Ace Of Clubs: The Matchless Pamela Barton

Born in Barnes on 4th March 1917, Pamela Barton, Pam for short, showed an astonishing golfing prowess from early childhood. At the age of 17, Barton won the French International Ladies Golf Championship and two years later, was awarded the British Ladies Amateur, which was swiftly followed by her winning the American Ladies Amateur at the Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, New Jersey where she defeated the American champion Maureen Orcutt in a record-breaking victory,  becoming the first player to hold both titles at once for almost  thirty years.

By the mid-1930s, Barton’s sporting career was going from strength to strength; she was on the British Curtis Cup team from 1934 to 1935 and in semi-finals of the 1935 British Ladies Amateur, she beat her younger sister, Mervyn Barton. Their mother Ethel, also a keen golfer, won the 1935 Mothers and Daughters Foursomes Tournament with her eldest daughter.

Barton was again selected as a member of the 1936 Curtis Cup team, and then travelled to New Jersey to compete in the American Ladies Amateur for the second time; she left victorious, and Mervyn, who had gone to support her sister, recalled that ‘Pam was thrilled, she was over the moon.’ A book authored by Barton and entitled, A Stroke a Hole, was published in 1937.

Above: Pam Barton wins the American Ladies Amateur Golf Championship (1936)

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Duci Non Trahi: The Sinking Of HMS Duchess

At the bottom of the cold and murky North Channel, off the Mull of Kintyre, lies HMS Duchess, a once splendid D-class destroyer, now nothing more than a desolate wreck that belies her former glory, as well as her proud motto, Duci non trahi’ meaning To be led but not dragged.’ As she descended into the unforgiving depths, all but 23 of her 160 crew members met their deaths, with those who had managed to escape the sinking ship quickly succumbing to the icy waters.

Built by Palmers in Jarrow, a company that collapsed soon after, HMS Duchess was commissioned in January 1933, and originally allocated to the British Mediterranean Fleet, which played an essential role in protecting the links between Britain to the rest of the Empire. In 1935, HMS Duchess had been deployed to China, joining the 8th Destroyer Flotilla before being sent to the Red Sea in response to the Abyssinian Crisis. From September 1937, HMS Duchess remained stationed in Hong Kong.

Shortly before Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, she was reinstated as part of the Mediterranean Fleet and orders were given for her immediate to return to British waters with ‘the greatest possible speed.’ Crossings seas, stopping at Singapore, Colombo and Aden, and passing though the Suez Canal, HMS Duchess finally arrived in Malta where, along with her sister ships, HMS Duncan, HMS Dainty, HMS Delight, she was instructed to sail to the River Clyde, escorting the First World War veteran battleship, HMS Barham. Continue reading

Across The Sky In Stars: The Wisdom Of T. E. Lawrence

Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in Tremadog, North Wales on 16th August 1888. The second of five sons, Lawrence’s father was Sir Thomas Chapman, Baronet of Kilkea Castle, near County Kildare in Ireland and his mother was a young governess named Sarah Junner, for whom Chapman had left his wife. Despite the fact they never married, the couple both adopted the surname Lawrence. In his later years, his early familial situation would be a source of awkwardness for Lawrence regarding his own identity, and he would change his name several times throughout his life.

The world Lawrence entered was an ordered and stable Victorian one, where Pax Britannica saw the longest ever period of peace in Europe and in which the British Empire covered vast swathes of the globe. However, the devastation wrought by the Great War and the carving up of once great empires brought about Lawrence’s elevation from an astute and skilled soldier into the mythical ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’

In 1907, Lawrence went up to Jesus College, Oxford to read history and left in 1909 with a first class degree, the same year he visited Palestine and Syria whilst working on a dissertation that would later be published as Crusader Castles in 1936. His journeys ignited in Lawrence a powerful fascination with the Middle East and a deep affection for the people who lived there. After joining an archaeological expedition to excavate the site of Carchemish in Syria in 1911, Lawrence decided to extended his stay, and began learning Arabic, immersing himself in the local culture. He became particularly close to Selim Ahmed, also known as Dahoum, a young water boy in Carchemish who helped Lawrence with his Arabic.

Following the outbreak of war, Lawrence was recruited by British army intelligence, and in December 1914 he was sent to Cairo. In 1915, Lawrence learned that two of his brothers, Will and Frank had been killed in action in France and the tragic news only hardened his resolve to fight. When the Arab Revolt erupted against Turkey in June 1916, Lawrence was offered the role of adviser to Prince Faisal, the son of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, Grand Sharif of Mecca. Recalling his first meeting with the Prince, Lawrence remembered, ‘I felt at first glance that this was the man I had come to Arabia to seek – the leader who would bring the Arab Revolt to full glory.’ 

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A Man Of Dust: The Battles Of Keith Douglas

The Second World War is seldom feted for its poetry, despite producing poets whose talents rivalled those of the 1914-1918 conflict. Though he remained relatively unknown until the reissue of his work in 1964, of all the later conflict’s poets, the most striking was Captain Keith Douglas, with poems such as The Knife, and How to Kill hinting at the great promise that had barely begun to surface before his death on 9th June, 1944. In Desert Flowers, written in 1943, Douglas freely admits, ‘Rosenberg I only repeat what you were saying’ and he made no secret of how he looked to the earlier soldier poets, such as Isaac Rosenberg for inspiration, claiming their poetry was enacted ‘everyday on the battlefields’ and admiring how they communicated their personal experiences of battle.

Born on 24th January 1920 in Tunbridge Wells, Douglas’s childhood was marred by the illnesses of both his parents, which led to financial hardship for the family and the breakdown of their marriage by 1929. Douglas’s father later remarried and subsequently distanced himself from his young son, who was sent to a boarding school near Guildford. Douglas later recalled how his father’s rejection led him to retreat into his own imaginary world, which was ‘so powerful as to persuade me that the things I imagined would come true.’ In 1931, with his mother no longer able to afford his school fees, Douglas was sent to Christ’s Hospital near Horsham, where assistance funds covered the costs of his education.

Douglas left Christ’s Hospital in 1938, to read History and English at Merton College, Oxford. At Oxford he encountered the war poet, Edmund Blunden, who was his tutor and a profound influence upon the young man.  It was at Oxford that Douglas’s love of poetry was fostered, he also met the only woman with whom he would fall deeply in love, a Chinese student named Yingcheng, who turned down his proposal of marriage, a rejection that, like that of his father, he would never quite get over. Though he would go on to have other lovers, he would tell Yingcheng, you, however cheaply you behave…will always be the only person I love completely – you’ll become almost a goddess or a mania if you go away… If you ever can decide that things could be all right… please have the courage and confidence in me to come back.’ Continue reading