I was just answering a comment on a previous post – the review of Famous 1914-18 when a question crept up on me. The question is – who would you include?
The authors included A A Milne, George Mallory, Arnold Ridley, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Reith, Dennis Wheatley, John Reginald Halliday Christie, C S Lewis, Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Alexander Fleming, R C Sherriff, B L Montgomery, Ned Parfett,Tom Denning, J R R Tolkien, Winston Churchill, Henry Moore, J B Priestley, Harold Macmillan and Peter Llewelyn Davies.
It seems that the over 35s do best when asked if they recognise the names. Teenagers do worst, but it would, to be fair, be a well-informed teenager who recognised more than Tolkien. I recognised all except Ned Parfett and Peter Llewelyn Davies (which was embarrassing as I’d only just read about him in The Final Whistle as the nephew of Guy du Maurier). But I am over 35, and I do spend too much time reading about the Great War.
The rules of selection are simple – they need to have been involved in the Great War and they need to be reasonably interesting. It would probably help if they survived.
I’ll start with three to consider.
Captain W E Johns – wrote about Biggles though he wasn’t a fighter pilot or a Captain. He landed at Gallipoli in 1915 and saw a variety of active service before being shot down and wounded whilst on a bombing mission in 1918. After the war he was the recruiting officer who signed Lawrence of Arabia up for the RAF.
Percy Toplis – better known as the Monocled Mutineer, though that is probably inaccurate. He was born near Alfreton so is reasonably local, and was once arrested by the ancestor of one of our neighbours for attempting to defraud a jeweller in Hucknall.
Charles Lightoller – joining the Merchant Navy as a thirteen-year-old apprentice Lightoller endured shipwreck, fire at sea and malaria. His career started to look up when he went to sea again, ending up on the RMS Titanic. He was played by Kenneth More in A Night to Remember. For those of you wondering who played him in other films, don’t bother – they aren’t worth it.
Rather than run on, I’ll let you click the link to read about his exploits in the war, and at Dunkirk in 1940.