departed in time and just missing it!]

We read above that Lady D. "worked at the East End of London until [her] health gave out." Later, she "hammered ineffectually at a typewriter, [and] served in a war shop." What we don't know is what she did in the intervening time between her ill-health and the war shop. Where, exactly, had she been banging those typewriter keys, and when?

I do understand that physicians at the time often prescribed rest and a foreign clime for their patients, but I was under the impression that it was prescribed mainly to those who could afford it, not those suffering from "financial worry" and "privation." One wonders, could it have been Barton and Edith Mills who came up with the money for a rejuvenating trip to the Mediterranean for their new daughter-in-law? Arthur's uncle, Sidney Carr Hobart-Hampden-Mercer-Henderson, 7th Earl of Buckinghamshire? Sir Mortimer? Colonel and Mrs. Horace Walpole, the only Walpole wedding invitees?

One suspects that it may have been none of the above. The cynic in me whispers that the "economic problems" and "privations" have been exaggerated, if not actually fabricated, to make Lady Dorothy's life—circa October 1930, the publication date of A Different Drummer—more remarkable, and perhaps more saleable: "Poor little rich girl overcomes the odds and makes good on her own…" After all, there was this book, and hopefully many others, still to sell! A dose of the Gothic novel—a disinherited girl, East End dangers, ill-health, a handsome soldier, riches to rags to riches—couldn't hurt sales, eh?

One could suspect that Dororthy [pictured, right], feeling unhealthy, and following 'doctor's orders,' recuperated in the sun and sea breezes of Naples, not at her flat in London as she implies. And one could suspect that she paid for it out of her own [and/or Arthur's] pocket.

Again, much of this makes me feel as if A Different Drummer is far less an autobiography and more of the publishing version of a legendary singer coming out with yet another new "greatest hits" album, with some songs now recorded live on tour, along with a couple of previously unreleased tracks. James Taylor has made a decade of doing just that. Regarding Lady Dorothy's self-told story, there's not much new there. It really does seem a case of repackaging the old and calling it new, except for adding the thread of a 'backstory' that makes the saga of Lady Dorothy far more melodramatic.

The events of the wedding… The partial guest list… What the bride wore… The identity of the best man…

These things we know pretty much as facts [according to the Times]. Much of the rest is open to speculation—even the events recorded in Lady Dorothy's anything-but-revealing autobiography.

Have you any speculation, information, or ideas? Have you noticed an important detail I've overlooked?

Please let me know—and thanks!

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Study the past if you would define the future" -- Confucius

In a world of dates, facts, and figures, it was nice to post something more personal yesterday. Take for example last week's probing of the military career of Arthur F. H. Mills: There are things to be learned from the dates, facts, and figures, but it only takes one so far.

The message I posted yesterday from Oriana, great-granddaughter of Col. Dudley Acland Mills, R.E., was a breath of fresh air, and I thank her profusely for it. We may not have learned anything that could really fit neatly into a time line of events, nothing packaged with indisputable numbers that could be shoe-horned into a sequence of events, but I do know I learned one thing quite clearly:

It was just a beautiful message about her family, written with love.

First of all, I was wrong about Dudley Mills having written a book. I actually ordered it from a bookseller in Australia and it turned out to be "British Diplomacy in Canada: The Ashburton Treaty" by Dudley A. Mills, an article from the journal United Empire, pp. 681-712, October 1911, that had been torn from the original periodical. That doesn't make it a bad thing. It's just not a book, as I had thought
when I found it on

Apparently, that article and its maps are the Gold Standard regarding the issue, and one can easily find numerous references to it across the internet. Dudley was apparently a truly amazing man, and you can read about him in his London Times obituary from 26 February 1938 at the upper left of this entry [click to enlarge].

As far as fleshing out their branch of the family tree went, I had done pretty well, but Oriana's remarks really flesh out the people. It's hard to say how close the members of Dudley's family were with the family of Dudley's brother, Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, but telephone records show that Dudley Mills first got a London telephone in 1929 [pictured, right]—actually two phone numbers—under his name: "Mills Colonel Dudley A," one being listed at "29 Pembroke rd W.9" with the number "WEStern 5941," and the other listed at "24 Washington ho Basil st S.W.3" with the corresponding number "SLOane 6624."

London was a big place in 1929 and out of all of it, that Pembroke Road address in Kensington is about a mile west of the Hans Road address of Barton and family at the time, and the Washington House address would be less than 750 feet away from Barton's front door. Yes, Dudley was "in the neighborhood," although the next year he would drop the Washington House line from the directory and keep the Pembroke Road until it disappeared from the book after his death in 1938.

I didn't know much about Mordaunt Mills except that he was a wood worker who exhibited under the name "Algar." A brief article from the Montreal Gazette of 15 December 1931 [pictured, left] reads: "Mr. Mordaunt Mills, grandson of the late Sir Henry Joly de Lotbiniere, is showing under the trade name of "Algar" an interesting exhibit of his work in the utilization of various fine-grained woods for boxes and other articles at the handicrafts exhibition at the Horticultural Hall this week."

It makes sense that he ended up being involved as a patron of the arts, although I'm unsure of the connection to Malta. I've speculated, but not in any really informed way, that it may have had something to do with his uncle, George Mills, but that may be way off base!

All I really knew of Verity Mills was this tantalizing and incomplete snippet from Hawkeseye: The Early Life of Christopher Hawke by Diana Bonakis Webster: "Verity Mills, whose father, Colonel Dudley Mills, had a house on the further side of the Beaulieu River, was invited to tea one afternoon while Christopher and his father were staying, and she danced for them on the lawn." Hawkes was an British archaeologist and a professor of European prehistory at Oxford University.

Verity's wedding was covered in the London Times on 20 July 1934 [right], and we know she was a bridesmaid at the wedding of her cousin George Mills on 23 April 1925, which she attended with her sister, Ottilie [misspelled 'Othlie' in the actual Times article]. Interestingly, George and Vera Mills apparently did not attend Verity's nuptials. Verity also sat for a charcoal and pastel portrait by Lady Chalmers that was quite favorably reviewed in the 14 December 1933 edition [below, left] of the Times.

Of Ottile, I really only knew that she'd married Michael Heathorn Huxley, who I found was a scholarly fellow once described as a "soldier-diplomat."

Knowing some more about these people, their families, and their closeness as siblings, was something I simply wasn't used to in doing this research. Visualing the large painted portraits hanging in the living room, the elegant, colourful, crocheted scarves, the beautiful house and garden in Malta, and the flowing, elegant scarf amongst the dunes near St. Augustine all breathe some life into the entire Mills family, and its something that was unexpected, but quite wonderful for me.

I smiled when I read that Agnes and Violet Mills were "charming and very keen on the girl guides," but had to wonder who Brigadier Hallam Mills was. I looked him up quite easily, but still have no idea how he fits into the family tree.

Thank you, Oriana, for talking the time to share some of your mother's insights, as well as your own. Is there a book in all of this, you asked? I definitely think so.

It can't be an ordinary book, a dry compendium of names and dates, or a time-line in paragraph form. Without much to go on regarding the personalities of actual characters we're studying here, I think the book will end up being more about my relationship with these people who, outside of and at times even within their families, have been largely forgotten.

I'm coming to an age myself where I wonder about how I may be remembered, or if I will have marched through the world destined to be anonymous after the passing of more time. I think it's what drives and has driven me here. In a sort of plea to the notion of 'paying it forward,' meaning that if, perhaps, I can save George Mills, et al, from being lost in the sands of time, perhaps someone will someday do the same for me.

Finally, part of the story here is how to research someone who's never been researched. There are no authorized or unauthorized biographies. There are no 'up close and personal' interviews, no sound bites, no film clips, and no one has ever sat down and attempted to put the lives we're examining here into the context of the times in which these people lived. There's an autobiography of Lady Dorothy Mills, but one must stretch the definition of autobiography to Twiggy-like thinness to consider it any kind of a personal recounting of her life.

There's quite a bit of "story" to be told here, and its scope surpasses simply the cataloging the identities, names, and dates of Monica Mills or E. M. Henshaw or Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay or Valerie Wiedemann.

Who knows? It's a book that may never end up being written, but it is a story that's being told just the same, bit by bit, right here. Thank you, Oriana, for helping me tell just a little bit more of it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Wonderful, Brief Glimpse into the Mills Family

It's Sunday afternoon here in Ocala and dark clouds are now relentlessly marching in, accompanied by intermittent thunder. It appears Janet and I got back from an overnight in St. Augustine, Florida [pictured, in an image taken in the heat of the afternoon from the cool,open balcony of the Acapulco restaurant], just in time.

I'm sunburned and lethargic after a weekend of pool, sangria, waves, margaritas, sand, and too much sun. I've had this message on the backburner for a couple of months now and with St. Augustine on my mind, you'll probably see why I think it's finally time to post it.

It may be as much as we'll ever know about the George Mills family personally. It just seems unlikely that, unless a cache of letters, photos, and ephemera were to suddenly surface, we will do much better than this oblique, tantalizingly slight contact with someone who'd actually met them all. Much of the family information to which she refers can be found in an entry I posted on 4 May that you can read by clicking here.

It seems there will not be any more information than this, so we may as well make the most of this, and be thankful for this lovely message! [I've added emphasis to names.]

Sent: Saturday, May 15, 2010 1:37 PM
Subject: Family of Dudley Mills

Hello Sam. I am one of Selma's daughters. My mother was delighted when I told her about your e-mail. (she is not computer literate so I act as her assistant in such matters. ) She has gone off to the funeral of a friend this weekend so I shall confirm what I can meanwhile.

Your research is correct. In fact, I learnt from it, as I did not know the names of Ottilie, Mordaunt and Verity's siblings who had died before Ottilie was born, which you said were Hubert and Jocelyn.

Yes, Dudley is my great-grandfather, and there is large painting of him in my mother's living room, as well as one of his father Sir Arthur Mills, MP (1816-1898). My mother has very happy memories of staying with Dudley and Ethel at their home near the Beaulieu River, "Drokes". As far as I knew, Dudley, a royal engineer (& Colonel) for the British army, only wrote an article on his 1886 journey through China. It was published in the March 1888 number of the Royal Engineers Journal: "A Journey through China". I do know that Dudley donated his wonderful map collection to the University of Manchester. You can find it on the web, under Mills and Booker map collections, The John Rylands University Library. Did he also write a book, then??

Dudley and Ethel had 3 children who grew to adulthood, as you already know. Ottilie did marry Michael (my grandparents), and had 3 children, Selma, Thomas and Henry. Ottilie went to a sort of alternative school called Bedales. She was always the first in our family to see art exhibitions, theatre productions, etc. She was a wonderful grandmother, too. Verity did marry Neil. Verity was a beautiful dancer, my mother always said, and later on in life she made elegant, colourful woolen crocheted shawls for us all. She and Neil had 2 children. And Mordaunt never married but was a lovely uncle and great uncle to us all. He had a factory that produced mostly wooden-handled cutlery in London, and later had a beautiful house and garden in Malta, where he became a sort of patron for the arts. His home became a place where arts were taught, and artists gathered. Ottilie, Verity and Mordaunt were all very close.

My mother does remember Barton and Edith, and has been in touch with Brigadier Hallam Mills, from Hampshire, relatively recently. She said Violet and Agnes were "charming and very keen on the girl guides".

I don't know if any of this is interesting to you. Are you writing a book?? Related somehow??

In fact, the only time we went to Florida (which I gather is where you teach) was with Ottilie. I can see her now amongst the dunes near St. Augustine, wearing a long flowing elegant scarf over her legs. We watched the first landing on the moon from the hotel there.


Friday, July 23, 2010

"Here's to our wives and girlfriends... May they never meet!" - Groucho Marx

This in from the venerable Barry McAleenan regarding an earlier post about Arthur F. H. Mills and his unexpected new wife:

"You wrote today:

... due to infidelity with a Miss Jasmine Webster.

Frequently in the 1930's, the grounds for a divorce were contrived with adultery being the simplest and most effective means. It only required that a reliable witness observed an 'errant couple' sharing a hotel room in Brighton. The witness was employed by the petitioner's solicitor and was usually a private detective who would pay for the services of a suitable woman. Was it done the same way in America?"

Yes, there have been dozens of film noir here in the States that I seem to recall involving "private eyes" being hired to check out apparently adulterous spouses, and even meddle in the affairs, and I understand it's still a big business here with divorce rates at 50%. It wouldn't be so much to get the divorce itself, but to affect a favorable settlement.

I've already thought of one possibly-appropriate Groucho Marx quote today, and now another comes to mind: "Behind every successful man is a woman, and behind her is his wife."

Now, the immediate location Arthur Mills took to dwell with that new wife,

Monica, was Hurstpierpoint, more specifically the Stables Cottage at Hurst Wickham. Here's what Barry found:

"[This scan, right] scan covers Hurstpierpoint to Hassocks and therefore (Hurst Wickham) Stables Cottage. The College is Hurstpierpoint College.

I bought the Ordnance Survey map (Outdoor Leisure 9) when I first moved to the area - just before The Big Storm of 1987. Checking the small print tells me that it is the 'Selected Revision 1980'; also, 'Major roads revised 1974-75'. Neither scan has been cropped and should therefore reflect the map scale of 1:25,000 [2.5 inches to the mile; 4 cm to 1 km]. The colour scheme on the map was improved so as to be more readable at dusk! Google would show major changes now (2010).

Hassocks Golf Course was probably a 'set-aside' field converted in 1995, when the owner/farmer was subsidised to become less productive following an EEC directive."

Thanks again, Barry, for all you do. I've taken the liberty to punch up an image of the same area today on Google Maps [left], and it does, indeed appear quite different from the 1980 map—"major changes" would be correct!

Last night, possibly in honor of the service of Arthur Mills in Palestine against the Ottoman Turks, my wife, Janet, and I dined at Istanbul Turkish Cuisine here in Ocala. The Sis Kebap and Moussaka were magnificent, but what really impressed me was a live jazz duo that was on hand.

One gentleman—Rudy Turner—played virtually everything: Keyboard, synthesizer, and harmonica in a single chair, with a gorgeous blonde Gibson arch-top guitar on his lap that he occasionally riffed on, all while handling all of the vocals as well. Sometimes, I admit to feeling like Rudy, trying to keep all the mixed-metaphorical balls in the air at one time.

Still, while Rudy would have been entertaining, what made it all work so well last night were really cool and melodious breaks added by an alto sax player named Steve. He made it a truly complete performance, despite the feverish work of Rudy to seal the deal. [You can see Rudy play a medley in what looks like a banquet room at the Ocala Hilton without Steve's haunting saxophone (or any ambience at all) and hear what I mean by clicking here. He was 10 times better last night, but, boy, does he need Steve!]

Many thanks to Barry and everyone who has helped make my effort more complete in so many ways. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your knowledge, industry, and thoughtfulness!

ARMY PAY: Hon. Lt. Geo. Mills vs. Maj. Gen. Alan Buchanan

Here at Who is George Mills? it's not often that we stumble upon something special, and by special I mean a bit of writing by George himself that isn't bound up in one of his four books! So, despite the less than riveting subject matter of the missives below, it's a gala day for me.

And, as Groucho Marx once intoned, "A gal a day is enough for me. I don't think I could handle any more."

The letter by Mills would be completely out of context without first reading a previous letter, published in the London Times on 25 April 1944. Apparently there had been a thread running about pay in the military and its most effective means of disbursement.

Our first letter, seen at the left [click to enlarge], was written by Major General Alan Buchanan (Retired) and basically seems to come down in favor of getting the disbursement of funds off of the back of commanding officers, putting the entire onus on the grunts in the Royal Army Pay Corps.

To me, it seems that Buchanan says that C.O.s have more important things to worry about every week than figuring out pay rates and having troops sign for their wages, especially with a war going on.

It's amusing to me, sitting here today, to see Buchanan using the words "struggles" and "radical." It's unclear if the struggles come from the difficulty of the task or not, but I'll assume he means it's simply a time-consuming and relatively menial burden for which it is difficult to whip up any enthusiasm. And I assume a Major General knows that any change from military routines or protocols, no matter how small, would be considered radical.

The letter from George Mills [right], however, doesn't seem so radical when we find out the R.A.F. had already been disbursing their payroll in exactly the method being discussed. What makes George's letter so interesting is that he states: "[T]he scheme, if adopted, would have meant the saving of pay and allowances of a large number of regimental paymasters, many of whom hold the rank of colonel; the running of huge pay offices, with their enormous staffs, would have been unnecessary."

So, if I'm understanding this correctly, the Royal Army Pay Corps calculated the amount of money going to any regiment and presumably delivered that amount in a timely manner. Then, the money went to a paymasters' office unrelated to the R.A.P.C. where staff members would help a colonel figure out who gets how much.

Perhaps the "struggle," then, is more than just the burden of having to carry out the task itself. As opposed to Buchanan's proposed scenario of one C.O., sitting alone in frustration, trying to disburse payroll while other undone and seemingly more important tasks weigh heavily upon him, Mills sees a plethora of leech-like "middle men" sucking their living from the taxpayers by taking payroll from the R.A.P.C., turning around, and bureaucratically doling it out to the men.

Mills adds: "And, not least of importance, time would not be wasted—as it frequently is now—by officers over-paying the men, thereby putting them into debt. This frequently happens in the artillery, where trade rates of pay are very complicated."

I really had no idea that the Army Pay Corps didn't actually pay the Army at the time. Mills seems adamant about the idea of streamlining payroll disbursement in the regular army, and my hunch is that he made his feelings clear in many a base and barracks before relinquishing his commission in November 1943, just a few short months before this exchange. It's also likely that, as he does here, he made it known that he was not impressed with the capabilities and accuracy of the officers who were currently doling out the payroll.

It may have been George's penchant to try to 'help improve' his employment situations as seen above that had him moving from job to job so frequently when he was a schoolmaster in the 1920s and '30s. If there is any place still more rigid, paradigmatic, and loath to change, it's the field of education, even today. It's easy for me to see that fresh, new ideas about the education of prep school boys might have seemed "radical" to employers steeped in tradition, stability, and rote such as Windlesham House School where George worked for just a year.

Of course, having some 'issues' with the Army seems to have run in George's family. In the Times obituary of his uncle, Colonel Dudley Mills, R.E., on 26 February 1938, it noted of Dudley: "An inclination to debate the rules and regulations and to argue the value of military customs in the true Gladstone manner made him an unconventional soldier."

And we know that George's brother, Capt. Arthur F. H. Mills, apparently resigned his commission in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry just before the opening of worldwide hostilities in 1914, apparently in a dispute over promotion and/or pay. Arthur, by the way, did receive his promotion and back-dated seniority that same day.

One other thing we learn here about George Mills is that he isn't hurting for money in 1944. It's doubtful he had a full-time residence at the Naval and Military Club [pictured below, right] at 94 Piccadilly, W.1, and was simply using it as his address as his father, Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, used the Athenæum Club at Pall Mall as his address in public correspondence years before. It does add a certain gravitas to a letter!

Membership in the 21st century incarnation of the Naval and Military Club, which a humorist like Mills likely referred to as the "In and Out," stood at £895 per annum in 2009, with an additional fee payable when joining.

Let’s assume that George indeed had been assigned to a place like Ilfracombe soon after he returned to the service as a second lieutenant in 1940. Let's also assume he had not been a member under the auspices of his prior military service as a lance corporal in 1919, and that it was still restricted to officers at the time. If Mills was at a Royal Army Pay Corps base or center through his departure from the military due to ill-health on 3 November 1943, he probably hadn't the time or inclination to drop by the In-and-Out and become a member much before December 1943, his rank of Honorary Lieutenant clutched firmly in hand.

£895, exchanged today [23 July 2010], would be exactly $1,375.81. That would be quite a tidy lump-sum for me to pay for annual dues in a club right now. We also have to assume that George paid some sort of additional membership fee that first year, although I haven't been able to find out what that 1944 initial membership and the yearly dues would have been. Yes, George Mills, freshly-minted civilian in wartime London, circa 1944, certainly doesn't seem to have been too worried at all about making ends meet. It's safe to say that, financially, he must have been 'comfortable.'

And that shoots down my theory of Mills struggling to make ends meet during the Great Depression and cheerfully returning to the military as a way of at last regularly paying the bills. Had he been struggling, along with his wife Vera, to make ends meet just a handful of years before, it seems unlikely that George—in poor health—ran out and almost immediately joined an expensive and exclusive gentleman's club in London. No, George must not have had too many economic woes at the time at all!

Now, I know the club had been hit by a NAZI bomb in 1941 and much of its grandeur went into storage while repair work was done. There's even a poignant photo from LIFE magazine [left] in which a tuxedo-ed sommelier struggles to select just ther right bottle of port for a member [who may have to do without his preferred vintage] from the remaining stock in the club's diminishing wine cellar. Everyone at the time seemed to be suffering!

Still, while I head out, mower in hand, to do battle once again with continuing onslaught of the relentless force that is my lawn, when I need a break I'll think of George coolly sitting with his pipe, reading the Times at Cambridge House, taking umbrage with a letter to the editor, and writing a missive bent on to improving the state of payroll disbursement in the barracks, all within a city rife with shortages, rationing, blackouts, and rumors.

Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts or additional information, please let me know!