Thursday, March 31, 2011

Warren Hill School: An Inside Look

Let's take a bit of a break from profiling Joshua Goodland, once head master of Warren Hill School [left] in Meads, and take a look at another interesting document I've just received from the Eastbourne Local History Society. This folded leaflet promoting the school won't allow us to stray far from our look at the life of Goodland, however.

Dating from around 1930, it describes the Warren Hill of J. Goodland in a way that the images we've seen simply could not. As an American, I'm somewhat familiar with what life in a preparatory school might have been like—after all, I've seen About a Boy and Dead Poet's Society—but this brochure certainly describes the campus, education, and recreation far more clearly than I could have imagined it. Can I assume Warren Hill was fairly typical of a southern prep school of the era between the World Wars?

I realize this pamphlet [right; click to enlarge] was intended for parents and does not discuss specific institutional policies, classroom procedures, rules of conduct, rewards, or punishments that may have been of far greater interest to the children.

We can, however, by reading the books of George Mills, surmise what a term would have been like at Warren Hill (or not-too-distant Windlesham House) from the boys' point of view. His keen "eye" and "ear" describes not only the appearance and jargon of the boys at what Mills felt was a "modern" preparatory school (very much in contrast, I suspect, with his own school days), but also the daily routine—and breaches of that routine—in an exceptional manner.

We can enter the headmaster's office for punishment and are privy to the reactions of boys who take it well and learn from it, as well as lads that the tennis shoe only embitters. We can prowl through empty classrooms after hours, practice our cricket and football, defend our classmates, pretend we're asleep after hours, deal with bullies and practical jokes, do homework, and even get a peek into the back room where a hot and thirsty schoolmaster could draw himself a pint of beer and catch a quick nap!

As we can see [left], Mills was no longer in the employ of Goodland and Warren Hill by 1930, probably when this document was printed, but he likely had been at least an instructor of Junior French, as well as possibly English. The "novice schoolmaster" character in his books, Mr. Mead (the name probably a tribute to his beloved Meads), taught French—although many of the children in his books liked Mr. Mead anyway—and Windlesham House School believes he taught "English and English subjects" in Brighton.

As a teacher, he was able to make keen observations. As a writer, he was able to weave them into insightful, humorous, and believable narrative.

This leaflet helps to flesh out our concept of Warren Hill, and I am indebted to the ELHS for all of their assistance. At first they provided photographs of the edifice itself, and recently populated the campus with images of people associated with the school—and even a dog, Tiny!

This current document serves to enhance further our knowledge of Warren Hill School as a modern institution with a variety of educational, social, and recreational curricula.

Upon sending it, ELHS member Michael Ockenden added: "The dancing teacher, the cricket coach, and the gymnastics and boxing instructor were not permanent staff. They were all residents of the town who worked at various schools. The same was probably true of the piano teacher although I don't see her name among the piano teachers in my 1940 trades directory. Mr Moss had a gymnasium in Meads (Derwent Road) which was used by many of the private schools in the area."

Thank you so much, Michael!

At one time, at least for me, "Warren Hill School" was simply a short sequence of relatively meaningless words in the dedication to largely forgotten children's book, Meredith and Co., a text inspired by the adventures (and one supposes misadventures) of George Mills while teaching at Warren Hill School, with illustrations of the setting and characters [right] conceptualized and rendered by the legendary C. E. Brock.

Many thanks once again to everyone who has made it all become real for me, and who has helped me to so often visit Eastbourne vicariously and begin to know this school far better than I ever thought I would!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Looking at the Life of J. Goodland, Part 2

Last time we took a look at the early life of Joshua Goodland, but since we left him at 9 King's Bench Walk in the Temple district [left], I've discovered a few more documents that provide additional insight into those years.

On a 1907 ship's manifest, there is a record, very difficult to discover, that clearly shows school mates Goodland, Vyvyan Holland, and Peter Wallace all entering Canada bound for Quebec. Undoubtedly, this is the trip that Holland referred to in his autobiography in our last posting. The trio of friends departed Liverpool on 22 November 1907 sailing on The Victorian and arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 29 November 1907 for immigration purposes before traveling on to St. John's, New Brunswick.

Each listed his final destination as Montreal. Little else is recorded on this document save the fact that two "saloon" passengers who traveled with the three were deported. The documentation of the occupants of steerage, however, is rife with information about each individual. It's apparent a sort of class system was functioning that day as The Victorian put into port at 4:45 p.m.

In addition, a record in the book of Cambridge University Alumni, 1261 – 1900, provides the following information: "Adm. at TRINITY HALL, 1900. S. of Gillmore, deceased, of Exmouth, Devon. [B. July 17, 1873.] School, Combe Down, Bath. Matric. Michs. 1900; B.A. and LL.B. 1904; M.A. 1907. Called to the Bar, Inner Temple, June 12, 1907. On the North Eastern Circuit. A law ‘coach’ in London. F.R.G.S. During the Great War, 1914-19, legal adviser to the Priority Dept., Ministry of Munitions; M.B.E."

That was found under the entry "Joshua Goodland," and further categorized by "College: Trinity Hall," and "Entered: Michs 1900." It further provides his date of death at this point, but that would be getting ahead of our story!

Examining the rest of the entry above, it provides some information we already know: Joshua was the son of Gillmore Goodland of Exmouth, Devon. We do learn, however, the exact date of his birth: The 17th of July 1873.

Goodland seems to have attended school in Combe Down, Bath, Somersetshire. Presumably this school is still there, now known as the Combe Down Junior School [right], which was constructed the Gothic style in 1840 and enlarged in both 1887 and around 1900. With Goodland having been born in 1873, the first enlargement would have been started when he was 15—a time when he, indeed, could have been attending.

We know Goodland, 7 years old, was at home in 1881 and is listed on that year's 3 April census as a "scholar." It isn't unreasonable to think that young Joshua was first a student in his father's own school; the senior Gillmore, as we know from the same document, was a "Certificated Teacher [at an] Elementary School."

Goodland's next level of education likely came relatively soon after. The 1891 census, taken on 5 April, describes Goodland as a "school teacher's assistant," although he was at home with his mother when the census taker arrived.

After having thought that Joshua's father might have been at school that day, it turns out that Gillmore, Sr., was in the Rose Hill section of Worcestershire at 3 St. Mary's Terrace visiting 77-year-old widow Esther Willets and her companion, Jane C. Scarfe, 42. Next to "companion," however, someone else has clarified the entry by writing, "Dom." Presumably that means "domestic," as it is also written next to the occupation of "nurse," which described 50-year-old "servant" Lucian Dowell. There were two other servants in the home at the time, a cook and a housemaid.

Willets was described as "living on her own means." Goodland, 49 at the time, is described as a "1st class certificated teacher," next to which a different hand had boldly written, "School."

The senior Goodland would pass away in 1893.

What occupied Joshua between 1891 (and especially following the time of his father's death in 1893) and entering Trinity Hall [left], Cambridge, at Michaelmas in September 1900, was at first unknown. We did have a clue, though. In the 1901 census, taken that year on 31 March, just 5 months after beginning at Cambridge, you will recall Goodland, then aged 24 years, was visiting a building contractor in Bristol, and Joshua's occupation is listed as "architect."

In fact, Goodland is mentioned in a 2001 text, Directory of British Architects 1834 – 1914, Volume 1: A – K, by Antonia Brodie (Royal Institute of British Architects, 2001) . Architect Edgar John Pullar (1876 – 1929) is listed as having been Goodland's assistant in 1899. There is no listing for a Joshua Goodland in the book's first volume, though, perhaps simply meaning that Goodland never had become a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

It is unclear exactly what sort of qualifications might have been required. Pullar, according his listing, had "attended King's College, London 1892." Seemingly more important is the next line: "Articled to Charles James Chirney Pawley (b. 1854) 1893 for 5 years." Pullar then served as "Assistant to Arthur Green (d. 1904) 1898-99, and to J. Goodland 1899." Finally, "Passed qualifying exam 1901."

Would I be wrong in assuming that Goodland had been "articled" to someone himself, perhaps for 5 years during the time between the 1891 census and entering Trinity Hall in 1900?

In an 1897 item entitled "The Intermediate: Newly registered students," the Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, volume 4, listed the results of the Intermediate Examination held in London, Manchester, and Bristol on 15th, 16th, and 17th for probationers "ult." March in 1897. Below, the article states: "The following candidates passed and are registered as students:… GOODLAND: Joshua [Probationer 1893]; 1, The Parade, Roath, Cardiff [Master: Mr. G. E. Halliday*]." (The asterisk indicates that Halliday was a member of the Institute.)

Goodland apparently served with George Eley Halliday (1858 – 1922), an architect whose office was at 19 Duke Street in Cardiff until 1897, and 14 High Street in Cardiff, Wales, in 1897. Halliday is also listed as having "The Hermitage, Llandaff, South Glamorgan, Wales," as his address in 1897. Halliday, just months after Goodland's examinations, became a member of the FRIBA on 14 June 1897 and later was listed in Who's Who in Architecture in 1914.

Goodland had taken "The Intermediate" in March of 1897, implying that there must have been a final examination to come. In its "Register of Students," the 1903 Kalendar of the R.I.B.A. simply lists "GOODLAND: JOSHUA, 1 The Parade, Roath, Cardiff" as having been a student between the years 1893 and 1897.

No mention is made of a final examination—taken by anyone. Pullar's entry above does mention a "qualifying examination," and could that have been "The Intermediate" that Goodland had already taken? I can find no documentation that Goodland passed a final examination after Marh 1897, although one must assume that Pullar, above, could not have been Goodland's assistant if they were both students—or could he have?

My assumption would be that, for Pullar to have assisted Goodman, the later must have been actively involved in the designing and/or production of architecture. If not, with what, exactly, would Pullar have assisted Goodman?

Nevertheless, their union in 1899 took each man in a different direction: Pullar to a career in architecture, primarily in Asia, and Goodland, within a year, to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, as a 27-year-old student.

Goodland's life's work, even at the relatively tender age of 27 had already gone in two different directions. First, we know he assisted his father at an elementary school in Devon. Upon his father's passing in 1893, Goodland became an assistant to George E. Halliday, a Welsh architect in Cardiff, and seemingly had begun that career. Suddenly, at the turn of the century, Joshua was then off to university.

What did Goodland study there? We don't exactly know—he was calling himself an architect, not a student, during the 1901 census, as well as visiting a contractor at the time—but perhaps he simply was picking up some extra cash doing plans for a builder in Bristol while he studied law. Perhaps, however, he originally intended to and at first was studying architecture at Trinity Hall.

Either way, Goodland wouldn't stay with architecture. He earned Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws Degrees from Cambridge in 1904, and added a Master's Degree in 1907. During that time, we know Goodland also had traveled to "Russia and Sweden" with Wallace and Holland. He was called to the Bar, Inner Temple, on 12 June 1907. Having spent 7 years at Cambridge among dear friends, the almost 34-year-old Goodland moved into yet another vocation: Barrister at Law.

The Cambridge University Alumni text mentions that after taking his M.A., Goodland served "On the North Eastern Circuit." Assuming the text is in chronological order, this must have been when Joshua was a young barrister. Does it also imply that he moved around during that assignment? Joshua having become a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (F.R.G.S.) in 1906 [Its interior is shown, left, in 1912] would seem to confirm the implication that traveling didn't bother him much.

And, as we know, moving around was something Joshua would continue to do. After sailing out of Liverpool on 22 November, he did not return until arriving at Liverpool on 11 August 1908. In between, Goodland had circled the globe while using both his mother's home at Gresham House in London and Inshaw House, London, as his addresses.

The "North Eastern Circuit" must have followed, and then a stint as a "a 'law' coach in London." One thing notable about Goodland is that, in both architecture and law, he quickly went from student himself to guiding others new to the field.

An easy inference is that Goodland was a natural teacher, an area in which he would have been immersed as the son of and assistant to a schoolmaster.

We know that Goodland married on 19 June 1909 in Middlesex. The fact that Goodland had become a husband in London may imply that he was then—in mid-1909—already serving there as a "law" coach, his time on the circuit having been brief.

A 1946 issue of The Law Journal (Volume 96) explains: "It will be observed that there is nothing to prevent a student who wishes to do so from attending a law coach either before or after taking an Intermediate or Final course if he feels that additional preparation for his [examinations]," and in the early 1920's, there was an actual journal entitled Law Coach, although I can find no record of its existence before 1920 or after the publication of its third volume in 1922 [right, the best I could get].

Goodman appears to have once again begun a trip to the far reaches of the empire, if not around the world, in 1909. He steamed into Brisbane, Australia, from Colombo, Brazil, on the Oroya on 27 October 1909, presumably on his honeymoon. The actual ship's manifest, however, is not visible at, and there is an almost exact record, save for the date, for the same ship, the Oroya, supposedly bearing Goodland, and sailing into Brisbane from Colombo on 3 February 1909.

Was Goodland aboard both voyages? Perhaps he was so enamored of his February 1909 trip to Brisbane that he chose exactly the same shipping line and travel itinerary for a honeymoon later in the year. Perhaps an error in the transcription of the date caused the same arrival to be recorded on two separate dates—and we are not privy to which would be correct since images of the actual manifest have not been provided.

Finally, perhaps it isn't "our" Joshua Goodland at all. Without seeing the manifest, we don't know what other identifying information may have been recorded. However, there simply aren't any records of other contemporary British "Joshua Goodlands" having been born around 1873. Let's leave it at this: He probably sailed to Australia sometime in 1909.

We've seen some of the litigation in which Goodland was involved in 1912 or so, and we know his London address at the time via telephone records.

The last line of the Cambridge directory we will look at today is this one: "During the Great War, 1914-19, legal adviser to the Priority Dept., Ministry of Munitions; M.B.E."

The appeals case in the House of Lords between the Water Board, appellants, and Dick, Kerr, & Co., respondents, mentioned in our last post, did, indeed, involve the Ministry of Munitions. Goodland must have been representing them in the capacity of "legal adviser," as well as junior counsel.

On 7 January 1918, the London Gazette ran a lengthy list of those "to be members" of the "Most Excellent Order." Among the honorees: "Joshua Goodland, Esq., Classification Section, Priority Department, Ministry of Munitions." [A composite image of the entry is seen, left] In 1917, the M.B.E. had been instituted to be awarded for meritorious service by either military or civilian personnel.

With an upscale address, an MBE to is credit, and an association with high profile London lawyer Mr. Wm. Danckwerts, KC, on his resume, it's easy to see that Goodland would soon be going places in the legal profession.

We still haven't brought Joshua Goodland to Warren Hill School in Meads, however, nor have we associated him with the subject of our interest, George Mills. Such is the complexity of Mr. Joshua Goodland, Esq., MBE, who was 46 years old in 1919. That year, at the conclusion of the Great War, Goodland left the Ministry of Munitions—and we still are only three vocations deep into his life at this point, with two more professions yet to go!

We'll learn more about the labyrinthine career path of late bloomer Joshua Goodland very soon. Stay tuned…

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Looking at the Life of J. Goodland, Part 1

We know from our examination of the post-WWII croquet playing of the Mills siblings—George, Agnes, and Violet—that studying the Mills often introduces us to interesting characters who help us better understand George and Co.

One such person we've discussed recently and wondered about often is "J. Goodland," to whom George's 1933 Meredith and Co.: The Story of a Modern Preparatory School is dedicated.

Joshua Goodland [left] was "a some time Head Master" of Warren Hill School on Beachy Head Road in Meads, and we were recently introduced to photographs of Goodland, one-time business partner F.R. Ebden, and some others.

Goodland obviously was admired by Mills, but further research shows the Head Master to have been the sort of man Mills couldn't have helped but to respond to and admire.

Goodland was born sometime in July 1873 in Exeter, Devon, to Gillmore Goodland, a "certificated" elementary school teacher at a school in Exeter. The elder Goodland hailed from Bristol, Gloucestershire, and lived with his wife Frances at 39 Exeter Road at the taking of the 1881 census.

Joshua, seven years of age, was the second of four Goodland sons at the time, with a daughter, Grace, having been born in the middle of them. The family lived with two boarders, one of whom was a teacher at Gillmore's school, and the census counted a domestic servant and a nurse—Joshua's as yet unnamed youngest brother apparently had just been born!

As we reach the time for the 1891 census, we then find the Goodlands living in Exmouth at 5 Parade in Withycombe Raleigh. Joshua, then 17, is listed as a "school teacher's assistant."

Goodland drops from the grid until 1901 when he is recorded as a Trinity Hall student at Cambridge who was "Throwing the Polo Ball" at an athletic event (Joshua finished third) in Volume 23 of the Cambridge Review, and also as the visitor to the home of a building contractor who lived at 24 Hawthordew in Bristol. Goodland's occupation is recorded as "architect." He was 24 at the time.

Five years later, the record shows that Goodland had become a Fellow of the Royal Geograhic Society on 7 May 1906 meeting of the Royal Geographical Society at which he heard delivered a paper, From Victoria Nyanza to Kilimanjaro, by Captain G.E. Smith of the Royal Engineers. This snippet from volume 27 of The Geographical Journal [left] attests to Goodland's interest in travel.

In 1908, we find Goodland doing something about that interest. On 1 January 1908, Joshua crossed from St. John's, New Brunswick, Canada into the United States at St. Albans, Vermont, having sailed in on a ship of the Allan Line. He lists his address as "Mrs. Gillmore Goodland, Gresham House, London, England," and claimed to be a "tourist" with a destination of San Francisco, California. Using his mother's address at 24 Holborn Viaduct, near Blackfriars Bridge, would seem to indicate that, despite his age (35-ish), Joshua had yet to put down any roots.

Goodland was travelling with his friend Peter Wallace, an Australian attending Cambridge, as well as a university mate we've met before, Vyvyan Holland, the son of playwright Oscar Wilde. Holland later wrote a line in his 1954 autobiography, Son of Oscar Wilde, "Another month passed, and then one day Joshua Goodland came to see me and told me that he and Peter Wallace, with whom I had traveled to Russia and Sweden, were going to Canada on a shooting expedition in the north of Quebec." Presumably, the trip to Canada documented in the paragraph above was to Quebec. We also know that Goodland already had made a trip through northern and eastern Europe.

Then, on 13 May 1908, Joshua sailed into Seattle, Washington on the S.S. Minnesota, having traveled from Yokohama, Japan on 1 May. He then listed his home as "Inshaw House, London" (now apparently an artists' studio), and his occupation as "lawyer," not architect. He was 5' 9" tall, with a ruddy complexion, in good health, and was "passing through."

The record at this point is unclear how he came to arrive in Japan, but we know where he was bound from Seattle.

At the age of 34 and still travelling with Wallace, Goodland sailed out of New York City on the famed Lusitania [above, right] and into Liverpool, England, arriving on 11 August 1908.

Having left England sometime in 1907, Goodland and Wallace (with Holland along for some of the trip) had taken what amounted to a whirlwind trip around the world. When a 34-year-old bachelor takes the trip of a lifetime with his university pals, something big must have been in the wind.

On 19 June 1909, Goodland, aged 35, married Florence Annie Holdsworth in Middlesex. He is described as a bachelor "Barrister-at-Law," and she as the 24-year-old spinster daughter of the late William Holdsworth, Doctor of Medicine. It is likely that the younger woman that we see in the recent photographs from Warren Hill School were images of Florence Goodland.

The next documented event in the life of Joshua Goodland is a manifest showing Goodland arriving in Brisbane, Australia, on 27 October 1909—just in time for Spring!—after sailing out of Colombo, Brazil, on a ship called the Oroya. The young couple's honeymoon? Probably, although I can find no record of Florence being aboard any ship until 1938!

Actually, there are no records showing the couple traveling to South America, or anywhere else, by ship, or returning home—at least not until 1938. But, they must have returned.

It was apparently time for Goodland and wife to settle down and leave his life as a student at Cambridge behind, and in 1912 what could have proved that better than being tagged by the telephone company. Joshua was listed as having a number in the Holborn exchange, 4571, with an address at 9 King's Bench Walk, Temple, just off the Thames (near his mother's address, also close to Blackfriars Bridge), east-southeast of the Royal Courts of Justice and the Chancery. Interestingly, the listing above Joshua's was for his older brother, Gillmore Goodland, then a Consulting Engineer at 17 Gracechurch Street, about a mile to the east of Joshua. As you can see [right], you could ring Gillmore at London Wall 1969.

We find Goodland, according to the Law Reports, Chancery Division, volume 2, 1912, working in the court in the Court of Appeal and serving as junior counsel in a case (behind Cambridge's Mr. William Otto Adolph Julius Danckwerts, KC, highly-paid counsel (left) to Commissioners of Works and Public Buildings, and whose office was at 11 King's Bench Walk, Temple) involving the Metropolitan Water Board.

According to volume 29 of Reports of Patent, Design, Trade Mark, and Other Cases (Patent Office, 1912), he also summed up the plaintiff's argument in a copyright infringement case that year.

We lose track of Goodland and his career until he crops up in 1915 as a minor shareholder in the Standard Woodwork Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (The Electrical Review, vol. 76, 1915).

Then in 1918, he worked on an appeal in the House of Lords between the Water Board, appellants, and Dick, Kerr, & Co., respondents, regarding the construction of a £670,000 waterworks reservoir.

This case was lead by learned counsel P.O. Lawrence, KC, and assisted by junior counsel Goodland and Gregory Holman, KC (according to British Ruling Cases from the Courts of Great Britain, Canada, Ireland, &c., volume 8, 1919).

These seem to be very high profile cases, involving some heavyweights of litigation. Finding Goodland's address next to the prolific Danckwerts, who was rumoured to have earned in excess of £20,000 per annum at the time, speaks volumes about how quickly this long-time world traveler and some time architect became fairly prominent in the legal profession in London.

Next time we'll come back and find Goodland at new address, and, before long, in a new profession. See you then…

Friday, March 25, 2011

"One hates an author that's all author" -- George Gordon, Lord Byron

Now, I am not British, although many of my ancestors were probably thrown headlong out of England and Wales some time ago. Being an elementary school teacher by vocation, however, I am acquainted with the Olympians of children's literature.

Children's Literature, however, can be a bit difficult to define. Is it limited to books about children (or personified animals masquerading as children or child-like adults)? Is it exclusive to books written for children? Does it imply that children themselves must love these books?

While some of that is debatable, it's not too difficult to determine the occupants of my pantheon of great British authors whose output included works for children.

For our purposes, the criteria used in assembling the roster here was simple: The author must have been somewhat contemporary to George Mills. By that, I mean that a significant amount of that author's career must have overlapped the life of Mills (1896 – 1972.)

That makes near-misses out of three absolute giants:

Robert Louis Stevenson (13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894), and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, don't make the list. Stevenson, author of such timeless texts as A Child's Garden of Verses and Treasure Island, died two years before Mills was born. Carroll, creator of Alice, the Snark, and Jabberwocky, passed away when Mills was just a year old.

Finally, the life Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849 – 1924) overlapped that of Mills by 28 years, but she published The Secret Garden while George was still at school at Harrow, and only three books after that. Burnett published her thirteenth title (of 22, not all of which were children's books) in the year of George's birth, 1896. These titans would have been read by and likely influenced Mills, I'm sure, but they were not truly his contemporaries.

So, here, in no particular order, are the heaviest of heavy hitters Mills found writing for children during his "era," and it's a powerful line-up:

• Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943)

• Joseph Rudyard Kipling (30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)

• Pamela Lyndon Travers OBE (9 August 1899 – 23 April 1996), Australian-born Helen Lyndon Goff, commonly referred to as P. L. Travers

• Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM (9 May 1860 – 19 June 1937), commonly referred to as J. M. Barrie

• Hugh Lofting (January 14, 1886 – September 26, 1947)

• Kenneth Grahame (8 March 1859 – 6 July 1932)

• Alan Alexander Milne (18 January 1882 – 31 January 1956), commonly referred to as A. A. Milne

• Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963), commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis

Why would these authors populate this particular blog post while not being listed among the lesser literati we discussed yesterday?

It's simple: These authors would be prominently featured in the syllabus of a Children's Literature class at any university, even those outside of the U.K., Canada, or Australia/New Zealand.

Obviously Lewis is popular with new generations of children and well-known throughout the world because of 21st century blockbuster films of his works. The Narnia movie "franchise" helps book his sales and continuing popularity.

Robin Williams fairly recently has played Peter Pan and Eddie Murphy has portrayed Dr. Doolittle, even if their cinematic vehicles didn't much resemble the work of Barrie and Lofting respectively.

Disney has also branded Peter Pan, as well as Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, and the Jungle Book (the latter in animation and live-action), making them all worldwide phenomena.

Beatrix Potter's books are still nursery staples here in the United States, overshadowing even Mother Goose, and have been translated into a multitude of languages.

Finally, my favorite, The Wind in the Willows remains popular here in the United States, although I'm really at a loss to explain why. My hunch is that it is American geezers like me who keep prattling on about how wonderful it is and reading it to kids. (I wish I had the cash to bankroll a major, 3-D, CGI animated blockbuster featuring Mr. Toad, Mole, et al! Are there any other would-be Hollywood moguls out there, ones with a hundred million in disposable income, who'd like to join me?)

What I found interesting in studying the bibliographies of these legends is that they often did not write as many children's books as one might have thought.

Beatrix Potter did publish 29 books from 1902 to 1943(and 3 posthumously), but was also a mycologist and conservationist.

Except for an epic poem, Victory for the Slain, in 1942, Hugh Lofting wrote exclusively for children. However, he had served for years as a civil engineer and was severely wounded during WWI. He published 16 books between 1920 and 1936 (and 3 posthumously).

Kipling spent his life traveling and publishing books, short stories, and poems, but his work for children was quite limited. Barrie authored dozens of texts and drama, but again, his work for children was just a fraction of his output.

Grahame published four books between 1893 and 1898 before writing his last, The Wind in the Willows, which was published in 1908. He also wrote stories for periodicals.

While Milne wrote seven novels and four non-fiction texts for adults, he was primarily a playwright, penning over 30 plays and writing the scripts for four films. He published books of poetry for adults and children and wrote articles for Punch. His works for children are also just a small part of his overall body of work.

Finally, C.S. Lewis is described by Wikipedia as a "novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist." His non-fiction works number 38 texts. Lewis also published four books of poetry along with the 18 fiction titles he wrote, which included satire, fantasy, science fiction, and the Narnia series.

I think what startled me was that, not only are these the titans of children's literature, they are people who also had amazingly diverse interests. Whether those interests tended towards writing in different genres or involvement in other fields of endeavour entirely, these brilliant minds simply did not define themselves by how many books they published or for whom. Children's literature was just one aspect of their multi-faceted careers, and themselves.

George Mills obviously also had other things to do besides writing. He taught, he was an Royal Army paymaster, and he was a children's book author. Still, that seems to have filled so little of his life as we know it. There are many questions about how he used his time in the last 30 years of his life besides playing croquet.

This much is clear: Although he lived until 1972, he did not author any books after 1939.

Perhaps he had other windmills at which he needed to tilt, longstanding wrongs to be righted, other dragons to be slain, personal demons he had to wrestle… or perhaps he just didn't feel like writing anymore. That last has certainly been suggested.

Mills was not a giant in the field of children's literature. He wasn't even an author noted for being prolific, let alone brilliant. His greatest asset was being a keen observer of prep school boys with a real "ear" for capturing their jargon and banter. He was also able to package the fruits of those unique skills into a humorous, user-friendly style of prose that was, and remains, quite appealing.

The great evolutionary biologist, paleontologist, and raconteur, Stephen Jay Gould, wrote in his final book, The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox: "We have more to learn from the neglected than from the overly eulogized." He was writing about little known and often forgotten Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution scientists, but his words struck a chord in me regarding George Mills.

I certainly am learning a great deal from researching and studying George Mills—collecting data, analyzing information, and synthesizing it all into this website—than I could from reading a biography of, say, Lewis or Milne, no matter how enlightening.

And the more I learn, the more I find I want to learn.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing" -- Benjamin Franklin

Sometimes while researching the life of George Mills (1894-1972), it rally hits home that, despite being the author of four books, not many people know who he is. Some may remember reading one of those books, but of those with whom I've communicated, not one actually recalled his name.

When I was child, I thought—and I'm sort of ashamed to say that I'm positive I thought it as an adult as well—that having your name on a book was a form of immortality, as if having your name printed on the cover of a text guaranteed fame, and that people would not only remember a person, but that the book would always guarantee a person being well known, long after death.

There's a certain degree of truth to that, I suppose. I see 50-year-old books in antique shops that the current sellers would have trouble giving away, while at the same time, people are often lining up to buy the 50-year-old bookshelf upon which those texts sit! The authors of those old and forgotten books are unknown to me, and as I scan their names, nothing registers. They almost become paper tombstones, ephemeral, and the immortality of their authors is left to chance, and the vagaries of flooded basements, estate sales, and the omnipresent dustbin.

Although the books of George Mills were few, they were well written as children's stories go (Kids, at least in the States, often are served up less-than-fine-quality prose), and were popular enough to have entertained children from the 1930s into the 1960s. That's a fairly nice run.

Still, who remembers George Mills?

I don't remember him. I found his books, and then found him along with them. Did his four titles guarantee him immortality? Hardly.

As I nose around the world of British children's authors I find people who have spent entire and quite lengthy careers writing hundreds of books, and whose names still may not be on the tips of the tongues of 21st century readers:

May Wynne [Mabel Winifred Knowles] (1885 - 1949) published 211 books between 1899 and 1954. Wynne as one of the first female science fiction writers (using the psuedonym Lester Lurgan), including the novelisation of a silent sci-fi film, Message From Mars. She also co-authored the 1918 silent film, Big Money. Another pseudonym she used was Bryan Smith.

Dorita Fairlie Bruce (1885-1970) authored more than 50 children's novels, including the Dimsie stories and Springdale series. Throw in countless essays, short stories, poetry and drama, and her professional output ranges to hundreds of published works.

Elinor Brent-Dyer (1894-1969) wrote almost 60 Chalet School books, 7 La Rochelle Titles, and 30-some-odd miscellaneous fiction texts.

Charles Hamilton (1876 – 1961) penned over 3,000 stories of Greyfriars School as Frank Richards (~1500), St. Jim's School as Martin Clifford (~1000), and Rookwood School as Owen Conquest (over 500), as well as some 2000 other published tales under a variety of pseudonyms.

Noel Streatfield (1895 - 1986) wrote over 50 fiction and non-fiction titles for children along with 28 novels for adult readers, 3 plays, and a television serial, as well as authoring numerous published articles.

And in mentioning Enid Blyton (1897 – 1968), I won't even begin to count the literally hundreds of titles published in Blyton's name between 1922 and 1975!

As an American, I'd never heard of any of these authors off the top of my head except for Streatfeild, who was mentioned and adored in the film You've Got Mail. You can see, however, that these writers—all born before 1900, and all living in the same era as George Mills—were prolific, some beyond belief. George Mills lived at a time when writers wrote... a lot!

Mills, whose literary output topped out at a mere 4 titles, finds himself consigned the used book bin among other non-prolific largely unremembered British children's book authors like D. Katherine Brereton, Pauline M. James, Doreen Ireland/Doris Canham (Doreen Mildred Douglas Lord, who also wrote a life of St. Bernadette), John Elsworth, Stanley Weston Mason (4 Kestrels novels), and J. Radford-Evans (some of their dusty titles, published along with George's prep school tales by Spring Books, London, are illustrating this post).

What appears to be the difference between this last roster of authors and the 'heavyweights' that were described above? Output. Ask yourself if Noel Streatfeild gets mentioned in a Hollywood film if Ballet Shoes had been one of only four books she'd ever written, those in a different country, and some 50 years before. Not a chance!

One of the big questions that I have asked so often here has been: Why did George Mills, author of popular books for and about children, having published three titles just in the years of 1938 – 1939, never author another book?

I know that the decision may not have been made that instantaneously. Perhaps in 1940 Mills was tinkering with a fourth book in his prep school series, or perhaps was crafting a manuscript to follow up on the publication of his children's biography, St. Thomas of Canterbury, perhaps with St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

The Second World War surely got in his way. In fact,I hear it altered or ruined many of the tentative plans that folks had made at the time. Still, after the war ended, Mills then lived another 27 years, during which time he published nothing save a brief and somewhat wistful letter to The Times about his grandfather's dogs.

Did George simply have something better to do? Had his feelings about teaching and children changed? Had he proved everything he had needed to prove, or said everything he had needed to say, in publishing those four books? Or could it be as simple as he didn't feel like writing anymore?

Perhaps Mills died in 1972 still meaning to get back to those manuscripts he'd been meaning to polish up and send to an agent. I'm at the point in my own life where I realize one almost can blink and 27 years can disappear!

Perhaps once he rotated the last Agate or Pica page of his last novel off of the carriage drum of his typewriter and had already heard the last bell ring, that was it: No more books.

And maybe it is something strange about me, but I don't need to know how Enid Blyton, et al, could have written so many books. I've read enough of the fires and passions that burn within the creative individual.

George Mills, however, was obviously a creative individual as well, but he didn't write—at least not much. What I would love to know is what caused his metaphorical fires to become extinguished so quickly and his talent to hibernate forever. To me, that's the real mystery of George Mills.

But we may never know.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Visiting Warren Hill School, Eastbourne, circa 1928 – 1931

While plumbing the depths of the military file of George Mills during the Great War, another message from an old friend was put on the proverbial back burner. A couple of weeks ago, Michael Ockenden of the Eastbourne Local History Society e-mailed with some news and some images. These images recalled our indistincy knowledge of the whereabouts of Mills during the period from 1922 when he ostensibly departed Oxford University without a degree, on through to Oxford University Press's publication of his first children's novel in 1933, which was presumably done while George and his wife, Vera, were living in London.

Let's take a look at Michael's message:

"Hello Sam:

Eastbourne Local History Society has been given some photographs of Warren Hill School. They were taken between 1928 and 1931. Alas no shots of George Mills but we've found one of the headmaster, Mr J Goodland, to whom Meredith and Co was dedicated. There is another of a previous headmaster, Mr F R Ebden. A local street directory gives Ebden as joint principal with Mr J Goodland in 1929.

According to street directories, the principals in 1925 were M A North and F R Ebden; in 1929 they were F R Ebden and J Goodland; in 1932 Joshua Goodland is the sole principal; in 1933 the sole principal is H E Glanville. (I have not seen a directory for 1930 or 1931.)

By the way, an undated leaflet (not part of the album of photos) published by the school shows the sole principal as Joshua Goodland MA (Trinity Hall, Cambridge). This leaflet must have been published after the departure of Ebden in 1931, so probably in 1931 or 1932. There is a list of teaching staff and Mills is not mentioned.

Another photograph shows a woman and is captioned, "Jim" Goodland. She seems quite a bit younger but could have been the headmaster's wife, sister or perhaps a daughter. She is not mentioned in the leaflet and so was not a member of the teaching staff.

Is there a school dog in Meredith and Co? There are several photographs in the batch showing a dog called "Tiny".

With best regards

Michael Ockenden
Eastbourne Local History Society"

We've had a chance to look at the history of Warren Hill School in the past. To review, George Mills wrote in the dedication to his 1933 book, Meredith and Co., "To MR. J. GOODLAND, sometime Head Master of Warren Hill, Eastbourne; to the STAFF AND BOYS OF THE SAME SCHOOL, and to those of WINDLESHAM HOUSE, BRIGHTON, THE CRAIG, WINDERMERE, and the ENGLISH PREPARATORY SCHOOL, GLION, among whom I spent many happy years, this book is affectionately dedicated."

Now, we've read that dedication several times before. My assumption—and it may be incorrect—is that Mills listed Warren Hill School first because it was most proximate in time to the publication of the book. I know if I wrote a text and thanked my employers, I would thank my current employer first, and by name. I would probably do the same if I was currently unemployed and was planning on using that most recent employer as a primary reference.

However, Mills simply may have listed the schools in chronological order, Warren Hill (whose headmaster possibly gave him his first job as a schoolmaster) and the English Preparatory School at Glion last. Or, just the reverse: His most recent experience at Warren Hill, dating back to getting his feet wet, so to spoeak, as a novice in the snows of Glion.

We do know the opinion of respected Windlesham House Association historian, Dr. Tom Houston, who wrote: "[Mills] taught at three other schools probably after Windlesham; viz; at Warren Hall, Eastbourne (a 19th century school closed in 1930s or 1940s); at The Craig, Windermere (founded 1899); and at the English Preparatory, GLION."

His speculation is likely based, at least in part on this bit of information from the school's archives: "During summer 1935 he visited Mrs Charles, then in Springwells, Steyning, W. Sussex, and told her he had written a book 'largely about Windlesham', published by O.U.P. 'He had been at 2 or 3 schools since, but is very faithful to Windlesham', she said."

He concludes: "My guess is that Mills came to the school soon after leaving university to teach English or 'English subjects'; that was a junior appointment, seldom held for long."

Assuming that Mrs. Charles was reasonably correct in her guess of "2 or 3 schools" after Windlesham, that very probably kicks Windermere and Glion into the post-1926 period of George's career. Warren Hill, however, still may have come before Windlesham in the chronology. If so, though, why would Windlesham have had a record of George's alleged degree (BA Oxon), but not of his prior teaching experience in nearby Eastbourne.

While it is possible that Mills worked at Warren Hill before Windlesham, one has to defer to Dr. Houston's opinion based on his assessment of the primary sources. Mills must have joined the staff at Warren Hill after departing Portslade.

Laboring now under the opinion that one works close to home, and in failing at that, then has to travel farther and farther afield, I estimate that Mills taught at Windlesham, Warren Hill in Eastbourne, The Craig at Windermere, and the English Preparatory School in Switzerland, in that order.

Even allowing for just one year in Cumbria and one year at Glion, and those being 1931 and 1932 respectively, that puts Mills at Warren Hill in the neighborhood of 1927 – 1930.—and this meshes perfectly with the date of the "list of teaching staff" that Michael mentions above.

By 1933, according the information above, Joshua "Jim" Goodland is no longer listed as a principal of the school, perhaps explaining George's description of him as being "sometime Head Master."

You can see the photographs Michael sent throughout this post. Perhaps I am being overly nostalgic about the past (indeed, a depicted past from before my birth), but it is easy for me to see (and the feeling is almost palpable when one reads his books) why relatively idyllic images such as these, etched in his memory, must have seemed to Mills to have been his halcyon days.

Oh--and Uggles, a bulldog, was an extremely important and lovable character in Meredith and Co. and its sequel, King Willow. Even though there had been a gog, Tubby, at Windlesham, I actually would be surprised if I was told that Tiny [pictured, right], Warren Hill's dog, had done nothing to inspire some of Uggles's shenanigans.

Once again, I am indebted to Mr. Ockenden and the entire Eastbourne Local History Society for their thoughtfulness, generosity, and kindness.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Word and a Clarification from Oxford

Hooking into the recent excavating that we did in the First World War army file of George Mills, there is a tie-in that's been incubating in my mailbox that I'd like to share. As we know, George was demobilised in 1919, and by October of that year, he had gone up to Christ Church, Oxford, taking advantage of a post-war decree on behalf of young veterans.

A few weeks ago I was doing my "due diligence" as they like to say these days, at least in the States, and running a few of my usual, fairly cursory searches, seeing if anything new has cropped up regarding Mills & Co. Up came a link to the 1922 Oxford University Calendar letting me know it contained the name "Mills, George Ramsay Acland." However, as is the case with many search results at, I couldn't see why or where in the calendar it was listed.

Curious, I dashed off an enquiry to Oxford asking about the appearance of George Mills in that text. My reply came from Nicola Hilton, a very thorough and attentive Archives Assistant:

"Dear Mr Williams

Thank you for your email. I have searched the card index of all those who matriculated (ie were admitted to the University) between 1891 and 1932. I have found an entry for George Ramsay Acland Mills. George matriculated from Christ Church on 16 October 1919. He is listed as a member of Christ Church from Michaelmas term 1919, under the subtitle 'Commoners' (ie members who have not been awarded a BA or higher degree), in the 1920, 1921 and 1922 University Calendar. I have been unable to find any record of a degree being conferred (ie at a ceremony) on George Mills.

The colleges in Oxford maintain their own Archives and it is possible Christ Church may hold some additional information on George Ramsay Acland Mills. If you wish to contact them, enquiries should be directed to, Judith Curthoys at

Yours sincerely

Nicola Hilton
Archives Assistant"

Thank you, Nicola!

We've actually heard from Ms. Curthoys previously regarding George's time at Christ Church, but this e-mail does offer some new insight: Mills was at Oxford at least through the end of 1921, but there is no record of him attending as a "Commoner" in the year 1922.

I e-mailed Ms. Hilton once again for a bit more clarification—sometimes I can be as ignorant as a bag of hair when it comes to British higher education—and she kindly followed up:

"During the early twentieth century the Calendar was complied each calendar year (not academic year as it is now). George matriculated in October 1919 and first appears in the 1920 Calendar. He appears to have been a member of Christ Church at the end of 1921 as he is listed in the 1922 Calendar. However residence is a college matter and for an accurate record of when George vacated Christ Church you will need to contact the College Archivist directly (please see my previous email for contact details).

Also, a colleague here at the University Archives has corrected me on a description I used in my previous email. Although those students listed under the subtitle 'Commoners' in the Calendar would not have had degrees conferred (ie at a ceremony) the term does not specifically denote this status. The status of 'commoner' in the Calendar separated the students from other member of the College who were 'Scholars' or 'Exhibitioners' (ie had been awarded some type of scholarship)."

So, while there is no record of George Mills having a degree conferred, the status "Commoner" that he carried throughout his time at Christ Church (Oxford?) isn't necessarily an indication of that.

I do find it hard to believe, though, that a case could be made for Mills having earned a degree in just over two years and was simply unfortunate enough to have Oxon's clerks lose the entirety of his paperwork, and, as a result, they neglected to record him as having had a degree conferred. That seems a bit of a stretch.

What is the "upshot" of all of this?

I am not entirely sure, save that on my "Timeline" of the life of George Mills, another of the gaps has been narrowed a wee bit more. Thanks to the record-keepers of the British Army and Oxford, we've tightened our focus on the endpoints of what Mills was doing from 15 January 1916 through the end of the calendar year of 1921.

Now, what occupied young George from the outset of the year 1922 through to his appointment as a schoolmaster at Windlesham House, then at the "Southern Cross" in Portslade, for the Lent term of 1925, still is open to conjecture.

We also have no indisputable evidence of what exactly Mills did to occupy his time between leaving Harrow School in the summer of 1912 and his recruitment under the Colours on the 15th of January 1916. He did enlist while declaring he was still a "student," according to his Army Form B 2512.

Summer 1912 to Lent 1925 is quite a stretch of time, even though we have ample data encompassing the period from New Year's 1916 through Christmas 1921.

At one end, George was a schoolboy at Harrow, aged 15, and at the other, seemingly a novice schoolmaster at Windlesham at the grizzled age of 28, having taken a turn in the ranks and studying at Oxford in between.

Any ideas?

Devonshire Park: Then and Now

I have to admit that it is with some relief that we have finally finished examining the WWI army file of George Mills [see the post below]. It was a windfall and answered many questions we had about George, but, as always with new information, it seemed to raise as many new questions as it answered.

My new goal: A glimpse into his WWII army file!

Meanwhile, reviewing and researching all of those documents put something of interest on the back burner, and I'd like to share it today.

Regarding our many discussions of players found in a group photograph of the competitors in a 1957 croquet tournament at Devonshire Park, the redoubtable Barry McAleenan forwarded a photograph of the park as it looks today [above; click to enlarge].

On 4 March, Barry wrote: "Here's a recent panorama of a much re-developed Devonshire Park. You should be able to see the turrets. Taken with a Fuji FS1500 "bridge" camera which splices 3 overlapping snaps together and relies on minimising the seam to get a result—but is not easy to use and sometimes lets itself down if the images have extreme perspectives or are distorted by lens curvature."

My, it does appear to have been re-developed! If I'm not mistaken, the 1957 photo from the website of the Bowdon Croquet Club would have been taken somewhere along the left hand side of the near court in what is now the park's "International Lawn Tennis Centre."

I've cropped the turrets Barry mentions out of each photograph and juxtaposed them [at left], providing a reference point for use when comparing the two images.

It's amazing how much has changed since 1957 at Devonshire Park [right], the year before my birth, but I see it when I return to my hometown of Broomall, Pennsylvania. It seems the city of Philadelphia creeps closer each year, threatening to overrun what once was a lovely little town in the distant suburbs.

Such is the passage of time, however. The old age that crept closer to my parents each year finally overtook them and now has me in its inexorable grip as well.

And on that sombre note, I think I will dodder on out of the porch here on this glorious morning and get some chores done while I am young enough to be able to walk, climb a ladder, and feed myself…

Thursday, March 17, 2011

1919: Army Form Z 11 – PROTECTION CERTIFICATE, Statements of the Services, and a Nice Handwritten Note from George Mills

Our final peek into the World War I army record of Pte. George Ramsay Acland Mills concludes here. We know that Mills was demobilised to the No. 1 Dispersal Unit at the Crystal Palace on 19 February 1919 and presumably was welcomed into the loving bosom of his family. Shown, left, it is actually the back side of a document we've already examined: Army Form B. 103., CASUALTY FORM—ACTIVE SERVICE. Here we clearly see the documentation of the demobilisation of our protagonist.

We don't know who might have met George at Sydenham Hill, or if he made his way home in some other way—Perhaps taxi? By rail?—to his waiting family in Kensington. With one son, Arthur, already having been wounded by the trenches of France and then returned to the Colours to serve once again in Palestine and China, it must have been a joy to Rev. Barton R. V. Mills (who served during the conflict as an Army chaplain) and wife Edith to know that their son, George, was relatively safe in England—although there were air raid drills at the APC in Dover—and now coming home for good.

It was "The War to End All Wars," after all.

Upon his dispersal, George was issued Army Form Z. 11. [right], his PROTECTION CERTIFICATE AND CERTIFICATE OF IDENTITY (SOLDIER NOT REMAINING WITH THE COLOURS). While the information about Mills at the top of this form is what we already know [Except for the line: "Specialist Military Qualification} Nil."], a key phrase stands out: "The above named soldier is granted 28 days' furlough from the date stamped hereon pending [19 FEB 1919] (as far as can be ascertained) which will date from the last day of furlough after which date uniform will not be worn except upon occasions authorized by Army Orders."

It goes on to state in bold-faced print below: "This certificate must be produced when applying for an Unemployed Sailor's and Soldier's Donation Policy, or, if demanded, whenever applying for Unemployment benefit."

So, this document proved Mills was a soldier on furlough until 19 March 1919, and after could be used to apply for unemployment benefits. He needed to hang on to this form. Got it!

It is recorded on the above documents that he was, indeed, "Transferred [to] Class Z [on] 19 – 3 – 1919." George finally became a civilian once again almost 92 years ago to the day. That's a happy ending to a not-always-so-happy tale, is it not?

Or is it the end?

The actual final document in the file of George Mills is a handwritten message, written on stationery imprinted with his grandfather's address and telephone number (3545 Kensington, if you're interested).

Seen to the left and below, right [click to enlarge], it reads:

"April 3, 1919

The Regimental Paymaster, R.A.S.C.


I have mislaid my Protection Certificate & cannot, therefore, gain my bounty. All the drafts had been cashed and my 28 days furlough having expired, I suppose I became careless and lost my paper. All the other documents issued to me at my demobilization are safe. Could you tell me if I can obtain another certificate?

I was discharged on the 19th of February this year from the Reserve Supply Personnel Depot at Hastings.

I should be very much obliged to you if you could help me in any way. If, in the meantime, my Protection Certificate turns up I will at once communicate with you.

I am, sir
Yours faithfully,

George R. Mills

Late Pte,

An inked rubber stamp tells us that this missive was received at the paymaster's post room at Woolwich Common on 7 April 1919. We have no way of knowing if Mills eventually found his Army Form Z. 11., or if it a duplicate was sent to him. It does appear that the copy here in his file is the primary carbon duplicate transcribed on the date of his demobilization.

By "bounty," Mills must have meant what an on-line source at the WWI website The Long, Long Trail refers to as "additional payments due to him [that] were sent in three installments by Money Orders or Postal Drafts. These could be cashed at a Post Office on production of the Protection Certificate." Terry Reeves at Great War Forum adds: "The serviceman was issued with a Protection Certificate for the period of his leave and a rail warrant. An out-of-work donation policy was also issued, which was effective for 12 months after his demobilization. The benefit was 24 shillings pw for men over 18 with allowances for those with children; women received 20 shillings. This rate was later increased to 29 shillings and 25 shillings respectively."

George also may have wanted the certificate so he could apply for unemployment benefits. Such a need wouldn't last long, however. We already know that Mills then "matriculated from Christ Church on 16 October 1919 [my emphasis]," and by a decree of 9 March 1920, "he was exempted from taking Responsions (preliminary examinations for entry) and the examinations of the First Public Examination," allowing George to enter Oxford, according to their archives.

Anabel Peacock, an archivist at Oxford continues: "This decree stipulated that until the end of Trinity Term 1923 any member of the University who had been engaged in military service for twelve months or more before his matriculation, was permitted to offer himself for examination in any Final Honours School, despite not having met the statutory conditions for admission to that School. This was on condition that he had obtained permission from the Vice Chancellor and the proctors; that he had entered upon the third term and had not exceeded the twelfth term following his matriculation; and that he had paid the fee for admission to the examinations the decree excused him from."

With a well-respected father and grandfather who'd graduated Oxon, it's easy to imagine that all must have been a veritable 'slam dunk' for young George. He easily cleared those hurdles and did pay his fees of £5—2s on 21 May 1921.

George was off to college in 1919 after last having attended classes in 1912 at Harrow. That is, unless you count his stint in the classrooms at S.C.T.C. Fovant at the School of Instruction, where he learned shorthand theory and typewriting—the latter being quite a useful skill for a man who'd eventually become a novelist.

And looking back on the clearly lacklustre military career (thus far) of George Mills, Pte., S/440048, doesn't it seem fitting that the army's newly-minted but almost immediately demobilised clerk did what many of his officers along the way [His various assignments are seen on his Statement of the Services forms, both of which are seen, either left or right] probably would have expected him to do?

He lost a critical piece of the paperwork he was handed on his way out the door of the Crystal Palace on 19 February 1919.

Although there is certainly a warm place in my heart, full of admiration, for George Mills, this final document in his WWI record seems almost fitting: He was a failed clerk who was even forced to admit he couldn't locate a very important military document after becoming a civilian again. I'm sure no one in the Army Pay Corps would have been surprised in the least.

Oh, George…

Better luck at Oxford, lad!