Lea Marshes Marsh Lane
Arthur Villiers & Eton Manor   
Arthur George Child Villiers was born on November 24th, 1883. He was the younger son of the 7th Earl of Jersey and so was brought up at his father's country houses, Middleton Park in Oxfordshire and Osterley Park, which was then outside London. He had three sisters older than himself, who became Lady Dynevor, the Countess of Longford and Lady Dunsary, the last being the only one of the three to survive him. His father died in 1915 and his elder brother in 1923.
He was at a preparatory school called Mortimer, and went to Eton in 1897. He was in the Eton Eleven of 1902, and after he left that summer, was for three years at New College, Oxford.
These biographical details are not set out simply for their own sake. In 1969, when he died, and when we, his friends, looked back on what he accomplished and what he made of his life, it was relevant to remember that he belonged to an important family, that he was already at Eton at the time of Queen Victoria's Jubilee and that he was 17 when she died. In the Edwardian era that followed, and really lasted until 1914, nothing in England changed very much, and choices of action that would now be considered normal for a young man with such a background were unconventional sixty years ago. Arthur's character was however intricate and formidable. He always upheld his class and its principles, but he did not hesitate to do what he thought was right or sensible, however incompatible his course of action and those principles might seem to others to be. It was typical of him to have wanted to reconcile the eccentric and the conventional, and equally typical to have done so happily and successfully, without the self-consciousness and embarrassment that would have tripped up more ordinary men. He was in fact always three persons in one, a resolute and ingenious investment banker, a philanthropist who gave his life as well as his money to others, and a Villiers. Those who knew Arthur well may like to think what they would add to this short summary of his remarkable control of a triple life, or how it could better have been described. But probably they will agree that those who did not know him well must believe that he brought it off, reconciled the unreconcilable, did nothing feeble all his life, earned the respect of thousands of different people, and never let one part of his life interfere with the carrying out of a resolve that arose from another.
As a child he was cheerful and amiable, affectionate to his father and mother, both of whom seem to have treated him affectionately in return, though his father, all affability to the world, was a tyrant at home. Lady Jersey was benign, intelligent and well educated. She undoubtedly had a stronger influence on Arthur than on his elder brother, who was clever but according to report, not very good-natured. Arthur was closer to Beatrice, the youngest of his sisters than to the other two, though in later life he saw a great deal of Lady Longford when she was a widow.
In 1890 Lord Jersey was made Governor of New South Wales. Lady Jersey took Arthur and his sisters out there in 1891 and Lord Villiers followed when he left Eton later in the year. The children very much enjoyed their two years there, but only one anecdote survives. Arthur saw one of his father's A.D.C.s, dressed to kill, helping himself to a buttonhole of violets from the governess's garden. Furious, and showing the daring that was to distinguish him throughout his life, he ran upstairs and poured a jug of water out of the window on to the A.D.C.
He was just ten years old when he went to Mortimer, and a letter from the headmaster's wife, Mrs. Cameron, written to Lady Jersey a few days after he arrived, says that 'Arthur is very well and he has already settled down most happily. . . . He hardly seems like a "new boy" at all. He is as bright and cheerful as you would wish to see him'. The only fly in the ointment was that 'Arthur has no laced boots and as he has not yet worn his new buttoned ones they could be changed if you like.. . . He cannot play kick-about or football in buttoned boots. . . A few days later Mr. Cameron wrote to Lord Jersey. . . . 'He is a most excellent boy and has settled down from the first most happily, giving no trouble to anyone. He seems as if he had been here a year instead of a fortnight. He is wonderfully gentle in disposition and his manners are perfect, but he is none the less very keen as to games.' There followed some criticism of the knowledge that he had acquired from previous tuition, ending however, with the statement that 'he is much above the average boy, and I feel sure that he will do exceedingly well. . . . He is placed in the 5th class. . . . There is one boy younger than himself who is likely to beat him in this class. . . In Arthur's handwriting there is the marginal comment that this was 'Sir Alexander Cadogan, a lifelong friend, born 1884, 25th November.'
In 1896 Mr. Cameron said: 'Arthur has done very well, but we are ambitious for him, and I want to see a little more "determination" in his character before he goes forth into the bigger world to Eton. He is wonderfully good-natured, and is the most popular boy in the school, but for this very reason there is need of "grit" if he is to do as well as we hope.' Finally in July 1897 he said : 'This is my last report of Arthur and I have only good to say. He has done an excellent term's work and has come on capitally at cricket. He ought, we think, to make pretty sure with good luck of the Eton Eleven bye and bye. Arthur is a boy of considerable force of character, which has developed not a little of late, and of wonderfully pleasant manners. He is sure to be very popular at Eton, but I hope and think that he will take his own line.'
Full marks to Mr. Cameron. He assessed the risk of Arthur's being too popular and too good at cricket, but he saw the underlying strength in his character.
At Eton he took Remove and went to the Revd. S. A. Donaldson's house. Within a week or two of his arrival Donaldson wrote to Lord Jersey to say: 'Arthur has made a capital start and is pleasing me very much. He is a dear little fellow and seems thoroughly good and anxious to get on. He is well up to Remove work and has no difficulty with it at all. I don't know that he has quite the ability of his older brother, but I hope he has more steadiness and persistency and that he is going to prove more industrious.' At the end of this half, and again in December 1898 and March 1899, Mr. Donaldson was disappointed with Arthur's place in Trials, which he thought should have been nearer a Distinction. 'Still he is such an attractive little person so thoroughly good and so far from anything approaching failure that it is impossible to be angry with him and one can only say "Excellent -- but might have been better still !" 'What was needed was 'a little more push from the energy of ambition' according to Donaldson, and, according to one of the form-masters, Arthur Benson, he showed a 'slight lack of the instinct of competition'. In August 1899 comes an ominous warning; 'Arthur's head has been very full of cricket this half, and his work has only come off second best.' Luckily in the report for the summer of 1900 there was only a passing reference to cricket, and in general it said that he had done quite well and deserved credit. But he had refused to learn Greek Iambics or to swim and, said Donaldson, `nothwithstanding much objurgation he prefers his own way'. Just as Mr. Cameron hoped he would.
A report in March 1902 says that 'although his industry . . . in ordinary school work leaves much to be desired, he has seemed not to be nearly so much uplifted this time with a sense of his own importance as a newly elected member of Pop, as used to be the case; and I trust he is learning wisdom and some self control ; also that he will not allow himself to be completely paralysed by cricket in the summer.' Alas, his final report, in July 1902, indicates that Mr. Donaldson's hopes were dupes. 'I am sorry,' he says, 'that Arthur ends up his Eton career by failing in the Certificate Examination. . . . But no doubt it has been hard for him with his head so full of cricket as it has been to give due attention to his work. At the best of times he is not industrious, as we know, and there is no fear of his ever overworking himself. I am anxious about his Oxford career, lest it should come to nothing; I have been urging him to make good use of his time, and I heartily hope he will; but it will need considerable effort on his part.' Later in this report comes a most astonishing criticism, out of keeping with all that had been said until then and with Arthur's character as his family and friends know it. 'His career here and character have interested me much ; his sharpness of tongue and powers of sarcasm -- not always exercised in quite the right direction -- have given him almost a unique position in the House, where his rule has been undisputed. This led him somewhat to lose his balance before Christmas but he has been much more amenable latterly, and the experience has on the whole I think been good for him.'
It is possible for a boy to go through a bad phase, to be swollen-headed and sharp-tongued, but on other evidence, while he enjoyed his last year at Eton immensely, especially as he was in Pop and finally in the Eleven, he was more frivolous than domineering. Two stories about him seem to bear this out. After the Winchester match, which was at Winchester, the headmaster apparently dined both elevens very well, and high spirits resulted in Arthur's being immersed in a bath fully clothed by Robin Buxton, the Eton Captain. The other may shed some light on his relations with Donaldson. When Arthur had committed some offence about which he had to face his housemaster, who was also his tutor, he saved his bacon by saying, 'Sir, I have been praying hard about this and I know that God has forgiven me. I assume that in the circumstances you will too.'
The best known story about him at Eton, related by Sir George Schuster in his address at his memorial service, was his remark to his father when he passed him in the pavilion at Lords, after making a 'duck' in each innings of the match against Harrow. To quote Sir George, 'Old Lord Jersey, for whom he had a deep regard, took this most hardly, and was in the depth of misery. Arthur said "I am most awfully sorry father, but after all it's only a game".' Later in life he was modest enough to say often that he was the worst cricketer who ever got into the Eton XI. Nevertheless shortly after the Eton and Harrow match, Donaldson's won the final of the House cricket Cup by an innings. The report in the Eton College Chronicle says,
`Villiers's leg-breaks were in both innings too much for the opposing batsmen, who were never comfortable with them. In the match he got altogether thirteen wickets for tot runs, besides making too. To him, therefore, the honours for Mr. Donaldson's are due.' His modesty went so far that afterwards he never mentioned this to anyone.
When he went to New College he made more friends, and in particular two from Winchester, the present Lord Parmoor and his brother, the Honble. Fred Cripps, who was two years younger. They seem to have been as good company as any of those who came from Eton. He saw less of another Wykehamist, Francis Weatherby, who had met him first at the Eton v. Winchester match, because Weatherby was not at New College but at Magdalen. They were to be companions later at the Eton Manor Boys Club and fellow officers in the 1914-1918 War. Arthur played little, if any, cricket and turned his attention to backing horses, which was very much in the Jersey family tradition. On one occasion he had to ask his father to pay his racing debts and he told Francis Weatherby that all Lord Jersey said was 'I'm surprised it is so little'.1* Probably this was in his last year at Oxford because he left among his personal papers two dinner menus, one dated June 17th, 1905, with a photograph of him on the outside and the caption 'The Road to Ruin', the other dated November 4th, 1905, with 'A. G. C. Villiers', 'The Anti-betting League' on it. In due course he became a member of the Bullingdon Club. It seems that then, as later, a Fourth Class degree was rather generously given to undergraduates who showed that they were clever but had not worked hard enough, and a Fourth in History was what he achieved. But without special training he ran the mile for his college. This was not his best distance and he signalized the remarkable endurance that he showed for years afterwards in long-distance running by getting a half-blue for the three miles.
For some years after he left Oxford he used to ride in point-to-points. He bought his own horse, and though Sir Francis Weatherby, who was a first-class authority on horsemanship, said that Arthur didn't seem to be in the least interested in riding or horses, he fairly soon won a Members' hunt race at Aylesbury. Philip Fleming recalls that he was a complete outsider, did not have a bet on himself but told all the staff at Middleton to back him, because they were still smarting under his failure at Lords, and that a furious punter who had backed the second horse shook his fist at him and shouted `You b--y red fox! I'll report you to the stewards.' Presumably he thought it a good thing to ride in races, and with typical determination and adaptability made himself competent enough to do it, although, or because, as his sister Lady Dunsany remembered, when he was a boy he had been taught to ride on a rather vicious pony which was too strong for him, and had more or less lost his nerve. His best horse, probably this first winner, was called 'Sybil' because at that time at any rate he had a great admiration for Disraeli.
When he left Oxford he went as a learner to Messrs. Baring Brothers, and the circumstances of his doing so are best given in his own words, from his reply to tributes paid to him at a dinner party on June 16th, 1964, on his retirement. A speaker, Mr. Bray, had said that he had found an entry in one of the books that read `October 10th, 1905 -- Mr. Villiers £50', and added, 'So we have established the date when you, Sir, became a member of Barings.'
Mr. Villiers corrected him as follows. . . . 'But Mr. Bray should get his dates right. It was the 2nd and not the 10th October, 1905, that I first entered Barings. I remember the date very well. I had just left Oxford and was looking round for a job. I asked the advice of Lord Mount Stephen. The reason why I asked his advice was because when I was at Eton he had asked me out to dinner and had tipped me 5. In those days one generally got 10/-- or £1 at the very best; so I was naturally impressed at receiving £5 and always remembered Lord Mount Stephen. He was a friend of Mr. Farrer and said that through him he could perhaps arrange for me to meet Lord Revelstoke with a view to my getting a place at Barings. What did I think of that ? I had never heard of Baring Brothers, but it sounded all right to me, and so it was arranged. I had an interview with Mr. Farrer, who had a large grey beard and was kindness itself. He said that there was a place for me in the bank if I liked and would I think it over and let Lord Mount Stephen know. This merely meant that I went away and waited a couple of days, and then wrote to Lord Mount Stephen to say that I would like the job, because of course I had already made up my mind. And I said that I would start work on October 1st. Lord Mount Stephen replied that that was excellent, but if he was me he would not start on 1st October because that happened to be a Sunday and he did not think I would find much going on at the bank. So I started at Barings on Monday, 2nd October, and that is why I remember the date so exactly. . .
Lord Mount Stephen was a friend of the family, and his daughter, Lady Northcote, was a special friend of Lady Jersey's. He was born George Stephen at Dufftown, Banffshire in 1829 and went to Canada in 1850. He became President of the Bank of Montreal and then head of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He retired in 1888, came to England, and was ennobled in 1891. He was regarded as a great authority on investment and advised the Duke of Connaught among others. He was always grateful to Barings for the financial support that they had given him at a time of crisis for the C.P.R.
Lord Jersey gave his younger son £10,000, probably at about this time, and that was all that he had from his father except for the payment of racing debts. It was quite a fair sum at the beginning of the century, though interest rates were low and we do not know how much Barings paid beginners. After two years, however, George Schuster, a close friend though two years older, was asked by the international group headed by the German Metalgesellschaft to take on the management of their investments in England. Schuster accordingly started an investment company called the Merton Metallurgical Company, and asked Arthur to join him in it because, in his own words, he thought that he was 'shrewd at tizzy-snatching'. How right he was ! They both had good salaries and they seem certainly to have managed their company's investments well. The principal shareholders in Metalgesellschaft were the Jewish Merton family, and the friendship which Arthur formed with Richard and Alfred Merton lasted for their lifetimes. It was probably through them that he became a friend of Alfred Wagg, who was to play so large a part in his future.
Although some of his friends later on thought that Arthur worked in Frankfurt, where the Metalgesellschaft's head office was, for a large part of his seven year service with them, in fact he himself recorded in a letter written late in life that he was there for only one year. But undoubtedly he learned about international commerce and finance and undoubtedly he worked hard, enjoyed the work, and learned extremely well. He proved to have the best possible equipment for investment management, intelligence, boldness and hard-headedness, and, arising out of that combination, willingness to change his mind and not to hang on for fear of admitting a mistake, but instead to cut a loss and never fret over it.
Arthur Villiers, charming and light-hearted, lived on for another sixty years. But in this period the Arthur Villiers whose single-minded determination to do what he thought he ought to do made him one of the great men of his generation, now developed. Determination can mean blustering through, but he was free from muddled thinking, from sentiment and even the commonest and most venial forms of everyday superstition or timidity, or too much regard for other people's weaknesses, and his way was always clear. Moreover the purpose in his life was being created. He had had his entree to Barings, who were to take him back in 1919. His other two great interests came into his life soon after he left Oxford. In 1907 he went first to Hackney Wick, where the Eton Manor Boys Club was coming into being, and in 1910 he joined his county's Yeomanry regiment.
The history of the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars (that being the official name for the Oxfordshire Yeomanry) goes back to 1798, and it was from Queen Adelaide's visit of inspection in 1835 that the regiment added 'Queen's Own' to its name. The officers nearly always included a Villiers or a Churchill or both. After a century of vicissitudes the Oxfordshire Hussars had a period of increasing efficiency from 1894 when Lord Valentia took command, and then, like all other Yeomanry regiments, they were revitalized by the Boer War, to which they sent two companies of mounted infantry in the volunteer force known as the I.Y., or Imperial Yeomanry. Lord Valentia, the Duke of Marlborough and Major Jack Churchill went with them. In 1905 Sir Robert Hermon-Hodge (later Lord Wyfold) took command, and the Duke of Marlborough succeeded him in 191o. 'After the war,' says the Regimental History, 'a great advance was made and the lessons of South Africa began to be taught in earnest. The annual training was increased to fourteen days and took place under canvas in many of the beautiful private parks of the county.' In the field old-fashioned uniform gave way to blue serge and then blue serge gave way to khaki. Recruiting improved, and the ranks were filled with the best material of all, young farmers' sons, who could ride and shoot and often brought their own horses. 'The regiment was nearly always up to strength and it was the ambition of many to be allowed to join.'
It was therefore in the golden days of the Yeomanry that Arthur Villiers first served in his county regiment. They trained fairly seriously but had good times, such as in the year when the whole Brigade (Buckinghamshire Yeomanry, Berkshire Yeomanry and Q.O.O.H.) camped in Blenheim Park, half the county turned out one day to watch their manoeuvres, and that evening the Duke of Marlborough gave a ball for all the officers and their ladies. The Oxfordshire Hussars consisted of four squadrons, 'A' based on Oxford, 'B' based on Woodstock, 'C' based on Henley and 'D' based on Banbury. When the war came, the official establishment being Headquarters and three squadrons, 'B' Squadron was broken up and its personnel were distributed among the others. Many members of the Regiment who served with Arthur Villiers in the war, and remained his friends, came into it as reinforcements in 1915 and 1916. His special friends before the war were Valentine and Philip Fleming, Anthony Muir-head, R. E. Hermon-Hodge, George Hutchinson and A. W. Keith-Falconer. Also Winston Churchill and F. E. Smith.
The Eton Manor Boys 'Club and Old Boys Club' grew out of the Eton Mission. Early in the century the Mission started a Boys Club which was run by a few Old Etonians. Its premises were three rooms in a small house near the mission Church. In 1907 Gerald Wellesley went there to help to run it and became so engrossed that he soon was in charge and went to live in the Mission Clergy House in Hackney Wick. From then on until 1914 and for four years after 1918 he gave his whole life to the boys, and developed for them the marvellous clubs that they eventually had.
In 1908 he realized (this is his own account) 'that it made little sense to accustom boys to club life and "team spirit" if, at the age of 18 or 19, they were to be turned away from the Club "base" around which their lives were centred. Accordingly during 1909 the Eton Old Boys' Club was formed -- independently of the Mission --and in the Autumn of that year opened its doors at the corner of Daintry Street to former members of the Eton Mission Boys' Club.'
From this moment, he said, the growth and success of the Clubs to be could be dated. They grew too big for their premises, and in 1913 Lord Roberts opened a magnificent new club-house, designed by a young architect called Goodhart-Rendell, on the site of the old Manor House and Manor Farm of Hackney Wick. The Boys' Club severed its connection with the Mission and the Eton Manor Boys' Club and Old Boys' Clubs came into being. By the side of the clubhouse the Manor House was rebuilt for the use of those who were running them. Gerald Wellesley lived there, and other Old Etonians, who worked in the City, had their rooms there and came down most evenings.
One of the first to give Wellesley substantial help was Alfred Wagg, and he in turn brought Arthur Villiers down. Arthur must have gone first in 907 or 1908, and he associated himself at once with the 'Harriers'. But he played billiards (and kept a record of his games) and no doubt took part in many of the Boys' Club's and Old Boys' Club's other activities. What these were is well described in the first report written by Gerald Wellesley for those who subscribed to the Clubs' funds. 'Here may be seen any winter's evening from forty to eighty boys in warm bright rooms. The two billiard tables are always in use, and bagatelle, draughts, dominoes and chess are all played regularly. Many of the boys are fond of boxing and one or two shape remarkably well. I hope very much that we may this winter have a strong class under some capable instructor. A reading room and library have been opened in the Club, and presents of illustrated papers and books are always most acceptable for the latter. Last winter a committee of boys was appointed for the first time to assist in the management of the Club, and the experiment has answered admirably. The Club "Harriers" go for evening runs one night a week, and are looking forward keenly to their "Marathon race". The nigger-minstrel troupe is still in its infancy, but promises well. Cricket, though not one of our strong suits, was played very keenly throughout the summer, and both our 1st and 2nd football teams have done extremely well. In point of swimming these East London boys are far in advance of most public-school boys, and I venture to think that a representative team race -- Eton Mission Boys' Club v. Eton College -- would be a very one-sided affair.'
The same report describes the first summer Camp for the Boys at Cuckoo Weir, the backwater used by Eton College as one of its bathing places. Sixty-three boys went down on the August Bank holiday weekend, and forty-five stayed on for the following week. Each boy paid some amount, according to the wage that he earned. The next year eighty went down and sixty-five stayed the whole ten days. The total cost was £70 11 s. 8d. The Camps were wonderfully successful. 'It is impossible to exaggerate the good, moral and physical, gained by the lads from that wholesome life in the fresh air. One boy put on 5 1/2 lb. in weight in the course of the ten days.' So wrote Wellesley about the 1908 camp, and Camps went on, with breaks for two World Wars, until 1967.
Other City men were among the managers in 1 911, and with their help Arthur Villiers and Alfred Wagg raised the money for the new club-house. Later on Arthur financed the Clubs almost alone, though he occasionally got friends to pay for special items such as the purchase of an extra playing field. It is likely that well before 1914 he was contributing.
With a good job, at which he worked hard, many evenings spent in Hackney Wick, Yeomanry drills and annual camp, and riding in point-to-points, Arthur seems still to have had time for a certain amount of social life. In his record of billiard games in the Old Boys' Club he records winning a game in 1911 in spite of having a sprained wrist as the result of attending a Bullingdon Club dinner. He went frequently to Middleton, kept up with his friends and stayed often at Parmoor, where he inevitably became attached to the Honble. Ruth Cripps, now Lady Egerton. Although he never married, there were other women that he specially liked, certainly among them Lady Helen Gordon-Lennox, who in 1911 married the Duke of Northumberland, and Dorothy Fleming, sister of Valentine and Philip Fleming, who married the Honble. Hermon Hermon-Hodge in 1906 and became Lady Wyfold when he succeeded his father in 1922.
On June 6th, 1912, he started a journey round the world, East to West, which ended with a trans-Atlantic passage on December 4th from New York. Many of his friends remembered only that he went from Moscow to Vladivostok on the trans-Siberian railway, that he took a skipping-rope with him and astonished the other passengers and the station staffs by using it whenever the train stopped in the daytime. In fact this rail journey was only nine days out of a six-months' tour of the world, mostly on business. He kept a diary for the first four months, and it reveals that he went first to Hamburg, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Stockholm and Abo, all ports of call, and then to St. Petersburg for four days (including on one evening (`dinner with Raymond Hubbard, Neville Henderson, and Spring-Rice') and to Moscow (`visited the Kremlin. . . . Walked up the hill where Napoleon first saw Moscow') for two days. At Vladivostok he `slept at a vile hotel called the Grand' and the next day went on by sea to Japan, where he spent four weeks, travelling a great deal to see industrial centres as well as places of beauty (on July 11th 'returned to Nikko after eighteen mile walk', so he was keeping fit), and he left at the end of July for China. After three weeks there he sailed to Australia and stayed there, moving round, visiting mines, keeping all sorts of social engagements and going to the races every now and then, for all of September and half of October.2* There the diary ends, except for October 10th 'Auckland', October 25th 'leave Auckland on Makuna', November 12th 'arrive Vancouver', and December 4th `leave New York'. A list of introductions gives the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and M. Samuel & Co. as responsible for some, but many others without named sponsors. A fortune-teller’s notes, written, not in Arthur's hand, on some spare pages, contain some howlers (such as marriage and politics), but they are not too bad in places.
`Fastidious -- very sensitive although you conceal your feelings --accustomed to be spoilt3 -- guided always of your head first and your heart second. Not susceptible to female attractions.'
A military career with some active service in which you may not be actually in the fighting line -- some connection with military matters and war is most noticeable -- on your return from abroad the occasion may arise. You show business ability with speculative success -- also most marked. You will be connected in some way with an Australian company out of which you will prosper. You will go in for a political career, you will change your politics and finally revert to where you started. You should be able to write and particularly to speak well. Your character is only now being formed and particularly your interest in literary and serious matters, etc. You have the faculty of observation and will eventually get to the highest position and I shall one day be proud to have told your fortune. You will be able to get your way generally but you object very much to being crossed. You have a temper which is not easily roused -- you do not show resentment or revenge yourself but you remember and do not wish to continue friendship once there is a coolness.'
You will have two "affaires" out of which you will pass "unscathed". Both matches could be not quite desirable and in one case someone may try to arrange the match. You will eventually marry in five to eight years. After you are married and when near 40 for once your heart gets the better of your head and you act unwisely and rashly -- (a woman in the case), you pull through satisfactorily and this does not happen again. You live to a good old age -- You will travel frequently to the East and there seems no sign of a settled existence for ten years. You are now debating your course of action but you will mix business and politics. You have a good constitution and can do what others cannot physically.'
Often we are told, probably correctly, that for most people social life in the Edwardian era was paralysingly conventional and boring. For Arthur and his friends their lives (some of which were all too soon to come to an end) must on the contrary have been great fun. But it is appropriate here to quote a few words that Winston Churchill wrote about Val Fleming after he was killed in action. 'He . . . was always a gay and excellent companion. He had everything in the world to make him happy; a delightful home life, active interesting expanding business occupations, contented disposition, a lovable and charming personality. He had more. He had that foundation of spontaneous and almost unconscious self-suppression in the discharge of what he conceived to be his duty without which happiness, however full, is precarious and imperfect. That these qualities are not singular in this generation does not lessen the loss of those in whom they shine.' In 1909 every officer in the Q.O.O.H. had been issued with secret mobilization orders. On August 4th, 1914, telegrams were sent to them with the two words, 'We mobilize' on them. On August 10th the regiment entrained for Reading, 'D' Squadron, under Major Jack Churchill, having paraded at Banbury Cross and ridden off to the station to the cheers of the townspeople. Lieutenant Villiers, who had already resigned from the Merton Metallurgical Company, was with them.
At the beginning of the war the Oxfordshire Yeomanry was commanded by Lieut.-Colonel Arthur Dugdale, who had taken over from the Duke of Marlborough in March 1914. Among its officers were Valentine and Philip Fleming, and all the others listed with them above except Winston Churchill and F. E. Smith, who left the regiment to take up Government appointments. It was part of the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade, which was commanded by Arthur Villiers's brother-in-law, Lord Longford, and it was up to full strength in officers, men and horses, eager recruits having been turned away on the second day after mobilization. One of 'D' Squadron's officers recorded that the march through Banbury was a memorable and stirring moment, none of those who took part in it knowing when or in what circumstances they might return again, `although there was no conceivable likelihood of our meeting the enemy for many long months -- many credulous people said "never".'
In fact the Oxfordshire Hussars were the first Yeomanry to leave England, but they had a longish sea-journey and were beaten by the London Scottish and the H.A.C. in the race to be the first Territorials to reach France. They landed on September 22nd, and were in action on September 30th. The history of 'The Oxfordshire Hussars in the Great War' is as good as a regimental history can be, and it is quite a large book, of which a great part consists of moves up to the trenches, back to billets, and from one sector to another, always partly on horseback, since the regiment was treated as cavalry until the end and never lost its horses. Not many officers left, except successive Commanding Officers on promotion, and newcomers included George Schuster, who said later how grateful he was to Arthur for getting him into the regiment, and three who had earned, or were to earn, laurels at the Eton Manor Clubs, Gerald Wellesley, Francis Weatherby and Edward Howarth. Many officers were killed and many more were wounded, the totals for all ranks being 150 killed and 230 wounded.
After moving about often rather aimlessly and often unattached, the regiment found itself on October 15th, 1914, marching from Dunkirk to Boulogne. As Boulogne was in any case an unattractive destination for a cavalry regiment, and as there was a rumour that it meant returning to England, the Regiment, in its historian's words, 'took what may perhaps be described as the most yeomanlike step of its career'. It was decided to billet for the night, and the regular adjutant, Captain Guy Bonham-Carter, was sent off with Lieutenant Horatio Fane, 'generally regarded as one of the most adventurous spirits in the Regiment' in an unauthorized car to G.H.Q. at St. Omer, to 'put it' to Sir John French that the Regiment deserved a better fate. It is not recorded who in fact listened to them, but as a result they were told to proceed to St. Omer, and on October 3oth they received orders to join the First Cavalry Division.
They were at once involved in the defence of Messines ridge, where Captain Molloy, commanding 'D' Squadron, was killed.4 A few days later they were digging their first trenches, and took part in what Sir John French described as 'the glorious stand made by the cavalry corps under Allenby' by whose 'devoted bravery and endurance' the greatest threat of disaster faced by the British Army in 1914 was staved off.
A diary which Arthur kept goes just as far as this. It is full of the flavours of the first months of the war.
`Saturday, September 9th, 1914. Churn Farm, Churn.
`I was awoken by Watkins at 3.30 saying that I had better get up as my regiment had been ordered abroad and was to leave at 9 a.m. I did not get up till five o'clock but was ready at the station at 8 with three horses, two servants, Collett and Inch, and all necessary kit -- I joined the Banbury Squadron -- the other officers were Jack Churchill, Pepper, Gill and Keith-Falconer. We went straight to the Southampton Docks and on board the Bellerophon. We sailed next morning -- some of our fellows were in cloth caps, others in their everyday breeches and it certainly seemed strange to go off with fellows of whom many had only left the plough a few days before --there were two red-headed fellows called Coles who came from Chilton and formerly lived at Bucknell -- they joined two days before we left and had on nothing military except a tunic -- however, Louis Egerton said that they were good chaps and I believe they are.
`We were kept outside Dunkirk for 24 hours owing to a strong inshore wind -- however, we landed eventually safely and found billets all over the town. Gill and I were in the house of a builder where we were most comfortable. Charlie Nicholl was in the house of a demi-monde who wanted to do all she could for the soldats
Anglais. Some of the men were put to sleep in the same room as four women, one of whom was sick on the floor. One of my fellows was put in the room of a man and his wife but I moved him. Another lot were billeted in the house of a lady who, when Val Fleming went to see her, showed him the corpse of a dead child -- she said that if they liked they could move it and stay there !
`We stayed at Dunkirk until September 29th, drilling on the sands and dining at the Restaurant des Arcades. Eustace Fiennes left us to go in the Intelligence and Adrian Keith-Falconer became A.D.C. to the General of the Naval Division to which we were attached.
`On our arrival at Dunkirk, we found Winston Churchill, F. E. Smith and Seely (formerly Minister of War) -- the two former had come by torpedo boat from England and the latter from the front --journeys no doubt of great value to the cause of Empire.
`On another day, Mrs. V. Fleming, Lady S. Churchill and Lady Ned Grosvenor came over -- Ned Grosvenor is in the Naval Flying Corps. Samson who has been attacking German patrols in an armoured car has been frequently in the hotel -- a brave but too reckless man.
`On the 29th we moved to Hazebrouck and stayed there until October 4th. Our objective was not very clear -- we had no orders and as all the marines went off to Antwerp we were left alone. The officers of the Regiment formed what Val called a Committee of Public Safety, i.e. endeavouring to decide on a policy and urge it on the powers that be -- half seriously, half jokingly. When there was a rumour of returning to Dunkirk, there was a deputation to the Colonel (I was not present), however our plans were settled for us by the Germans -- French troops began to arrive in great numbers in Hazebrouck and we were asked to provide outposts. The Henley Squadron went out on Saturday night and we all joined them at daybreak -- the day of the Battle of "God knows what" or the Battle of Mont des Cats. There were some Germans (about 1,500 of them) in the neighbourhood and some of their outposts fired at the Henley Squadron but no casualties except a French chasseur and Phil's hat --it was an exciting day. We ended at Cassel where some more French troops detrained. The next day we marched to Bergues and two days later to Dunkirk.
`There has been a great movement of troops on this flank and there is no doubt that we shall shortly be in one of the biggest battles of the campaign -- some of our troops landed at Ostend have already been in a heavy action and we expect to move any day.
`The French reservists are awful to look at -- absolutely hopeless in appearance but as one of the French officers said to Palmer -- they look all right from an aeroplane.
`Dunkirk is full of Belgian motor cars with opulent refugees or soldiers.
`October 28th. We have now been 14 days in St. Omer. When we left Dunkirk, we had orders to march to Boulogne which was to be our base -- we slept at a farm south of Gravelines where Adrian joined us fresh from the troubles of Antwerp. We moved on early the following morning and were told to go to St. Omer where are the H.Q. of Sir John French to whom we are bodyguard. Our daily routine of drill, shooting and exercise becomes rather monotonous and even the most unwarlike spirit like myself longs to be doing something. French told Jack that it would be months before we should go to the front, and that it would be murder to send us there at once, etc., etc. It will be equal murder it seems to me in two months time, not because we are Yeomen but because the Great War of 1914 is murder for a large part of those who play.
`There is plenty of society gossip -- the ancestral trees of many of those on the staff are long (or supposed to be) and there is a continual influx of politicians and members of the same kidney, some in khaki and some in plain clothes -- Lloyd George, Isaacs, Simon, Miss Violet Asquith, Duke of Marlborough, Hindlip, Ilchester, Arthur Lee, Seely, F. E. Smith, Neil Primrose, Eustace Fiennes, Geoffrey Howard, Pembroke, Percy, Castlereagh, etc., etc. All of these have got some "job" -- F. E. and Neil had lunch with us today on their way to Merville, where the 27,000 Indians are concentrating.5* We have had several German Taubes over St. Omer but though they have dropped several bombs and been shot at they have given and received no damage. I saw Colonel Lawrence yesterday who was over here arranging for the arrival of the 2nd Mounted Division (Yeoman) which are to arrive probably at Le Havre next week. He told me some Midland division of Terriers is coming over directly and Longford said that the Wessex Terriers are for India.
`On October 30th (Friday) we received orders at 4.15 p.m. to proceed to Neuve Eglise -- we left at 7 p.m. and arrived after a very slow march at 7.30 a.m. at Neuve Eglise. We halted at Hazebrouck and Bailleul. We halted for nearly two hours at Neuve Eglise and then marched on towards Messines. When we were within half a mile of Messines we dismounted for action. "A" Squadron and half "D" Squadron remained on the right of the road quite close to the town -- "C" Squadron retired and then advanced further to the right when later in the day the remaining two troops of "D", including Molloy and myself, joined them. At dusk we lined a ridge quite close to the town -- it was very cold, we had had practically no food and had no coats -- the men had been under fire all day both from rifles and shells and had marched 3o miles the previous night --rather a severe ordeal for untrained troops. About II p.m. Guy came and told us that "D" Squadron had to defend a barricade in Messines -- so we marched there under his lead -- there was shrapnel bursting round us, houses in flames on all sides and a German gun firing down the street while we crept along the ditch up to our barricade. We passed 26 Germans who had just been captured by the regulars. We stayed at this barricade till nearly two, firing at the Germans behind a gun about 30o yards down the street. Warren killed a German at 2 p.m. We were relieved and told to march to Wulverghem but were kept just outside Messines in case the Germans should break through -- we stayed waiting (very cold) until near 4 and then had some tea and biscuits and marched out to dig trenches. Having gone out about I mile with coats, spades, etc. we were told we could return and rest -- it was then nearly 7 --hardly had we returned when we were ordered to advance ("C" and "D" Squadron), in open order towards Messines and keep back a German attack. I was tired and how much worse the men must have been with rifles to carry. However, we spread out and advanced in one long line towards Messines -- we were in touch with nobody on our right and the troops on our left did not advance with us. Brian, however, persisted in advancing and Val urged Charlie to keep on -- when we had got under the foot of Messines Hill, having shot at some Germans who were retiring over the brow, we heard over the other side the German advance sounding -- at this same moment Brian had sent me to find out why "C" Squadron were not sending on people to scout the hill. Then came the order to retire, which we did very slowly to a hedge about 600 yards in the rear. We lined this hedge, through which we could not see to shoot and which gave us no cover -- I was in the middle next to Warren and the bullets came all around us. It was a nasty position as one could make no response. When at last Brian gave us the order to retire we did so under heavy fire -- he was sitting up behind this hedge quite cool but he was shot through the head just after everyone but Warren had gone. It was very sad as it seemed so unnecessary. Our advance was similar to many that I have made on Yeomanry field days -- ignorant of what was on our left, right or front, it was only the Germans sounding their advance which prevented a disaster. All the afternoon we lined a road under a fairly heavy shell fire, particularly for Wilfred and Adrian who were out with their troops in trenches. About 11 p.m. we were relieved and slept the night, i.e. until 3.45, in Wulverghem. I slept in the open on a blanket. We then marched back about two miles and spent November 1st digging trenches. Shells kept coming over our heads, but we were not the target. About 6 p.m. we were called out to line the trenches stretching from Point 75 to Wulverghem--Messines road.
"D" and "C" Squadron retired at dawn and "A" Squadron remained in their trenches -- November 2nd was a day of tremendous shell fire -- incessant and violent, due it was said to the presence of the Kaiser7* -- Black Marias burst in the road where our Squadrons were lined but killed no one. The 4th D.G. on our flank suffered very heavily -- Gill and Wilfred crawled up the roots and gave support to the D.G.'s -- a really fine performance considering the very heavy fire which was going on all the time. At nightfall we all went into the trenches and what a relief it was to find that "A" Squadron had lost only one man killed -- they had had an awful time and stood it splendidly. The holes in the ground all around them told its own tale of Black Marias. About g p.m. we were relieved and rode back to Dranoutre where Jack Churchill had made excellent arrangements. I slept in a bed and how delightful it was after not having washed or really slept since October 29th -- we stayed at a farm near Dranoutre on the 4th, and during the night of the 5th we were moved out to help some regiment but were not eventually required -- we went back to another farm about two miles from Dranoutre but had to turn out at 4 p.m. to line some trenches off the Messines--Wulverghem Road. We stayed in these trenches for 26 hours and then were relieved by the composite regiment of Household Cavalry. We had a night attack from some Germans but drove them off, and fairly heavy shell fire all day but thanks to Gill insisting on everyone keeping out of sight we were never made a target -- in the trenches everything depends on not being spotted by the enemy as if you are once seen they turn the shell fire on to you. So far the regiment has lost two killed and about eleven wounded -- extremely fortunate not to lose more.
`We have now been fighting for nine days and I will try and describe truthfully my present feelings and what I have felt in the past nine days. On first coming under fire, I was not in any way scared, although I rushed to take advantage of any cover -- a shrapnel shell burst right over me but nothing hit me. Shortly afterwards a sniper had a shot at me and I jumped into a ditch full of water which came up over my knees. One very soon realizes that it is no good trying to dodge bullets or shells except by taking cover, and that as regards "Black Marias" and shrapnel it is a question of going several miles before you can be really safe. Everything depends on being warm and having plenty to eat. Once in Messines I was very cold and felt wretched, but apart from that I have merely a feeling of loathing for the whole thing. The burning houses, churches, farms, dead and wounded men and horses, all tell the same story --misery and grief to themselves or someone else, and who will be better for it all ? In a district like that round Messines it must be a generation before there can be any real restoration of happiness to the people. I intensely dislike exposing myself (or my men) to fire unless it is absolutely imperative, and I am afraid that each time the regiment goes under fire the dislike of everybody will increase rather than diminish. The men have been very good and cool so far, and this is most creditable, as the whole thing has been a great bewilderment to them. The shell fire was something which they had never contemplated at all. I am sure that as long as people's nerves stand they will do their duty to the best of their ability.
`Gill has now got "D" Squadron and I shall be very surprised if he does not prove to be the best squadron leader in the Regiment -- all our squadron leaders will be brave but he will be prudent and keep his head better than all.
`The prospect of a long war is what depresses people. It is the hopeless feeling that we shall have to go on day after day, night after night, always ready to move and fight, never knowing what is happening and no end in sight. It is not wounds or death people mind, it is the uncertainty, discomfort, loss of friends and home life, and the sole goal is victory for one's own country -- a fine goal it is true, but the part each man plays is so minute that it is hard to realize that what I or any other single man does can affect the result in the slightest degree.
`One day when Sgt. Eltringham gave the order for the lead horse of Oxford Squadron to trot seven of the men fell off.
`November 9th--12th. We have not done much except be in the trenches on Messines road -- there was the semblance of a night attack but nothing serious. I was supporting the 9th Lancers with my troop.
`We are now in the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Division taking the place of composite regiment of Household Cavalry -- Bingham is the General, Monckton and R. Bingham on the staff. Vernon Gare has become Sergeant, a great loss to my troop. We were much cheered by the news of Russia having got into Prussia and captured Kaiser's hunting box -- also the sinking of the Emden and there was a rumour that the German ships off the coast of Chile have been sunk by the Japs. I saw Ralph Stobart who has been through with the 7th Division.
`We are now in billets near Steenwerck. Very comfortable.
`November 13th. We moved to a dirty farm near Dranoutre --fearfully wet -- we are in reserve to one of our brigades in the trenches.
`We had one night in the trenches November 15th. It rained heavily and it was impossible to keep dry -- the trenches were a sea of mud and there was a good deal of sniping on the 6th. "A" Squadron were in the trenches and lost Horne killed and Sgt. Perrin wounded. A.D. insisted on "C" Squadron going out to dig trenches behind "A" Squadron with the inevitable result that they drew the fire of the Germans and the above loss occurred. The trenches were not necessary and everybody urged A.D. not to have them dug -- he is wiser now we hope.
`November 16th. We went to the trenches at 5.30 p.m. and were relieved by The Manchesters at 3 a.m. We rode back to our farm near Bailleul. Went to sleep at 5 a.m. and slept till 12 -- a welcome rest.
`November 17th -- a quiet day.
`November 18th -- round at 6.15 a.m. -- told to stand by -- nothing done -- General Gough had heard so much noise on Kemmel Ridge.
`November 19th -- Gill and Pepper got leave to go to Dunkirk and suddenly Adrian and I were surprised at 12.30 by an order to turn out at r for the trenches -- we went with the Brigade to Locre where we were told that we should have to go into the trenches for at least 48 hours to relieve the French who had been there for 14 days. It was snowing hard and extremely cold -- all the squadron leaders of 2 Brigade congregated in a house to receive their orders from the General and after a long delay we were led to our trenches by a Frenchman -- there was a considerable muddle as the French were not very clear and the trenches were in places within 70 yards of the Germans.
`We stayed 8o hours in the trenches. One man killed and three wounded -- I had to tend the killed man, Dallow. He was shot in the mouth in the trench next to me, dying in about 3o minutes -- a sniper from a tree shot him. "Black Marias" gave us a nasty 30 minutes but did no damage except covering us with dirt. We were eventually relieved by the 4 D.G.s and returned to billets (about 1 a.m.) near Bailleul on Sunday night. We had a quiet day on
November 23rd and some of our officers have gone for leave today. There is considerable competition amongst all parties particularly W. . ., to be in Echelon B, in fact I have relegated W. . ., to Echelon 3. He holds the record from Wulverghem Church to "out of shell fire".
`From November 24th to November 28th, we stayed quietly in billets -- Hopwood, E. C. M. Phillips and Jimmy Horlick came to luncheon.
`November 29th and 3oth. Quietly in billets. The two new subalterns arrived, Moncrieff and Kingscote. Wilfred declared that as he was senior subaltern of the Regiment, he was going to put M in his place -- take the two stars off his coat and he was going to make it clear to him that any little idiosyncrasies that he might possess were not going to be pandered to, e.g. sleeping two in a bed -- a large kit, etc.
`Val saw Winston when on leave who told him that if things continued to go as well as they were then doing we might hope for the war to be over by August but that anyone who talked of it being over in the Spring was talking bosh.'
From then on the history records four years of battle after battle, Potijze, Zouave Wood and Loos in 1915, Vermelles and the Somme in 1916, Arras and Gillemont Farm in 1917, St. Quentin (with the highest casualties), Rifle Wood, Amiens and the Selle and the Sambre in 1918, and many others. The Yeomen who got themselves diverted from Boulogne fought a long and gallant war.
There is no doubt that Arthur was a first-class officer in the field. He himself described Val Fleming as the bravest man he ever knew, but Sir Francis Weatherby, after Arthur's death and just before his own, wrote (calling Arthur 'Child', which was the name his fellow-officers and closest friends used) that 'he was a very unflappable soldier, didn't ever seem to be frightened like everybody else but quite unconscious of the dangers !' He added that 'Gerald (Wellesley) who was his second-in-command in "D" Squadron used to say he saw too many sides to everything', also that 'Arthur kept his running up in the war and used to suddenly turn out at anything like Divisional Sports and beat the regulars much to our delight as we all always backed him'.
Arthur was promoted to Captain in December 1914, and to Major, when he took command of 'D' Squadron, in January 1916. In May 1917 'C' Squadron was in occupation of Gillemont Farm in the Lempire (Picardy) area, forming by itself a small salient which the British did not want to lose. Val Fleming was in Command of 'C' Squadron, and 'D' Squadron was in support. For those who took part in the 1939-1945 War it is easy to forget what an appalling problem communication was in the 1914-1918 War. Val Fleming sent back a series of reports by runners, but eventually the bombardment of the Farm became so intense that Arthur decided that the only thing to do was to go up and find out for himself whether 'C' Squadron could hold on. This he did through heavy shell fire. He found that Val Fleming was dead, but that the morale that he had inspired was so good that the Squadron, in spite of heavy casualties, was unbroken and fully in charge of the situation. He decided to remain and take command. Gillemont Farm was not taken by the enemy, and for this action Major Villiers was awarded an immediate D.S.O.
He was twice wounded, and after the war was over, a member of the regiment, W. A. Fenemore, who had left the regiment before the end, wrote to him to thank him for promising to send him a copy of the Regimental War History. In his letter he said 'I had often wondered whether you got through all right . . . and why I remembered you so well Sir was being with you on April 1st, 1918. You was wounded through the knee and you would not bother for us to dress it for you until we had got our objective', and he went on to describe the frightful fire that they went through to achieve what they had been ordered to do. The incident concerned was a brilliant and gallant counter-attack at 'Rifle Wood' during a heavy German offensive. It is recorded that Major Villiers rejoined the Regiment from England' on May 8th 1918, no doubt after he had recovered from this wound, and also that the Bar to his D.S.O. was gazetted on July 26th, 1918, presumably in recognition of his bravery and leadership on this occasion.
In 1915 his father died, and he received a telegram telling him so while he was discussing plans over a map in the trenches. Sir Edward Howarth recalled that Arthur handed the telegram to him with the laconic words 'You see Jersey's dead' and went straight on with the discussion. Lady Jersey moved into a house in Montagu Square and Arthur seems to have spent most of his home leave there.
In October 1917 while the regiment was billeted at Estrées, he shot a French civilian aged 70 in the head while practising with his revolver. Luckily the wound was not bad, and his resourceful second-in-command, Gerald Wellesley, settled the matter by compensation with fifty francs and a bottle of champagne. Arthur kept the letter which he received as a result from the Mayor of Estrées. 'Mon cher Commandant,' it reads, 'au nom de la famille de M. Guillemard je vous addresse les plus sinceres remerciements pour ja delicate attention que vous montrez a son égard. Personnellement le suis touché de vos sentiments les plus sympathiques que vous montrez dans la circonstance.'
During the war Arthur wrote often to Albert H. Gordon, of Kidder Peabody, an American who had been with him in Frankfurt, and some extracts from his letters have been preserved.
August 10th, 1914. 'I expect the war will be over in two or three years.'
September 11th, 1914. 'I am sure we will have to put 500,000 men in Europe before we do any real good.'
October11th, 1914. 'I never expected to fight with our Yeomen in France and Belgium, but I do not think that what we call laughingly "Agricultural Cavalry" will do at all badly. The men are A.1 material but our officers are not all Napoleons.' November 14th, 1914. 'We were the first Territorial regiment to come into contact with the Germans.'
November 29th, 1914. `Messines -- 8o hours consecutively in the trenches, some 10o yards from the Germans. Collected some French shells.'
January 3rd, 1915. 'Home on leave. I must say that the way mothers, wives and sisters endure their losses is beyond all praise.'
February 23rd, 1915. 'I was home on leave for the third time. I have been running a club for worthy men and boys in London for many years, and most of them are now soldiers or sailors.'
May 24th, 1915. 'I have seen the effect of gas poisoning. The German infantry is absolutely useless and won't stand up to us in the open at all.'
July 8th, 1915. 'I really believe it will all be over this time next year. . . . If I survive the War, I have made up my mind to travel for five or six months and so I shall perhaps pay you a visit in New York. I shall probably be General Villiers in those days !!!'
December 23rd, 1915. 'Winston Churchill joined us for a few days, but is now attached to the infantry : he is a curious fellow: mad keen about this trench warfare and delighted to leave politics. . . . You will laugh when I tell you I am a Major. . . . I think your country very wise to keep out of this affair. She could not help on land or on sea.'
Then a long gap until -
April 13th, 1919. 'Come and see us in Belgium : that is if you would condescend to travel with a mere Major, as I see you are a Colonel, which is the same as an English General, isn't it. How furious that fellow we used to call the Duke of Wellington in Frankfurt would be if he knew the giddy heights at which I and especially you had arrived at as far as our military careers were concerned.'
The War at last came to an end after the Oxfordshire Hussars had been fighting in France for more than four years. 'Major Villiers', says the History, 'stayed on to the end and brought the Regiment back to England in May 1919'. To those who had slogged through six years of the Second World War he used to refer to his as the `real' war. There is no doubt that it was an experience of great importance to him. He was nearly 31 when it started and over 35 when he came back from it, and anyone who has been in a war as a regimental soldier at about that age knows how clearly and effectively it completes the formation of character and disposes of any debris left over from the process of growing up and the indecisiveness of youth. A comparatively small result in his case was that he gave up blood sports. But he came back with his mind quite made up about the point of living and the right things to do, and with resolution and insistence that fitted him to carry out his objects efficiently and relentlessly.
In December 1918 John, Lord Revelstoke, who was then the senior partner of Barings had written, 'My dear Arthur, I am glad that Gaspard has had the opportunity of a conversation with you, and that it is your intention to resume your City life as soon as your Military duties are at an end. It is a great pleasure to my partners and to myself to be able to look forward to the prospect of your being associated with us. . . .' From this we may infer that Gaspard Farrer was in some degree an intermediary, but those who try to remember now feel sure that Barings were well aware of the success that Arthur Villiers had made of the Merton Metallurgical Company's investments and of the great knowledge of international trade and finance which he had acquired.
He cannot have joined Barings until mid-191g, and in 1922 Gerald Wellesley, who had gone back to the Eton Manor, was forced at last, because he simply had to earn a living, to cease giving up his whole life to the Clubs. Arthur at once stepped into his shoes, went to live at the Manor House at Hackney Wick and stayed there in charge until he died. Forty-one years later Alfred Wagg wrote him a letter of congratulation on his eightieth birthday and said in it that all he wanted engraved on his own tombstone under his name was 'Who first took Arthur Villiers to Eton Manor'.
Arthur's reply was 'Dear Alfred, if you are arranging to write what you say on your tombstone, I shall be doing the same in slightly different words!
`The three luckiest things in my life are my association with the Oxfordshire Yeomanry, Barings and Eton Manor. I owe my association with Eton Manor entirely to a chap called Alfred Wagg! You have done for me something which has made my life -- so I am in your debt and it is a debt which I cannot possibly repay. Incidentally Eddie Cadogan felt the same as I do. It certainly has been a gratifying experience to you and to me. In two world wars the Club meant more to its members than ever it did in peacetime. So many people knew that when the wars were finished, they had nothing to which to go back. In the case of Eton Manorites it was a different story. Gerald and I felt exactly as any other member of the Club and so did David Shaw-Kennedy in the last affair.'
Under the guidance of Arthur Villiers the Boys' Club and Old Boys' Club, which Alfred Wagg had kept going during the war, were immeasurably successful. In 1924 the Manor Charitable Trust was formed to run the Clubs and for other charitable purposes, and both Arthur and Alfred contributed the greater part of their incomes to it. They and the other Trustees*8 invested its funds so well that it became enormously wealthy, producing thus for itself the wonderful combination of will to do good and power to do it. In 1923 Arthur had acquired 3o acres of waste land nearby in Leyton and turned them into playing fields, called, from their origin, the Wilderness, with nine football pitches, two Rugby pitches, cricket pitches in the summer, six tennis courts, a bowling green, a squash court, a full-sized running track and stadium combined, changing rooms and other buildings. Among the first helpers after the war were Oliver Martin-Smith, Edward (later Sir Edward) Cadogan, Edward (again later Sir Edward, and they were knighted on the same day) Howarth, Evelyn Baring, a partner in Barings, Gilbert Dunning, Cecil Liddell and Geoffrey Gilbey, who was at that time racing correspondent for the Daily Express and was given the special task of running the annual camps at Cuckoo Weir, which he did with immense zest and complete success.
In 1925 and 1926, Arthur Villiers's nephews, Frank Pakenham (now Lord Longford) and David Rhys, then in their early twenties, became regular visitors to the Clubs and brought with them friends of their own age, one of whom also brought David Shaw-Kennedy, later on the most tireless and understanding of all those who helped to run the Boys' Club part of what had become a vast and varied charitable enterprise. No one who has known the Club can overlook the excellence of the managers who were employed, eventually in large numbers, and the great help that was given to the Boys' Club voluntarily by many members of the Old Boys' Club. But this was the golden age for the Eton Manor boys and young Old Boys, when there were often a dozen regular visitors for an evening, and all, especially under the influence of Arthur's hospitality, were gay and active and friendly.
For many years after the war Arthur kept up much of his social life. He formed a close friendship with Cecil Baring, who became Lord Revelstoke when his brother John died in 1929. He stayed with him at his house on Lambay Island in Dublin Bay and met there his two gifted and beautiful daughters, Daphne and Calypso, for whom he formed a marked and lasting affection. Also he stayed often with his widowed sister, Lady Longford, who lived at North Aston in Oxfordshire. This enabled him to visit the local point-to-points and see his old Middleton Park and Oxfordshire Yeomanry friends. His nephews and nieces remember him as the ideal bachelor uncle, always ready to play games with them from mixed hockey to 'Consequences'. In 1926, when he was 42 and Frank Pakenham was 21, they went one afternoon for a walk from North Aston to Middleton Park, a distance of five and a half miles. As they turned to come back Arthur said, 'It would be rather fun to trot up the drive.' The result was that they never stopped, and after they had run the full distance Arthur washed his hands and went into tea with his sister as if he had been for half-an-hour's walk.
As this was just when Frank's friends started to come to the Eton Manor Camp, it is worth noting that none of them thought it strange that Arthur, Edward Howarth and Geoffrey Gilbey should take as much exercise there as would be considered fairly severe if they had also been in their early twenties. It was a generation that never said `Look at us !', because it never thought in those terms.
In 1932 Arthur appeared unexpectedly at an Oxfordshire point-to-point, eccentrically dressed in a black city suit with a black soft hat and an enormous pair of race-glasses in a bright yellow case, looking, so his younger nieces agreed, like l'espion' in the game of `L'Attaque'. Why was he there ? Was it because he had a runner ? He had been looking at a chestnut filly for sale by Jack Bletsoe, a name then familiar to all horsemen in the county. No one now knows whether he bought her, if so, what he called her, whose name she ran in, who rode her, or whether she ever won a race, but it is pleasant to imagine that he did buy her and that it was a gesture of devotion to the past by an Oxfordshire countryman, temporarily in the City.
Leonardo da Vinci said that after the age of 40 every man was responsible for his own face. Certainly at the age of 4o Arthur had formed the character and convictions that Leonardo was thinking about, and this is therefore a good time to pause and consider for a while what he was rather than what he did. He had in his five years at Barings been an outstanding success and had started his huge covenant for the Manor Trust. His speciality was investment, and particularly the international side of it, and his advice was nearly always right. To those who never knew him well it may accordingly be astonishing to know that, on serious subjects only, he was utterly inarticulate, so unintelligible in fact that his partners had to wait and see what he did before they could make out what he had been advising them to do. This incredible characteristic turned up in conversation out of business hours, but only when he was trying to say something important. If he were telling a story he was on the other hand both clear and wittily expressive. He developed moreover certain verbal devices which served him well. Many things connected with his charitable life he hated doing himself or perhaps thought someone else would do better. He never said 'Will you do this' or 'I would like you to,' but always he would start, as if he were really doing you a favour, 'You ought to do this' or 'Why don't you . . and the effect was hypnotic.
He kept at hand people who were useful (and went on using them) but he only really liked people who were not solemn, and, if they were useful too, so much the better. He himself was the gayest of companions, either entertaining occasionally in the flat which he shared with Evelyn Baring for a few years, or at supper at the Manor House or at Camp at Cuckoo Weir, where he got the best out of his guests by plenty of champagne, which he himself always drank. He had moreover an impish sense of humour. In 1931 he took his nephew Frank Pakenham and Miss Elizabeth Harman, who was then Frank's fiancée and a Socialist, to the General Election party at Selfridge's. The results showed a landslide for the Conservatives, and a pompous City friend came up to Arthur, who was standing with Miss Harman, and said 'What a wonderful evening. Don't you think this is the best thing that ever happened ?', or words to that effect. Without any introduction or explanation all Arthur said was, 'It all depends which side you are on.' He kept himself fit by much more exercise than most men of his age would think of taking. And at all times his brain was intelligently active, to the enormous benefit of his business, the Old Comrades of his regiment and Eton Manor.
`Never forget, money opens many doors' he said once to David Shaw-Kennedy, and he used his, as we have seen, almost entirely to open doors for others. What made him do this and give all his time, apart from business, to helping people less well off than himself? One answer that has been suggested is that he really was in love as a young man and that disappointment over that was the stimulus. But in fact, when two friends were discussing him after he died, one of them said that he thought that Arthur never wanted to become involved with anyone. The other corrected this by a small but important transposition, saying that he thought that in fact he wanted very much never to become involved. Two or three people who knew him well even believed that in fact he had no real personal affection for anyone, except probably his father and mother and his sister Beatrice, perhaps Val Fleming out of all his men friends, certainly not for any individuals among the boys whose lives he made so happy.
Was it that he was moved by Christian duty ? Certainly in his latter years he kept a Bible by his bedside, and in one of the few speeches that he made he referred to the great help he had had from the religion that he learned from his father and mother. He was in his last years, if not before, a regular communicant, but other Christians have done good deeds without ever even going to church. And his character was so strong and his mind was so clear that it is just as likely that whatever religion he had was one thing and his desire to do good to others was another quite separate matter of decision about the best way of living his life.
Two things ought to be said on this subject, and the one which would occur to anyone who knew Arthur Villiers well is that he did not want anyone to be concerned with his motives or know his intimate thoughts. He never talked about them, and moreover he never showed the slightest interest in anyone else's character or motives. People were 'good chaps' or 'crooks' or 'blighters' or something equally simple in his conversation, and he neither went into the complications of other people's psychology and moral outlook nor was interested in listening to talk on such lines. But whether or not he thought the whole subject boring, or just nonsense, in his own case there was also an instinct for secrecy, and probably he regarded it as bad form to discuss or reveal himself.
The other thing that ought to be said comes from his nephew, Lord Longford, who was very close to him, and it is most illuminating. On one occasion he said what implied that it was wrong to do good for others if you were really only doing it for your own sake, to make yourself comfortable with the thought of your generosity of heart and your virtue. Also, he went on, you must never think of yourself but must understand the people you are helping and have their point of view uppermost all the time. What he actually said was put in his own strange language, a statement to the effect that if someone gets public admiration for what he does 'the thing's bust', but what he meant became clear on later thought. This is quite consistent with some of the conjecture expressed above, and, as he practised what he preached, it may well be that it explains why, even if he had no affection for individual people, hundreds of individual people, young and old had real love and respect for him.
Lord Longford was treated by his uncle as someone worthwhile, although their opinions on many subjects were irreconcilable. Arthur would talk to him more seriously than to anyone else, and alone with him even seemed to want to go some way towards revealing his own beliefs. Never positively, however, and never really intelligibly. What Lord Longford said about the effect on him differs only in degreefrom what many others also felt, that however inarticulate and however negative Arthur was, you came away feeling chastened and elevated.
When a friend congratulated him on his seventieth birthday, all Arthur said was, 'A man improves until he is fifty and after that he deteriorates.' If we interpret this to mean that a man is in his prime roughly between the ages of forty and sixty, it is reasonable to assume that Arthur looked back on the years between the wars as those which he most enjoyed and in which he thought that he did his best work. He had taken Gaspard Farrer as his special mentor on merchant banking. Certainly as an investment banker he had no equal in London, though he had friends like Philip Fleming, Alfred Wagg, Albert Palache, and, in the international monetary field, Per Jacobsen, on whose advice he set great store.9 He was one of the first to realize that, if you have to compete with inflation, you have to pick ordinary shares that are going to beat it. He chose shares that frightened others, some in large companies, many in small businesses from lists recommended to him out of which he managed (and no one knows how) nearly always to pick the winners. The Manor Charitable Trust was split in 1937, leaving Alfred Wagg to finance and run the holiday camps which he bought and created in Sussex, and Arthur Villiers to look after Eton Manor and to expand his interests in Hackney and Leyton.
These interests were soon to cover far more than the Clubs. He bought houses, helped the old people, looked after war widows and gave generous but judicious aid to the local councils. In the middle of it all the L.C.C. announced that they were taking thirty acres of the playing field area known as Hackney Marshes to build on. The Marshes had been dedicated as 'an open space for the perpetual use thereof by the public for exercise and recreation' in 1894, and were covered with football fields in winter and cricket pitches in summer. Arthur led the opposition. He led it, as he led any other cause or effort, by paying for it, organizing it and making other people do the actual work. He stirred up the seven local boroughs, got Labour members to oppose Herbert Morrison, whose plan it was, and in the end more or less won, though he gave the L.C.C. by way of compromise a plot of land that he had requested Evelyn Baring to buy for the Trust a few years earlier.
Was it that he was moved by Christian duty ? Certainly in his latter years he kept a Bible by his bedside, and in one of the few speeches that he made he referred to the great help he had had from the religion that he learned from his father and mother. He was in his last years, if not before, a regular communicant, but other Christians have done good deeds without ever even going to church. And his character was so strong and his mind was so clear that it is just as likely that whatever religion he had was one thing and his desire to do good to others was another quite separate matter of decision about the best way of living his life.
Two things ought to be said on this subject, and the one which would occur to anyone who knew Arthur Villiers well is that he did not want anyone to be concerned with his motives or know his intimate thoughts. He never talked about them, and moreover he never showed the slightest interest in anyone else's character or motives. People were 'good chaps' or 'crooks' or 'blighters' or something equally simple in his conversation, and he neither went into the complications of other people's psychology and moral outlook nor was interested in listening to talk on such lines. But whether or not he thought the whole subject boring, or just nonsense, in his own case there was also an instinct for secrecy, and probably he regarded it as bad form to discuss or reveal himself.
The other thing that ought to be said comes from his nephew, Lord Longford, who was very close to him, and it is most illuminating. On one occasion he said what implied that it was wrong to do good for others if you were really only doing it for your own sake, to make yourself comfortable with the thought of your generosity of heart and your virtue. Also, he went on, you must never think of yourself but must understand the people you are helping and have their point of view uppermost all the time. What he actually said was put in his own strange language, a statement to the effect that if someone gets public admiration for what he does 'the thing's bust', but what he meant became clear on later thought. This is quite consistent with some of the conjecture expressed above, and, as he practised what he preached, it may well be that it explains why, even if he had no affection for individual people, hundreds of individual people, young and old had real love and respect for him.
Lord Longford was treated by his uncle as someone worthwhile, although their opinions on many subjects were irreconcilable. Arthur would talk to him more seriously than to anyone else, and alone with him even seemed to want to go some way towards revealing his own beliefs. Never positively, however, and never really intelligibly. What Lord Longford said about the effect on him differs only in degree
In the course of the battle he did a little parleying himself, and, though Barings keep most things secret, it was once revealed that he also did some of their negotiations for them. Also that he never in the course of them ever showed any excitement or annoyance. `Everyone is honest until it comes to money' was one of his sayings,*10 but only once, according to Evelyn Baring, did he ever let fly at anyone, and that was a man who had simply cheated them by failing to keep his word.
In the twenties and thirties, as he advanced in seniority at Barings, and as his contemporaries came to the age of achievement, he acquired a range not only of friends but also of acquaintances appropriate to a man who was more than casually interested in world affairs. He invited people that he wanted to talk and to listen to to evening parties which were eventually held in private rooms at the Savoy and always accompanied by champagne.11 It is certain that after the 1939-45 War he kept up correspondence with friends whose opinions he valued in the United States and Germany and elsewhere and there is little doubt that he had started doing this before the war. His feelings about the Germans were about the same as his feelings about Jews, absolutely genuine. He disliked both in general, but had great friends among both. He never lost touch with the Merton family for instance. He said of the Germans, (though this is anticipating, for it was just after the Second War) that 'work is their football', but he nearly always referred to them as 'the Huns'. In the 1950s he often said that this country's best hope of survival was to reach a complete alliance with Germany. In the 1930s he probably had a much higher estimate of German efficiency than most people, foresaw how dangerous another war against them would be, and certainly was an unequivocal supporter of Neville Chamberlain's policy at Munich.
War Again
When the war started in 1939 the club-house in Hackney Wick was closed, as it always was in August. It was not reopened as a Club until July 1945. The Manor House was turned into offices for the Eton Manor staff, and the main building was occupied as a Civil Defence Headquarters, an A.R.P., as the local Army Cadet Headquarters and by the Home Guard, of which Arthur Villiers was a member with the rank of Major. Needless to say he was involved in one way or another with all the rest and he had part of the building and a nearby dental clinic which he had set up before the war equipped as an emergency hospital. The army moved into the Wilderness and occupied most of it. But he himself moved to the rooms in the groundkeeper's house in which he lived for the rest of his life. He had a dug-out constructed just outside and often slept in it. Club members had room for some games on the playing fields and in a large garage-type building which acquired the name of Parashot Hall', and some of the Old Boys who comprised the Eton Manor Contingent of the Home Guard slept there. At the same time another property nearby in Waterden Road, which hardly anyone knew that the Manor Trust had acquired, and had built on, was used as the Boys' Club. Next to it was constructed a large underground air-raid shelter, air-conditioned against gas.
All those who used to come down to help with the Club, except Alfred Wagg, were in the Forces or in Government service, and Ernest and Frank Hartley, the official managers with Taff Wilson, ran things with Major Villiers, until they in turn left one by one and the only helper he had left in 1944 and 1945 was George Jackson, who was invalided out of the army and at the age of 23 was told one morning that he was in sole charge. His answers to some questions about the Major are best left in his own words.
`What did he do during the war -- what didn't he do ? He was of course the power behind the throne at the Club. He was in touch with most members scattered throughout the world, writing personal notes here, there and everywhere. At one time we had nearly 600 in H.M.F. Manor outposts were set up in far away places like India, Africa, Australia and Egypt.'
`A.V. went to the City daily, and his mode of transport varied. He would not waste petrol and he chose between using a No. 6 bus, often diverted because of bombing, a "Gas-bag" car (driven by gas with the container strapped to roof) or by horse-drawn car (this is a fact and the newspapers at the time carried a picture of the City gent in a saloon car with shafts attached with a white horse and a driver). Sometimes he cycled.*12 A frequent stop before the bank was Bishopsgate, where he would browse around stores looking for non-rationed goods that might help the boys or those in H.M.F.. Sports equipment, like most other things, was almost unobtainable. He would return with the most weird selection of wearing apparel, government surplus, etc.'
`On return from the City he would make his second call in at the office to collect another mountain of mail (having first been there on the way to the City). He would then have a light snack at the Wilderness before setting to work as an unpaid groundsman (probably having done a stint there before breakfast in the morning). After dinner he would do the rounds, Waterden Road, perhaps a look-in at the A.R.P. Post, or a call at the old Police Station (he had previously bought this when it came on to the market), and another port of call might be the Eton Mission church where he was so much involved, the boat-house, and so on. Finally he would settle down in his air-raid shelter with tin hat and stirrup pump at the ready. I know from personal experience that he was often first on the scene during the bombings as he called us out from an adjoining shelter to help put out fires on the Grounds and adjoining railway.'
`His generosity, as we all know, was by no means confined to the war years but, to answer your question, yes, he did hand out fivers and more to those bombed. During the "Buzz-bomb" and Rockets blitz the morning routine was out with the map and members' address index and a survey on the previous night and day's bombing. Over at the N.P. Bank, Miriam and Sylvia13 would parcel up Fives and Tens, these would be stuffed into my pockets and off I would cycle (cars taboo). A member's home bombed out would warrant an immediate ten, those blasted (say windows and doors out) a fiver. I can remember explaining to a bewildered recipient that this was pure charity with no ties and in no way would prejudice a later claim through war-damage. Ten pounds was then quite a sum of money in that area. No doubt A.V. himself was meanwhile personally handing it out left, right and centre.'
`A.V. was a Major in the Home Guard, and for the big affairs, Regiment, large scale manoeuvres, etc., the Wilderness was the starting off point. I recall one highly amusing scene one Sunday morning when the whole bag of tricks was on parade, Brigadier (Sir Stuart Mallinson), Colonels and rows and rows of other ranks as far as the eye could see. A lone private appeared on the scene and when recognized by A.V. as a member of the Club A.V. broke ranks to greet him with a handshake as a token that his patriotism had been recognized. Not much the brass-hats could do, it was A.V.'s own front garden.'
Just by way of postscript to George's reference to Arthur Villiers's generosity, one officer who had helped at the Club received a cheque for £300 when he became a Battery Commander, with a note to say that it was sure to be useful to provide things for his battery. And, through the 'Manor outpost' in Cairo, the same officer obtained, when he was in Italy, a gift for his regiment worth more than anything else at that time, a parcel containing four footballs and spare bladders for them. Moreover all through the war Arthur's staff would send monthly gifts of money to members of Barings and Eton Manor on active service overseas, whenever they could be reached.
Old Lady Jersey was still alive and had been evacuated to a cottage near the big house at Middleton. In a letter to Arthur dated August 1943 she wrote, 'Glad to hear that the Germans shake in their shoes -- not you in yours. I should fancy that they had comparatively little "solidarity". Did I ever tell you Bismarck's remark when I met him in Berlin ? "All nations are hammer or anvil. We were anvil down to Waterloo", i.e. to fall of Napoleon.'
The war took all the young partners of Barings away, and also some of those who were middle-aged and were required for Government service. So a great deal fell on the shoulders of those who remained. The main office was transferred to Stratton, near Micheldever. We have seen how Arthur went to the City. He had every now and then to go to Stratton, and usually he put his bicycle on the train and covered the three miles from Micheldever station and back on it. At one period however he left his bicycle, or one of his bicycles at Stratton, and would walk from the station with Mr. James Masters, who worked closely with him on the investment side, `talking things over', which meant chiefly business. Occasionally they would go later in the day for a bicycle ride together talking about more general subjects. 'These talks,' says Mr. Masters, 'were wonderfully illuminating and ranged over a very wide field, and I got some insight into this outstanding man.'*14
One day when he was at Stratton he asked how the local L.D.V. were getting on, and whether there was anything they wanted. `I told him,' says Mr. Masters, 'that our equipment was rudimentary, and except for a spigot gun we had practically nothing, being armed at night with lengths of gas piping or something similar. (Much later on we did get a supply of Remington rifles and some ammunition.) He nodded, and a few days later rang me up to say there was a parcel on the van and would I distribute the contents suitably among the chaps. The parcel turned out to be several splendid Churchill sporting guns, with a cryptic note about the cartridges which accompanied the guns. I decided to open one cartridge to see what might be the meaning of the note. Inside was a loading of whacking great lead pellets ! I told Phil Connell about this, and one late afternoon we each took a gun over to a nearby farm, set up an old oak door, pinned half a page of The Times to it as target, and let fly in turn with the choke barrel. Result : an alarming number of large holes torn in the door, and Phil and I were quite scared as we heard the other pellets winging their way to the Winchester Road, quite a long way from where we were standing.
`He was enthusiastic about the Firm giving every possible help with spare metal, waste paper, etc., and most interested in the progress of the collections Willis and I were making at Stratton; and I fear that we really went to work, practically stripping the house of brasswork, any metal object worn out, such as large quantities of greenhouse heating pipe, and really huge quantities of good quality waste paper from old files, on which I spent many many hours at weekends, when not on house duty, or L.D.V. patrols, and sometimes while colleagues were doubling for me on night duty patrolling the house and grounds when air-raids were on. He was delighted with our contribution.'
One of the local people that Arthur knew, admired and helped before the war was Mrs. Stuart Mallinson, who worked hard and usefully for the Red Cross. Soon after the fall of France in 1940 he came into close contact, virtually into partnership, with her husband, High Sheriff of Essex in 1940, and the local commander first of the L.D.V. and then of the Home Guard. On Arthur's 6oth birthday, November 24th, 1943, bombs or no bombs, Stuart Mallinson had a party for him at his home, The White House, Woodford Green, attended by 40 Home Guard Commanders. After the war there was a birthday party there every year, with friends from every sector of their joint interests. But this party was their first, and it celebrated a 'grand alliance' between two patriotic, forceful men and the appreciation of those who had benefited from their zeal and success.
When the L.D.V. was formed its shortages were weapons and money. Stuart Mallinson turned his sports centre at Whipps Cross, Walthamstow, into a School of Arms. Cricket nets became shooting ranges, squash courts became lecture rooms, bombing pits were installed and general military training was developed to a high degree of efficiency. Arthur provided weapons, some of them sporting guns like those he had sent to Stratton, and paid the wages of an ex-Sergeant-Major as instructor for four years. He also brought along Lt.-Colonel Walker, a great machine gunner who had won the D.S.O. as a Lieutenant in the first war, to supervise the training of volunteers. The only four machine guns were sited by him on the extreme left of the twenty miles of the defence line for which the sector was responsible. After some weeks Lt.-General Sergison-Brooke, Commanding London District, came to inspect, and was duly impressed by the siting of the guns. The Sector Commander told him that they had been paid for by Major Villiers and one or two others, but many more machine gun sites were needed along the defence line. As a result more funds were found and more guns were supplied.
Other weapons were supplied also, but the type of rifle changed so often that the instructors were kept constantly busy. Major Villiers was the driving force behind the recruitment of factory units which formed two battalions, 34th Walthamstow and 35th Leyton. In due course they and six other battalions made up T sector of the Home Guard, London District. Five battalions were in the forward area, three in reserve. What would have happened if the enemy had attacked we do not know, but Sir Stuart's evidence is that every post was manned every night, and that nearly all the volunteers were experienced and fit, by no means 'dug-outs' and quite capable of combat against regular troops. What should have happened if the enemy had attacked was the subject of a letter from Arthur Villiers written on April 1st, 1942, just after a major exercise in which `J' sector had taken part.
`Dear Stuart,' it starts, 'I made a few rather feeble notes which Smith has given to Doyle. The exercise was of course planned primarily for the outer area, but I thought that it went all right in Leyton and Walthamstow, as it was designed to give a show to the few Home Guards in that area. At the same time I could not help feeling that it bore no resemblance to what would happen if an invasion took place -- or at least I hope that it bore no resemblance. Leyton and Walthamstow have, I suppose, nearly 250,000 people in peace time and I should think that today there must be at least 25,000 old Service men between the ages of 40 and the early 60's.
I suppose that on Saturday there were 500 Home Guards in the inner area of each Borough and most of them were in factories which very likely in the real thing would be ignored by an enemy. As one went through the streets one felt almost like a ghost, as there were so few inhabitants about.
`Anderson15 in that speech of his talked of using men who were not in the Home Guard because they could not give the time, but said that it could not be arranged yet and that at a later stage it may be practicable. This sounds very like the Munich "Peace in our time", Pearl Harbor and Singapore outlook. If invasion does come it will surely come like a thief in the night.
`Anderson thus makes it clear that the higher authorities are going to do nothing and that each locality must look after itself. If this is really the case I think that something ought to be done at least to register the names of those who are prepared to help. I think one of their duties should be to barricade and prevent movement either of refugees or possible enemy paratroops, etc., down side streets. It seems to me to be vital to keep the main roads clear to permit troop movements and I should think that an enemy who wishes to create the fog of war is much more likely to try and hamper communications rather than attack factories which will probably be bombed from the air, and in any case cannot function unless transport, electricity, etc., are available.
`One feels an amateur making suggestions, but I wonder very much whether the "Stand firm" or "Stay put" policy for people outside London is not an absolutely wrong plan. Supposing the Germans temporarily occupied an area the first thing they would do would be to collect all men important to industry and ship them back to Germany, just as they did when invading Russia. They would adopt the same policy with boys who were going to be soldiers a few years hence. I wonder whether London and Greater London ought not to be looked on as a fortress to which all those important to the life of the nation and who live just outside would go so as to avoid capture. Refugees may have been an awful nuisance in France, but they had no time to make any plans, whereas we have had a long period and in any case are not so excitable.
`The Germans will probably at the beginning of the invasion drop leaflets saying that any civilians found in the streets or giving any assistance to the military will be shot and that as civilians they include firemen, A.R.P., police, etc. !! I should think that they would be fully entitled to do this, as I can see no difference between an A.R.P. warden and an ordinary civilian. Anderson talks of civilians cooking, digging trenches, etc., but if the Germans arrived with civilian cooks, trench diggers, motor drivers, etc., we should certainly shoot them out of hand, and I can see no reason why they should not do the same, as they most certainly would. If civilians are going to take part and co-operate with the military they have got to take the risks. After all, all through history, when there have been sieges --for example the siege of Lucknow -- everybody helped and they were all right as long as the town was not taken. If the town was taken they went west. I know of course that there are not enough arms to go round, but there are sure to be plenty of casualties, and in the urban areas I believe that a hand-grenade is a more useful weapon than a rifle, unless the rifle is in the hands of a real expert.
`I know that what I am writing has nothing really to do with last Saturday's exercise and that it is the job of the War Office and not a Home Guard to make a plan for the defence of London ! At the same time, Anderson definitely says that local people must make their arrangements as to how the local population is going to help, and I think that if you take Leyton and Walthamstow as an example the first thing to do is to see how the 20,000 old Service men can be used to the best advantage, assuming that they cannot become a sort of L.D.V. force. I cannot believe that invasion committees can be very helpful unless they are very small committees.
`This is, I fear, rather a rambling letter, but perhaps there will be a chance of my discussing it with you some time.
Yours ever, Arthur.'
P.S. -- If an invasion should come suddenly, we shall regret not having put up "wire" at the more important points.'
Sir Stuart Mallinson regards this as typical of its writer's 'freedom of thought'. It is typical also of his readiness to recommend what he thought right, without any discouragement from the knowledge that to put it into practice would be difficult enough to dismay anyone else. It would require pushing and pulling, to stir the idle and shame the obstinate. Such problems would not have stopped Major Villiers if higher authority had said yes to his plan.
The Revd. Arthur Holmes was Eton Missioner from 1933 to 1937. His character and his intelligence were very soon appreciated by Arthur Villiers. He has recalled that, when he first arrived at the Mission, he was taken to the top of the Church tower by someone (mercifully left anonymous by him), and had the nearby Eton Manor building pointed out to him. 'That,' said his guide, 'is the Eton Manor Club where a Mr. Villiers lives: a very patronizing man. . . .' Arthur Holmes's later comment, 'How utterly false that was', could have been made almost at once, because mutual regard sprang up from the start between him and the least patronizing man who ever had a right to be patronizing. Holmes was a frequent guest at the Manor House, shared Arthur Villiers's charitable and helpful friendship for the neighbourhood and in 1935 and 1936 took a very active part in his fight to save part of Hackney Marshes from being built over by the L.C.C.
When Holmes left A.V. wrote to him, 'Everyone misses you in the Manor House zone and your absence makes a big gap. However I am glad that you were at the Wick as long as you were and I hope that you will become a resident in the East End before too long as otherwise I shall be dead! As you know, we will always have a room for you when you come to London for a spree !' Other letters before the war include congratulations to Arthur Holmes, who was in Scotland, on his marriage, starting, 'A line to greet you on your Wedding Day and to say how glad we all are that you are coming South.' This was early in 1938 and later that year Holmes moved from Scotland to St. Cuthbert's Mission, Millwall, on the Isle of Dogs.
The reason for mentioning this friendship at this point is that Holmes kept very many letters from A.V. written during the war. He added, God bless him, the year to each date,*16 so through them we can see the war develop round the small house on the Wilderness.
1939. September 9th
`Temp: G.H.Q. of Eton Manor, The Wilderness, one small corner. We shall look for some site either above or below ground later.'
1939. December 8th (referring to a letter in The Times by A. V. headed 'Salute to the Clergy' in which he paid 'a tribute to what the clergy of all creeds, with their helpers of both sexes, have been doing, since the war commenced, in East London . . .')
`Many thanks. I thought you and Margaret deserved a boost but I never expected The Times to put it in.
`Why do you have a house at all ? Demosthenes [sic] lived in a tub and I know tents are healthy !'
1940. 12th
`I should pack Margaret off to her home and then look for a job with the fleet. . . . I don't think you should stay in a rather inactive parish in these stirring times, even if that parish is "the bull's eye" and for that reason you feel disinclined to leave ! !'
1940. September 12th (by this time A. H. was a chaplain in the Fleet Air Arm)
`Here is a small present to keep the pot boiling. . . . If you have to go back . . . I hope you will return and take a good holiday in Oxon. -- the world's best county! After all if Baring's office is destroyed, I shall take at least 6 months' vacation.'
1941. January 27th
. . . I am telling any Eton Manor member who finds himself in Bermuda to present himself to your brother. I hope that is all right --there will not be many.
Still all quiet and we are getting more and more frightened. We are getting prepared for gas as this would seem the kind of thing a Hun would do !'
1941. February 18th (to the Isle of Man)
`I was delighted to get your letter, although your publicity agent had already broadcast the fact that you were a father. Headings such as "Flying Parson has daughter" were everywhere. There is no doubt you have mistaken your calling and should have been an advertising agent.
The Home Guard pursues its course, rather handicapped by the new calls up, but I like to think that as the strength of the Army grows there is likely to be less need for the Home Guard. I hope so ! I doubt whether I shall dodge being a Colonel, although I am doing my best.
There have been a few bombs on the Marshes and on the sidings but by a miracle no damage. I won't mention ours so as to avoid giving information to the enemy!
My very best congratulations to Margaret and many thanks for asking me to be Godfather. I telegraphed to you and I accept most gladly.'
1941. February 28th
`I propose as a christening present to buy some Savings Certificates for you. . .
`We have nothing to boast about as regards bombs and it is really surprising why he leaves London alone and attacks Campbeltown.'
`London is certainly very much in its stride again and the Germans will have to begin all over again.'
`I have just been talking to a foreign diplomat who saw a friend from Berlin yesterday. He draws a gloomy picture of conditions in that town, particularly as regards food. This rather surprises me and I don't attach too much importance to it !'
1941. March 18th
. . I am glad that the baptism went off successfully and that my Goddaughter showed good spirits.'
`We have a good many fellows on leave and there is no doubt that we are gradually getting much better prepared for whatever is to come.'
`There have been a few scattered bombs in the London area but no real blitz. I was in Liverpool last week when the blitz was on, but where I was nothing happened except a few incendiaries. An old stager like you would have considered it a very small affair.'
`Doubtless the Germans are going to make life extremely unpleasant during the next few months, wherever they can, in the hope of winning or perhaps getting a peace satisfactory from their point of view before American help arrives on a large scale. Not since the war began have I been so surprised or pleased at any event as at the Lease and Lend Bill and Roosevelt's attitude, which seems to be endorsed by the great mass of American people.'
1941. March 22nd
. . We had a fairish blitz on Wed. but nothing which you would call close ! A good many residences knocked about in your numerous parishes but casualties very light.'
1941. May 21st
`Nothing to boast about -- incendiaries through the roof of the squash court, the Manor House and the garage, all extinguished by a gallant H. Guard ! 8 bombs and 2 D.A. in and around the piggeries and 5 on the railway -- nothing on the Wilderness. Actually our area avoided the main blitz -- plenty of fires but as far as I know nothing of importance to Adolf except my wine-merchant lost a lot of old wine -- this indeed is a tragedy.'
1941. July 21st
`Uncle Joe seems to be putting up a better show than the pessimists thought. I hope the Russians are a little better than they were in 1914 and the Germans a little worse. A great deal depends upon whether the Russians can find a few reasonably good Generals.'
`Of course we do not know what happened to many of our members in recent months, but we have had so far extraordinarily little bad news. . .
1941. August 29th
`All goes smoothly at the Club and we have forgotten about the war, although I am afraid we have had a few casualties in the Navy.'
1941. September 1st
`On Saturday morning I motored round the Isle of Dogs. . . . We searched for your church and eventually gave up the unequal struggle when a policeman showed us where it had been. It is now a valuable corner site.'
1941. November I 9th
`All is well at the Club and life is very much more normal. Frank (Hartley) has now organized 7 matches for schoolboys every Saturday and more would be possible if the teachers would help, but only a few will. Even a war does not make them inclined to give up their Saturday.'
`Our Sea Cadets are going great guns and in fact there are too many of them. . . . They are an exceptionally fine lot of boys.'
1941. December 19th
`One of our airmen is back after 3 months in Russia working with the R.A.F. and Joe's flyers of whom he speaks quite well. He was comfortable, warm and well fed. Despite the Far East we have to thank Providence that the situation is as good as it is. We have now the man power of U.S.A., so it is true that time is on our side.'
1942. February 10th
`George Rex, Bill Gray of Russia and Moggy Welham, all of whom know you, were at breakfast today. The latter was bombed yesterday in his boat, but no damage was done to his or any other ship.'
`We have one Sergeant Pilot missing and another, called Ken Stewart, who was killed about Christmas time. We are not up to date with our information, but on the whole I think we have been fortunate, as one must expect casualties.'
1942. September 7th
`Fred (Lee), Dicky (Rankin) and Dodger (Hellens) were captured at Tobruk and we are still awaiting news as to whether they are safe as prisoners. We have had several fellows in Russia recently. . . . They say that the inhabitants thrive on black bread and a few vegetables boiled in water and maybe that is the way to make tough soldiers !'
1942. October 16th
`Fred, Dodger, and Dicky Rankin are now officially prisoners. Hugh Lister (now Major) is an instructor of Brigadiers and other Generals at the big battle school. It is a very good mark for him and I think also for the Army in selecting a civilian.'
`Ivor Thompson is going abroad next week. He flew with the Fortresses on their big day and said they are very good machines.'
1942. November 2nd
`I am somewhat encouraged by the news. I think the Americans have done better in the Solomons than was expected, but of course . . . it is only the beginning and the Japs have a very powerful fleet. Anyway it is most important to keep things going until well into 1943, when American production will really begin to be a dominating influence.'
1942. November 10th
`A hurried scrawl to . . . give you my best congratulations on the arrival of another daughter even though it may make Mary jealous. However it will prevent her being spoilt !'
`The events in North Africa are really remarkable and it has surprised even our powers-in-charge who do not as a rule suffer from a lack of optimism.'
`Tinkle (i.e. Father Bell, who was in charge of the Eton Mission) gave the address on Sunday to nearly 2,000 Home Guards, Cadets, etc., at St. John of Hackney. I am afraid it was somewhat spoilt by too many chatter-boxes !'
1943. January 26th
`I must admit that the bombs were nearer your Isle of Dogs the other day, but except for the tragedy of the school there was nothing really serious.'
`I have a line from David Shaw-Kennedy, who is still in Asmara but endeavouring to get back to his regiment.'
`Did I tell you that Ivor (Thompson) married an American after two or three days in New York: I believe she is very nice.'
1943. March 5th
`There was a fairish barrage on Wednesday, but as far as I know comparatively few presents from the Huns. The disaster at Bethnal Green seems quite inexplicable. I was told about it by several people but I treated it as an idle rumour. Unfortunately for once rumour was accurate.'
`I played squash today and yesterday with Ron Hill, who has spent a year in Malta with the Fleet Air Arm. He is enthusiastic about Gort, whose presence, he said, made all the difference. They must have had a very unpleasant time last year, but now the position is somewhat reversed and Axis convoys to Tunis are having a rough passage.'
1943. March 9th
`Ron Hill . . . has . . . the story of Fred's escape which I cannot write. Fred should get back this summer.'
1943. May 22nd
`Fred has seen Bill Deane in Durban, and we assume that he is on his way home.'
`I have had many letters from North Africa and they all seemed thrilled by their own success. The person who is typing this letter saw "Monty" at a theatre. They cheered him and he cheered, and everybody enjoyed themselves. His presence is a secret !'
1943. September 7th
`I was delighted to get your letter and know that Mary is prospering.'
`By chance yesterday I was writing to Tubby Clayton, whose address was Kirkwall, and told him that you were a great friend of mine, in case he ever happened to come across you. I expect you know him, but if not it is worth taking some trouble to meet him.'
`You mention my mother and I enclose a letter just received from her which gives quite an interesting account of a meeting with the so-called great Bismarck, who called on her when she went to Berlin soon after the Franco-Prussian war. I don't want it back, but it might be interesting for Mary to read when she is 8o or 90 !'
1943. November 9th
`Tubby enjoyed seeing you. He had lunch here and was in fine fettle.'
`The war outlook has improved in an amazing way and though it is a dangerous thing to say, people in their bones feel that the European war should be over within a year, if not before. However only a fool prophesies and all depends on a maximum effort being maintained.'
1944. January 17th
(This letter gave news of 45 members of Eton Manor and Hoxton Manor.)
`Mrs. Self (of Bombay) is in touch with a growing number of Indian Manorites and always pleased to see more. She and her husband are proving magnificent friends. In some wonderful way Mr. Beale (Cairo) gets books and parcels to Italy and every letter from there blesses the Beales and curses the climate -- and generally the male It is as well -- women and kids not included.'
`The European war goes strongly against the Huns who, now realizing that they cannot win, try, most unsuccessfully, to upset relations between the Allies. It is much more likely that their own allies will rat and then the end will be in sight.'
1944. March 23rd
`People seem to believe the Hun radio about air-raids, as all my letters flatter our "bomb-snobbish" instincts. Alas the bombs are very few and scattered anywhere . . . I don't think even an Isle of Dogs resident would consider the present raids raids.'
1944. June 28th
`I expect you imagine that the whole of Hackney Wick is flat while the Isle of Dogs is still untouched. As a matter of fact the number of bombs has been relatively small, and, as you know, they are almost entirely blast. A good many windows have been broken but it is not a patch on the blitz even judged by Wick standards. We have sent a certain number of children to the country which is obviously a prudent course. . . . Unless the Germans can do better their interference with the war effort is trivial. I thought you would like a line so that you could make people realize that the German stories of damage, etc., are absurdly exaggerated and obviously done for the benefit of their own people and possibly to encourage the Finns, etc., to stick to them.
1944. July 28th
`The war news continues to be most encouraging and it really does look as though the Huns have their backs to the wall and being a nation of bullies they have never been very good in that position. I hope and believe they will run true to form now.'
`In the last week or so we have had a great many visitors, some of them on compassionate leave because their homes have been blitzed. Unpleasant as these bombs are, I am glad to say that casualties so far have been very, very small and though there are bound to be unfortunate incidents, club members and their families seem to have been most fortunate, except of course as regards their homes and their furniture. . . . Although we chaff about being in the front line, nobody for an instant thinks that what they are going through is anything like conditions in Normandy or Italy. Club life is absolutely normal, with cricket matches over the weekend.'
(There follows news of 35 members of Eton Manor.)
1944. September 5th
(News of 24 members of Eton Manor, including two killed in action and David Rhys badly wounded.)
`The war news continues excellent. Our prisoners, all of whom seem well, are getting very excited and seem well posted about the news.'
`The doodle-bugs have eased up a bit recently and people hope that they will ease up further as the Huns get further into the soup.' `The Wilderness has never looked better and everyone hopes that there will be many returned warriors playing on it before many months are past.'
`Otters (The Eton Manor Swimming Club) will be glad to hear that the Indoor Federation competitions are being held as usual, and we hope to have many successes.'
1945. January 1st
`I cannot believe any place is so blitzed as the Wilderness and in any case I shall avoid going to see it so that I can continue to live in my fool's paradise!' (The V2s had started.)
`Miss McGregor, my Secretary, had her home blasted yesterday. She lives near Epping Forest but the fact that she is my secretary enables me to add it to my score.'
1945. March 9th
`The general war picture continues very favourable, but I am afraid it is tough for the troops involved.'
`We have had a few more "swallows" home, which I hope is an indication that better times are coming and that the end will not be very remote.'
(Then news of 57 members of Eton Manor.)
`The fact that camp at Cuckoo Weir is to take place in August is great news for the club. . .
`If there is any special want from which our tourists are suffering we will try and supply it. This remark will give everyone the chance of making a joke so perhaps even those like G. D. who never write will put pen to paper!!'
1945. May 16th (to Mrs. Holmes).
`So glad to get your letter and to know that all is well with your family.'
`I have not heard from Arthur, but from my experience letters take a long time and are somewhat irregular when the ships are at sea.'
`I have myself no views about the duration of the Jap war but people are inclined to be optimistic on this score. I should not think that Arthur would have any difficulty getting out directly it was over.'
1945. September 11th
`I wonder if you could tell me if there is any port or town where we ought to try and establish an Eton Manor Advance G.H.Q. like we have in Bombay. I suppose you Service fellows will be hanging around enjoying a holiday for some time to come!'
On May 8th, 1945, the Church bells were rung all over Great Britain and that night the lights were turned on. Demobilization started very soon, well before V. J. Day, but the oldest came out first, and young men came back to Barings and to the Eton Manor throughout 1946 and most of 1947. George Jackson's account of what happened is again best quoted verbatim.
`A. V. decided almost at once that there would be a camp in the August following, what a nightmare ! Strict food rationing, practically no equipment for such a way-out idea and almost unobtainable, so we thought, but A. V. looked upon this as another D. Day. After the usual form-filling and a few mountains moved, he got us off to Cuckoo Weir. Prior to this he had told almost every member he met, young members, those above forces age, those on leave, etc., that they must come down to Camp during the ten days. When I asked what we would feed them on or where would they sleep he would brush it aside with "tell them to bring their own food". I think the order was something like this : Bob White pairs of kippers, Fred Mallin a breast of lamb, a pilot home on leave tins of sardines, the Club caretaker (acting cook) a bullock's head for the stewpot. A.V. got his camp.'
`David Shaw-Kennedy (who had been demobilized in June) and Mr. Baring slept some nights at Camp but I cannot remember other managers as so many people were coming and going at the time. We had about 45 boys. All the campers were bona-fide members. The Camp is also remembered for the dropping of the first Atom bomb and an end to the Japan war.'
`I would like to mention another amusing incident arising from the preparations for this Camp. Earlier Ernie Chubb, a typical Cockney, had been discharged unfit from the Army. Anxious to help him A. V. set him up with a pony and cart and then hired him to do removal work. During the search for camp equipment we discovered a second-hand store in Kensington, so early one morning Ernie with pony and cart set forth to collect. Quite late that day they were still missing until eventually we heard the sound of wheels in the cobbled path up the side of the Club, round the corner appeared the cart piled high with tables, chairs, pots and pans etc., but no pony, this had apparently passed out on the return. Desperately anxious to please A.V., Ernie dragged the cart the rest of the way himself.'
`Also in 1945 A. V. decided we should reopen Riseholme Street*17 as a Club and could see no reason why we should not continue more or less where we left off, with dances, tournaments, etc. Never mind that there were no windows in parts, no efficient means of heating, hardly any equipment. What would the people sit on ? "Do as we did in the first war, get some house bricks and place scaffold boards across them." How can we stage a boxing tournament without a boxing-ring? "Couldn't the people sitting in the front hold the ropes ?" '
`Of course A. V. had this terrific urge to do much for education and was so involved with the local authorities that, through the Trust, he poured a great deal of money into the Hackney Free and Parochial School, and one of the big highlights was the opening of the newly built school by Princess Margaret. He also had royalty at the Club in Riseholme Street, when the Duchess of Kent paid us a visit in 1950. Suppers at Temple Mills were almost command performances, and his countless guests over the years have included Cabinet ministers, Generals, Admirals and a whole string of Lords and Ladies, and quite often these guests were intermingled with the East Enders. His Wilderness became quite famous in the later years and I have conducted visiting parties of Russians, Australians, Germans and Americans around.'
`A.V. did so much for the old folk. Coal would be delivered by the ton, food parcels were constantly being despatched from the Club. Big parties were frequently being held for the aged. He always stressed that we should not worry too much about the old folk in the established old peoples' clubs but to try and dig out the lonely and neglected. At the time of the Club's 5oth birthday celebrations in 1963, A. V. had to lunch, at six separate parties, no less than a total of 1200 old people from Hackney and Leyton.
`Also in 1963 he thought it would be a good idea to stage a reunion for all the school-teachers the Club had known, from neighbouring boroughs, as far back as we could trace. It was a huge gathering and a very touching scene. Somehow or other the aged teachers, long since retired, had been traced from various parts of the country and they all came together in the pavilion as A. V.'s guests. One old chap wept with joy to think that he had not been forgotten and was meeting so many old friends he never again expected to see.'
In Hackney Wick and Leyton, as George Jackson has indicated, the Manor Trust's charity expanded beyond the running of the Clubs even more widely than before the war. All the relations of Club members who had been killed were looked after, but in addition both boroughs had invaluable help from the Trust with housing, allotments, recreational developments and so on. In 1951 Leyton conferred the Freedom of the Borough on Major the Hon. Arthur George Child-Villiers, D.S.O., D.L., the Mayor referring to his distinguished and eminent personal service and the huge benefit that Leyton boys and young men had had from Eton Manor.*18 In reply the new Freeman said that he had received many kindnesses and presents during his life, but he could not think of a kindness that had given him a greater thrill or more satisfaction. It is interesting that this statement was certainly quite true. Later he was made a Freeman of Hackney, but that was copying Leyton, and it was Leyton's spontaneous action that pleased him so much.
This was six years after the end of the war. He had refused to reopen the Manor House next to the Clubs, where he could have lived fairly comfortably as he had before the war, and left it occupied as the main office. He stayed on instead in the rooms in the grounds-man's house on the Wilderness next to his air-raid shelter which he had moved into in 1940, and they were his home until he died. He had parties there, usually in a disused garage, for Old Boys returning from the forces, and for the local people with whom he worked for local good, and for some of his old friends, always with champagne.†19 He began to come even less to the West End of London, except for Saturday evening dinners at the Savoy Grill (which went on until just before he died) and his two infirmities began at this time to worry him. One was the arthritic knee that was the result of his war wound, and the other was some bronchial weakness which made it increasingly hard for him to talk loudly. Particularly for this reason he dreaded deafness (as the deaf were so difficult for him) and he went to his ear specialist as regularly as anyone else goes to his dentist. Perhaps more regularly, because, in the belief that it would prevent his teeth decaying (and it seemed to be justified) he had had them completely covered with gold. In the City this was talked of; when it was done, as a hedge against inflation.
Before the war Arthur's nephew, Lord Jersey, had pulled down the old house at Middleton in order to replace it with a new one designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. After the war he sold Middleton and then handed over Osterley to the National Trust and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Nothing in Arthur's life caused him more distress, Middleton particularly being something he really cared for, as letters that he wrote just before he died make clear beyond all doubt. It is true that years after the houses were gone he once said that, because of inflation, it was mad to own anything that needed upkeep, and that his nephew had probably done the most sensible thing in getting rid of them, but at the time he was resentful and unhappy.
As Sir George Schuster said in his memorial address, after the end of the first world war Arthur had started art annual reunion for men from his old Banbury Squadron. By this time, membership having dwindled, he was paying for reunions for all members of the regiment who had served in the 1914-18 War. In between reunions he kept in touch, as Sir George also said, with all the men he knew and never refused any of them help or advice. He sent people good elbow-crutches or wheelchairs if they became lame, invested money for some, got Lionel de Rothschild to stop the laying-off on redundancy grounds of an Oxfordshire Hussar who worked in Woolworths, and dealt with each and every case thoughtfully, carefully and liberally.
To members of his family and his own personal friends of all ages he was a generous host, but he did not think that they ought to expect anything more from him, certainly not money nor help to get a job.*20 He gave parties, one or two, on boats on the Thames (to which he would invite anyone he thought of, some of his nephews or nieces perhaps, and Fred Cripps, Herbert Morrison and the Eton Missioner) and when the nephews and nieces arranged a party for him on his seventieth birthday he insisted on paying for it. But he thought it 'infra dig' for anyone who had had the same privileges as he had had not to find his own feet. When a young member of his family told him that she was learning typing and shorthand he said `Why not make up your mind to be the fellow that does the dictation ?', as if she was just being unambitious.
He had no artistic pleasures. He would take people to the theatre because he thought that they would enjoy it. He knew nothing about painting or other visual arts, and said that he only read books on his holidays. Often, at this period, he would take his car and a chauffeur and drive round some part of the Continent, but no one knew why he enjoyed doing so. A friend of his met him by chance at Pisa, and was surprised to find him looking at the leaning tower and the Campo Santo at night. Arthur explained, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, that he had gone there because he had heard how good the flood-lighting was, and thought that it might give him some ideas for flood-lighting the playing-fields of Eton Manor.
Probably all through his life he was steadily making money. Conditions after the war were different from those before it, but it is quite safe to state that, though he himself said that men deteriorate after 5o, and though physically he was just beginning to age, he was throughout his sixties as brilliant as ever, and probably more successful than ever. After the war he saw the need for a posse of paid managers at Eton Manor, and, when he took each one on, he would lend him some money free of interest and invest it for him. These men are well aware of his prowess at investment, and so are others, especially old friends to whom he gave advice. But perhaps the best authority of all is Mr. Phil Anderton who worked directly for Arthur Villiers in Barings and wrote about 'that unique and lovable man' (his words) some notes from which the following quotations are taken.
`To say that Mr. V. was an investment genius would be an understatement. Judged by modern methods when we have investment analysts with their indices and P/E ratios he was unorthodox to put it mildly.'
`Broadly speaking he had much more faith in people than in figures. For his main or semi-permanent investments he would invest in shares sponsored by Barings, Schroders, Helbert Wagg, and Robert Fleming. Regarding the latter he had the utmost faith in his life long friend Mr. Phil Fleming and he never hesitated to turn to him for advice.'
`Another old friend, Mr. John Cadogan of L. Messel & Co., specialized in interesting situations in small companies. He used to discuss these with Mr. V. who had the rare flair of picking out the winners.'
`However, his success was his own final judgment. He read extensively all the financial press and studied statistical cards, though one suspects he wanted to see who was on the board rather than the figures.'
`At the time of my arrival he was just completing a "coup" in Brazil Bonds.*21 He now turned his attention to German Bonds. He started purchasing K.K. at 4, Dawes at 7 and Young at 11. One of Barings investment pundits was heard to say "Arthur must be mad".'
`He knew Germany well and had great faith in their recovery. He visited the country frequently and was much impressed with the way they put their backs into rebuilding. In one of his letters from Baden, writing about the German workmen, he wrote "Work is their football".'
`These investments, of course, proved to be a fairy story success.'
`Great opportunities also existed in the recovery of Japanese Bonds but he would not touch these on principle of the atrocities the Japs had committed.'
`One of Mr. V.'s great assets as an investor was his ability to take a loss. His opinions changed rapidly and what was a good buy on Friday could be a certain sale on Monday.'
`He was not always the easiest of men to understand. For instance, he would come along and say "Lancashire Cotton are doing very well, their interim is due shortly and the figures should be good and there is always a chance of a take-over bid, so we do 1 o,000". In my early innocence I would say "Buy, Sir?". He would reply "Oh no, no, Sell" !'
`It was always difficult to obtain a decision at an interview as he so quickly changed subjects and I found the best way to get round this was to put the point up in writing. He religiously replied, writing on your letter. Unfortunately, any letters he initiated were rarely dated and, if so, only with the day and month, and never the year.'
In 1950 the Governing Body of Eton, whose predecessors had had plenty of warnings but had done nothing, announced that the school was roughly-speaking 'broke', as no maintenance fund had ever been built up, and they appealed to Old Etonians for £1,000,000. Several people were asked by the Fund Committee how to run the Appeal, and, though one at least thought that it was his own sole brainwave, probably it was fairly general advice to appoint a convener for each House. Whether or not it was the right decision, the Appeal was a surprising failure, because only about one third of all Etonians gave anything. Luckily however Barings were consulted and Arthur Villiers was the original Chairman of the Investment panel. As a result the amounts received were invested with spectacular success, and, though the accounts never revealed the full extent of the appreciation, Eton certainly got all that it wanted.
Later Arthur was also senior trustee of a fund set up by Gaspard Farrer (who will be remembered as apparently his special sponsor when he was invited to join Barings in 1918) with the objects of improving 'the buildings of Eton College, the gardens and grounds belonging there to and the Churchyard adjoining the Chapel by repair, renovation', etc.. As Mr. Andrew Carnwath said in his obituary of Arthur in the Eton College Chronicle, 'the settlor made it very clear that the Trustees would only be carrying out his wishes if they carried out a scheme which resulted in opening out the view of Chapel from the South side'. But thanks again to the marvellous management of the Fund, not only was this done, but also two new houses were built, and most appropriately called Farrer House' and 'Villiers House', as well as the New Hall. No wonder Lord Fortescue wrote to a friend after Arthur's death that 'if Eton had been his only activity, he would have been much remembered for that alone'.22
Arthur Villiers retired from Barings in 1954, but for many years had an office next door to the main building and there kept abreast with the investments of various funds with which he was connected. Also he carried on campaigns for various causes which he decided to support. He had already, starting in 1947, organized a drive for higher disability pensions, enlisting General Carton de Wiart, Sir Ian Fraser and Derick Heathcoat-Amory, now Lord Amory. He had produced endless literature on the subject, lobbied directly, or through these three and others, everyone who could help, and gradually saw the rate rise, largely through his efforts, from 45/-- to 90/-- a week. When he started campaigning against the entry of Great Britain into the Common Market is hard to say, owing to his habit (already commented on by Mr. Anderton in his note quoted above) of dating most of his letters with the day and month but none with the year. So we know that it was on January 16th, but not in which year, that he wrote, 'As I dislike the common market, for once de Gaulle is in my good books ! I am all for being friends with the Huns but that is no reason for us to think that it is love for us that makes them want us in the common market -- they are thinking of themselves and no one else !' This was probably written after 1960, but he had been against our entry from the start.
Another habit, which makes it difficult to go into any detail about the first ten years of his life in retirement, was that very sensibly he kept letter files for only a few years, and those extant start with 1964. Nevertheless it is safe to draw conclusions from these, fitting them in with what members of his small entourage recall. Certainly he corresponded regularly with old friends, such as Heinrich von Berenberg-Gossler in Hamburg, Henri ter Meulen in Amsterdam, Mrs. William Endicott in Massachusetts, Alec Pallis in Athens, William Merton, of Metalgesellschaft, who was living in the United States, and an old Oxfordshire Hussar, Jimmy Pearce, in the Canary Islands. Just as conscientiously he kept touch with other Old Oxfordshire Hussars and with Old Boys of Eton Manor, where-ever they were. And he was President of the Hackney Gardening Club (which was a group for whom he had bought land to be used as allotments), President of the Hackney Rifle Club and of the Eagle (Cycling) Road Club at Ugley, Patron of Waltham Forest Junior Schools Athletic Federation, Patron of the Leyton Committee for Education, President of the Leyton Branch and Patron of the Hackney Central and South Branch of the British Legion. He was always thinking of people who needed or might need help, and sent them money on every appropriate occasion and often with no pretext at all. There were parties, now generally at the Great Eastern Hotel, to which people were invited who would enjoy them and had deserved hospitality, and other guests were there for the purpose of entertaining them.
Arthur now began to go every year for rest and massage (which he said was 'the only thing' for old people) first to Droitwich Spa, but later to Baden-Baden instead. At each place he had friends near enough to be invited over to see him.*23 In February 1964 he sent a third gift of £100 to the Droitwich Medical Trust for the benefit of patients attending the Spa. A month or two later he sent £1,000 to General Bishop in Cyprus to be spent for the benefit of British troops there. In these and all the unsolicited personal gifts that he made, and kindnesses that he did, you can see more and more clearly at work the principle which he had laid down for Lord Longford's benefit, that, if you do good for others, you must think only of them and never of yourself. Another firm principle, from which not even appeals from his closest friends would make him depart, was never to give money to charities supported by Boards of Directors of public companies 'out of their shareholders' money'. He would not even support the London Federation of Boys' Clubs, but he was extremely generous to the 'Pastures', a Youth Club in Leytonstone, though he did not approve of its objects. He gave £500 to a private memorial fund for an old City friend, and a Mayoral badge and chain to the new borough of Waltham Forest, but he refused to give a penny to the Lord Lieutenant of Essex†24 towards providing £30,000 for a Sports pavilion for Essex University. His letter of refusal started with the statement that 'broadly speaking, we confine our resources to objects which public companies who feel free to give away their shareholders' money do not support'. But in it he went on to air a new obsession at great length, summed up by the short sentence 'I have a special grudge against sports centres'.
His scheme for the churches in Leyton is a good example of his thoughtfulness and breadth of mind. It was all his own idea, but he got it administered by the best possible body, the Rotary Club of Leyton of which he was an honorary member. They created a committee of three to run it, the Town Clerk (Derek Osborne) and Treasurer of the borough, who both happened to be members of the Rotary Club, and the president of the Club for each year that the scheme lasted. He started it in February 1961, and it was to cover three years. In fact, to make it better for the beneficiaries he extended it for another six months.
The basis of the scheme was that the Manor Charitable Trust would pay, over this period, £2,100 to each of the 45 churches in Leyton provided that they spent the money on the old people and on the young between the ages of 14 and 25. The other proviso was that the church must find £1 for every £3 given by the Trust. Of the amount offered, which totalled £94,500, £62,444 was taken up by 43 out of the 45 churches in Leyton, of whom 15 received the whole £2,100.
The scheme was run with no fuss whatever. The only condition that the three administrators made was that if capital works were undertaken there must be tenders and a contract, but they did not ask to approve contracts. Most of the money was spent on church or mission halls, but sports and games equipment (table-tennis balls, shuttlecocks, cricket bats, draught boards), camping equipment, crockery and domestic goods (brooms and brushes and even one step-ladder) appear on the list. 'As a result of the Scheme', says the administrator's report, 'the religious organizations of this town have been able to do, and have been able to buy, things they never thought they would be able to do or buy'.
Surprisingly, and to the stupefaction of the administrators, neither the national nor even the local press regarded the scheme as news. What scope and degree of unsought, impersonal generosity does make news, we may wonder. The churches concerned were 6 Baptist, 14 Church of England, 4 Congregational, one Elim, one Evangelical, one Jewish synagogue, 6 Methodist, 6 Missions, one Plymouth Brethren, one Presbyterian, one Roman Catholic and 3 Salvation Army hostels. They add up to 45 instead of 43 because two churches only just outside Leyton were given £100 'consolation grants'. The winter of 1962-63 was severe, and A.V. quickly decided that £100 spent at once on fuel or blankets for the aged need not be matched £1 for £3.
`The Executive Committee of the above Mission at their meeting last Friday requested me to write and thank the Administrators of the Manor Charitable Trust for the generous help they have given us during the last three years.'
`Our Mission, which caters for a Blind Society and Darby and Joan Club, as well as Youth Movements, etc., has been renovated both inside and out and we have had extensive roof repairs and a new floor in the main hall. Very little of this could have been done if we had to rely entirely upon our own resources.'
`It is very satisfying to us to have the place bright and clean and we owe a debt of gratitude to you for your assistance.'
`We do appreciate your kindness very much.'
That is a typical letter of thanks. What a wonderful thing to have done so much so efficiently for really deserving people!
It may seem strange that there was no official recognition for all the good that Arthur Villiers had done. After the war two or three times friends talked about his being recommended for an honour, but as often happens, nothing was achieved, although the last attempt came very near to success. Perhaps he would not have accepted. He had to be persuaded to accept the Freedom of Leyton, which in the end gave him so much pleasure. So much, in fact, that he may well have been content with that and the Freedom of Hackney and wanted nothing else.
At the Eton Manor Clubs, David Shaw-Kennedy having died in 1950, Sir Edward Cadogan and Sir Edward Howarth having also died soon afterwards, and others having become involved with their families and their other interests, there was no one left out of the old helpers except David's brother, who was for some years incapacitated by lameness, and Evelyn Baring, who did everything asked of him and much more, with lavish generosity, but was too old to take an active part in things. He went regularly to the annual Camp, nevertheless, and to an annual weekend for the swimming section of the Club, the Eton Otters, for which he paid all the cost. Camp now, because of the pollution of the Thames, took place at the Isle of Thorns, the marvellous holiday area which Alfred Wagg had created in Sussex, and there also the Otters went for their weekends, to enjoy the superb swimming pool which Alfred had provided, besides acres of football fields and other amenities for holiday-makers. The lack of young supporters of the Club was made up for by the employment of an excellent team of full-time managers, headed by Taff Wilson, Ron Hill, Fred Lee and Jim Perkins, all experienced, capable, intelligent and full of knowledge about boys, besides George Jackson, who was still in charge of the Boys' Club.
Later one or two young men, most of them Old Etonians in the City, started coming down to Hackney Wick or to Camp. Evelyn Baring got Arthur to agree to reopen the Manor House for them and tried to encourage them to come and to bring others with them. But out of a dozen or so, three or four looked after some special activities or arranged weekend parties for groups of Manor boys, and the others really fell away, coming only if asked on particular occasions. Evelyn Baring and Ronald Shaw-Kennedy were the only ones who used the Manor House and slept there once or twice a week. There was no one like David Shaw-Kennedy, who had taken an interest in everything that was going on, and knew every boy and Old Boy and all about them.
Arthur was begged to return from his cramped quarters on the Wilderness to the comparative comfort of the Manor House. Not only would he not do so, but he never voluntarily went into it. For some reason which no one could fathom, he seemed to resent its having been resuscitated, and on the only occasion when, to avoid discourtesy to a guest of his and Evelyn's, he went in, he never looked round and never made any comment on it.
Even if the old gaiety had disappeared,*25 the Clubs were successful in every other way. Arthur himself walked round at weekends when the playing fields were busy and on summer evenings. He improved the Athletic ground until it was virtually perfect, especially as after the Olympic Games in 1948 he had bought the Wembley running track and had it put down there. He thought of new developments in the club-house itself and spent thousands on them. He loved building at this period, and had strange little houses or offices constructed round the Wilderness, principally, so it was believed, because there were rumours of road-widening schemes in the area, and if there were enough bricks and mortar on his boundaries they might not be encroached upon.
In the first months of 1963 Eton Manor seemed firmly entrenched.26 But in the late summer of that year a sap was blown beneath it. At first the damage seemed to be serious but reparable. It was however the commanding officer's decision, first not to repair his defences and ultimately to blow up the whole position himself.
The beginning of the end was that, with very great courtesy, Mrs. Jay, the Chairman of the L.C.C. Highways Committee, and Mr. Melman, who was in fact in charge of L.C.C. Parks and Open Spaces but was chosen as a delegate because of his old friendship with Major Villiers, came to tell him personally, and before the news was released, that plans for a new highway involved the destruction of the club-house and Manor House. Full compensation was offered, with most genuine expressions of regret, and a site already chosen for a new club-house was pointed out on a map. Such was the spirit in which the L.C.C. appeared willing to treat the situation that it hardly mattered that the site was for many reasons quite unsuitable. Evelyn Baring and Ronald Shaw-Kennedy had, as it happened, already talked to one another about abandoning the existing clubhouse, selling the site and rebuilding in a modern style on the Wilderness, which was a mile from the Club, Arthur Villiers typically did not at once commit himself to any plan, but in a letter written later he revealed that this was what he first thought of doing, with compensation available instead of the need to find a buyer for the old premises.
Great changes were however taking place, some gradually, some swiftly, in his thoughts. As a result Eton Manor perished by degrees over the next five years. First he wrote a letter to the L.C.C. from which they were entitled to conclude that he wanted no compensation27 (though in the end the M.C.T. got a little), then he closed the Club, telling the boys that it was better for them, summer and winter to be in the fresh air on the Wilderness, then he shut down the facilities there one by one, and one by one discharged his employees, then he discharged half the managers, abruptly but with most generous redundancy gifts, and finally he closed the Wilderness itself and ended the Clubs for ever. He stayed where he was himself, and guests at a dinner party late in 1968 found the playing-fields covered knee-high with cow-parsley.
What were his motives ? Principally he was more and more obsessed with inflation, and in the course of one evening would say four or five times that the pound was only worth 3/6d. (When once he was questioned on this, he said that he was taking 1936 as the year when it was worth a pound. He never would say why, but presumably thought that steady inflation set in then.) Thus the Club seemed to be costing much too much for the good it did, especially as he
62thought that much too much money was spent on facilities for recreation and sport in London, where long hours of work, expensive fares and slow journeys prevented their being used enough.
It was to save the major expense that he abandoned the clubhouse, and after that he suggested various economies on the Wilderness. On July 5th, 1966, he wrote to George Jackson, the Manager of the Boys' Club `. . . it becomes more obvious every day that we are heading for an inflationary crisis when prices and wages will rise, I fear, rapidly. In view of this it is essential that we cut our expenditure, perhaps not on the educational side as if England is to get out of its present troubles it will be due to education and not, I fear, to the playing of games, although nothing is more important to someone who is working hard than to get some open air exercise at weekends. . . . It seems to me that outdoor games even with floodlighting should not cost the earth, but it is an entirely different story when you have to heat, light, clean and repair buildings.' He went on to ask George to consider methods of saving, limiting membership 'so that you only have to provide indoor facilities for a very limited number', and closing the buildings early on Saturdays and Sundays and for two weeks in August. 'At the best,' he went on to say, 'we must be spending £30,000 per annum. . . . Of course it is not all spent on Eton Manor. Please do not think I am blaming anyone for the present situation. It is the inevitable result of inflation and seems certain to get worse.'
He wrote also to his nephew, David Rhys, on the subject, and started by mentioning Lord Mount Stephen's comment when he gave £500 to the appeal for the building of the Eton Manor clubhouse : 'I wish you were going to teach the British boy to work and not to play.'
His letter continued: 'My mother, aged 95, died in 1945. She was what people today call an intellectual. She used to tell me some years before she died how she could never understand how intelligent people could pursue a fox four days a week and then discuss its movements at dinner! Equally, she could never understand how a reasonably intelligent man could play cricket six days a week, and it was even more difficult for her to understand how people could exist who would watch him doing so ! I think that she and Lord Mount Stephen had somewhat the same point of view, and that is that if you have to live in this wicked world you should endeavour to make some contribution to its welfare, however trivial !'
`Anyway, they seem to have been some 6o years ahead of their time. Last year we made an investigation into the activities of Eton Manor members, boys and old boys. It became abundantly clear England once again the most powerful country in the world.28
Also he thought that the Wilderness was in the wrong place. This was partly because it was in an area which was threatened by new roads, and already not easily accessible to many of its members, and partly perhaps for the same reason as he gave once for having left Hackney Wick. For some years he had been carrying on, with Lord Elton, a vigorous campaign against immigration. In Hackney Wick the number of coloured immigrants was increasing, new Council houses were going up and he thought that they would bring more immigrants still. Just after the L.C.C. had told him that the Club must come down, he had said that he thought that, instead of his first idea of building on the Wilderness, he might sell out altogether in that area and start again a few miles away in Essex.
Another motive that led him towards the final closing of the Clubs was that not only was the cost of them too much for the amount that they were used but also too many of those who used the club-house, and then, when it was closed down, the playing fields, were Old Boys. In earlier days they had done so much to help the Boys' Club that he felt justified in providing for them but now, with so many managers, they were less useful and he began to doubt whether he should go on using charitable funds, which legally should be spent only on those under 25 or over 65, on facilities for those in between these ages. Lastly he seems to have thought (although this is conjecture, not based on anything that he actually said) that the whole spirit on which the Clubs had been founded had evaporated. If this is right, it is certainly consistent that he took his final decision to end the whole affair soon after Evelyn Baring, the last of the 'old school' died in August 1966. He was grateful to two or three of the new young men for what they did. But he knew that some of them had no interest at all in the Club and he found some of the others too solemn and too sure that what they were doing was commendable self-sacrifice.†29 He was himself well over eighty. 'The conditions in our part of London and the habits of the population are changing with such rapidity that 1966 is entirely different from 1965,' he had written, and he probably felt that what was a marvellous thing when Gerald Wellesley started it sixty years earlier had now no that large numbers were not interested or able to play "games", and they preferred (equally their parents) to improve their education, prepare for a successful career and, when they got married (as many do very early in life), to be in a position to buy themselves a home. Others, in addition like owning a motor car. To achieve these objects they must earn money by overtime on Saturday and a holiday job etc., etc. They cannot spend much time on games, which are now so expensive particularly because of the increase in travelling costs.'
`The result as far as Eton Manor and most playing areas are concerned is that playing facilities are less used, including firms' playgrounds, college playgrounds, public running tracks and public football grounds on a Saturday, etc., etc.'
`But surely it is a splendid thing for England that what Mount Stephen wanted nearly sixty years ago has come to pass, despite all the well-meaning activities of "do-gooders" of older generations who do all they can to make the young spend their time on running tracks; in indoor swimming pools and sports halls, whether it be winter or summer; climbing mountains; sailing etc. etc. These are all admirable in themselves but very expensive and very distracting and not what most modern boys and girls want.'
`Would the export trade gain or lose if the Crystal Palace were closed while economic crisis exists, as it would be during a war, or at least used for other purposes ?'
`Is it really good for the country for new stands to be built on cricket grounds and to induce people to spend Sundays there ? Obviously no one would pretend that such facilities would benefit youth, or be desired by most of them. They should not be encouraged to be watchers, and they do not ask these things. It would seem that more and more good teachers would be their wish and they would prefer, or many of them would prefer, more and more good teachers before more and more good buildings, and they would welcome more houses and not flats in twenty-storey buildings, and many other wants before facilities for "games".'
Already the expenditure of the Manor Trust was being diverted to some educational projects, reading parties, visits to factories and places of interest round England, and even conducted tours to Greece. But what happened next was that more and more Arthur felt that the rest of what he had written to George Jackson was wrong in two respects. First, that the Wilderness should only be kept on if more people used it, not fewer, secondly that even the provision of outdoor facilities was not so good a use for charitable money as help to the old or education, which so he said he hoped, would make point left, there was now no longer in it any place for his principle that you must never do anything for anyone except for his sake and not for your own, that the purpose it had served had perished with changes that first had been gradual but now were galloping on.
A most important development sprang from his wish to encourage education. Starting in 1963, he bought back, bit by bit, the whole of the Jersey property at Middleton except the house and its garden. Early in 1964 he said in a letter that he wanted to increase the piece of ground which the M.C.T. had already acquired, on which a comfortable house had been built for reading parties, and added that he hoped that 'our Manor Charitable Trust will be in possession for centuries to come !!"The intention,' he went on, 'is for Eton Manor to have a sort of country H.Q., which will be used for educational purposes and as a holiday centre for the members of our London staff and other special friends. As you know, I am very anxious for our Trust to have a solid permanent association with Middleton, where so many of my relations resided.'
In June 1964 he gave the asking price for a lot of 100 acres. He admitted that the price might be excessive 'but no one' he said, 'can tell what land is worth! Anyway I want to have it and if one is in that position, it is not much good offering a much lower figure.' From then on farm after farm was offered to him and accepted at a generous price, and also the grove with a Roman spring in it which he particularly wanted because he and his sisters used to play there as children. 'I should like to buy it,' he said, 'and perhaps we could plant willows which might be valuable one day.' Undoubtedly the word went round that he was a willing purchaser, and some of the last of the owners who offered him their farms had no motive for selling except the chance of getting a gloriously exorbitant price. Nevertheless they were mostly old Middleton families, and he liked doing them a good turn.
Amid the dismay which some of his City colleagues expressed, one of them said 'Maybe, but Arthur has been called "mad" before, and he has hardly ever been wrong about an investment.' He wrote to an American friend whose firm had started a branch in Eire. 'Our charitable trust has bought 500 acres or so at Middleton Stoney in Oxfordshire near the village [sic] where I was born. I prefer it as a long term investment to a factory in the Emerald Island but which is the better is anyone's guess.' He put up walls to protect his property from damaging development, but he also told the County Council that he was not against development in principle. He had already said that Middleton Stoney seemed to be just the right distance from Bicester to be a good bet for capital appreciation through development later on. Even at the age of 85 he promised the Council to help them if they would listen to his ideas for ensuring that any development that was to be done was not haphazard but for the benefit of the estate.
Mr. Charlie Brown, an Oxfordshire Hussar and a successful farmer, was a regular correspondent with Arthur, and the letters which he has kept begin in 1956, but are mostly from 1965 onwards. They are full of chaff about the favourable treatment of farmers with subsidies and so on, and their advantages over bankers and 'city-wallahs' generally. There are also some reflections in the letters in the modern world, which Arthur said was 'in such a mess that I have moments of madness when I feel I should do something to put it right. They don't last, and if a nigger wants to eat his grandmother I have decided to leave him to it.' `I am loo per cent against the Common Market,' he says in another letter, and in yet another he has written what he often said to his friends, that we ought to get rid of the Commonwealth and that the only hope for the world was for us to get together with Germany, North America and Australia.
Also, because the Brown family, now in Buckinghamshire, had lived near Middleton, there are some personal comments. Arthur, thanking Mr. Brown for some account which he had found of his (A.V.'s) athletic prowess, refers to a race in which he had taken part in 1905. 'The fact that I finished last or rather did not finish is not mentioned,' he says. 'I had had a big bet on the National and lost --the result was announced as we were waiting to start and so I did not care what happened and gave up!' About his family (to whom Mr. Brown must have referred) he wrote, `No, the Jersey peers, except my brother who was exceptionally clever, have always been dominated by their women folk. They have been goodish horsemen but the female has always been the stronger party. My father was a marvellous chap to whom everyone was devoted, but if it came to making an important speech he very wisely suggested Lady Jersey, and she was superb on any subject. The fact that she looked small and frail actually helped.' In another letter he mentions (apropos, no doubt of some reference by Mr. Brown to his Rothschild neighbours) that he was Anthony de Rothschild's best man, . . unusual for a Gentile to be asked but he was one of my greatest friends since before 1914'.
As we have now come to the last phase of Arthur Villiers's life, is there any more to be said about his character and his personality? The following is a summary by Mr. James Masters, who worked closely with him in Barings from the time he became a Director in 1919.
`In those far-off days A.V. had the same quiet, conservative attributes which he retained throughout his days. His unhurried gait was characteristic of all his movements. Even when we played tennis at the Wilderness he seemed merely to lope with minimum effort from various parts of the court, and it was difficult indeed to get a shot past him ! He displayed other skills in the same relaxed but formidable manner. In appearance he conveyed something of the ascetic, allied with an aristocratic bearing which sat easily upon him.
`I learned that beneath this natural disguise, emphasized perhaps by his unvarying courtesy, mild appearance and quiet speech, there was a strong character which, with his immense grasp and purpose, composed a highly individual, controlled personality.
`He was a first-class judge of character and capacity, and was interested in one's thoughts and aspirations. He was a fine ally and most faithful friend, and never forgot anybody who had collaborated with him in any way. He was a gracious, thoughtful and generous host.
`In cast of thought he was pervasive and individual -- often quite novel. He was not always easy to follow, as he seemed sometimes to assume that one's knowledge was already as extensive as his own in a very wide variety of considerations.
`He had his own convictions and methods of analysis which, with his own private guidelines, were, for him, utterly reliable. Those of us who had close contact with him found it advisable to confer now and then on what seemed to us somewhat abstruse connotations ! He was always thinking a long way ahead of the moment, and with his superb health, and apparently no worries, the quality of his exploratory ranging was not clouded. He thought with crystal clarity and could retain, as if in separate compartments, a large number of dissimilar situations.
`His approach, courtesy and personality induced the best efforts from everybody : he trusted one completely and didn't interfere and never asked for interim reports. When some business was satisfactorily completed he had a light-hearted and charming way of saying what fun it had been working together. On the other hand, if one had a problem he offered generous and accurate diagnosis -- once he knew all the facts.
`When he retired to his eyrie next door to No. 8*30 it was notable that he gathered round him as many as possible of those retired members of the staff -- male and female -- as had worked with him earlier. (Grant Sim, Robin Cummins, Stephen Burge, Miss Aller, Miss Pocock, etc.) He was fond of the family, and wanted them to assist him in running his various charitable projects, and with Harold Parkinson and Phil Anderton still in the No. 8 office downstairs there was no impediment to the active management of the large funds he controlled -- the arrangement worked admirably.
`His compassion, which was enormous but always concealed, was mighty and given without stint to his fellow men in those areas where he felt society had been neglectful, cruel, or just stupid.
`I never heard him mention religion, but it always seemed to me that his every thought was born of a shining integrity. This, of course, only heightened one's devotion to him.
`Many of his associates and friends had their imaginations stirred and fired by him, and found their lives taking on new meaning and direction.
`His efforts were never weakened by diffusion -- he went ahead with unrelenting singleness of purpose. He had infinite resource, and seemed to be latched on to forces not available to pedestrian folk.'
Against such a tribute what criticisms of him are there 'still to record ? One of his oldest friends said that he seemed sometimes to be `inhuman'. Perhaps when Sir George Schuster told him during the last war that he had two sons on active service, and Arthur replied `Yes, George, I know, but I have hundreds', there was some lack of appreciation of the difference. When he was told that Evelyn Baring had died suddenly he showed no emotion whatever (but talked about him as he might have talked about a book that he had finished), just as he showed no emotion when the telegram arrived telling him of his own father's death. And when he decided to reduce the staff of Eton Manor, though he gave handsome presents to those who were laid off, he expressed no sympathy for them, not even for those whose hearts were, for the time being, broken. But if he was 'inhumanly' unemotional he was also 'inhumanly' selfless and generous, and hundreds of people sincerely loved him.
Moreover Taff Wilson, who knew him as well as anyone, is sure that he was not hard and unemotional, although he always tried to give the impression that he was both. In Taff's account of his weekend at the Wilderness during the blitz (in Appendix B) he gives one instance of `A.G.C.V.'s' being moved almost to tears. He also remembers that he was nearly speechless when he told Taff that he had decided that Gelderd, the groundsman who had looked after the playing fields for years, must be retired, and that Evelyn Baring had said that he had never known Arthur so upset as he was all through
David Shaw-Kennedy's long illness, until he died. Yet one more example that Taff gives has such a ring of authenticity that no one who knew Arthur could think, as just possibly they might about these other cases, that there was some other explanation, fatigue perhaps or embarrassment or worry, for his mood. He found out that a group of young men that he trusted were trying to work a petty swindle at his expense. This time he was literally in tears and hardly able to speak, not because he minded being robbed, but because he hated deceit and here were people to whom he had given his trust and affection requiting him with a cheap, deceitful plot against him.
A rather trivial criticism might be one that could be made against many others of his position in the City, both of his and of later generations. This is their habit of pretending that their success in making money for their trusts and for their clients is just luck. 'I did nothing, it just happened,' he once said about a successful speculation, and he even told friends who asked him for advice that he knew nothing about investment. It seems to have been fashionable to talk like this, and also to keep any discussion of business on a light-hearted key when any outsider was listening. Those who have never had the advantages of a merchant banker's inside information, professional investment department and prime service from stockbrokers may sometimes wish that these experts would not be quite so modest.
To another trait in Arthur's character there are two sides at least. Outside his business, and perhaps only in his dealings with some of his friends and his colleagues and staff at Eton Manor, he was severe in a special way. He was quite entitled to give orders, but it was difficult for those who got them that he seemed to hate having to explain them even to the extent of making them clear. No doubt this was largely due to his inability to express himself. He seldom was angry, but he was impatient if you asked him what precisely it was that he wanted you to do. Once in fact he was angry, when he had given a friend a document written by himself and told him to take it away and follow it up. To the question 'But what do you want me to do with it ?' he answered very abruptly, 'I don't want you to do anything' and changed the subject. Equally, outside his business he seemed to hate discussing anything. Either he would take his own decision or else he would hand decisions over to someone else entirely.
Inside Barings, it was not quite the same. Those who worked for him found, as Mr. Masters has said, that 'he was not always easy to follow, as he seemed sometimes to assume that one's knowledge was already as extensive as his own' and 'he was always thinking a long way ahead of the moment'. But Lord Ashburton, a fellow director
for many years, when he was asked whether he thought that Arthur disliked discussion, replied that he thought that he did not actually dislike it. 'Indeed I think it rather amused him because he always knew what he wished to do, and, if he found opposition, the participants within a few minutes found themselves discussing some completely different and irrelevant subject without knowing how they got into it. He always knew how he wanted to deal with any given problem, and if it was one which bored him he would hand it to somebody else, but having done so he would then back them to the hilt in whatever solution they had adopted.'
One of Wellington's generals finished his account of the battle of Waterloo, after dealing with criticisms of the Duke, by saying, 'The errors or shortcomings in the Duke's operations and in his guidance of the battle are only dilated upon here, as astronomers dilate upon the spots on the face of the sun.' Sir George Schuster's eulogy of Arthur Villiers is printed in full in the Epilogue and there might seem to be little more left to say. One late letter of his must however be quoted in full because it shows him in a mood that his oldest friends would never have suspected, and without it we cannot judge his character quite fairly. It was one of two that he wrote to Sarah, the daughter of Derek Marsh (who was in charge of Middleton Stoney), the first thanking her and her parents for a Christmas card, and this one thanking them, through her again, for congratulations on his 8oth birthday. As she was 18 days old when he wrote the first, and not quite one year old when he wrote the second, he broke his lifelong custom, and dated them in full. This one was written on November 24th, 1963.
`Dear Sarah,
`You must not mind my being familiar as I am 79 years older than you.
`I have not learnt much in 8o years but I can give you some good advice. Parents, when they are young, are very crafty and will always try and make you go to sleep so that they can amuse themselves watching the beetles [sic] or having a party ! Don't be taken in when they keep saying "lullaby" or whatever the words are!
`When you get older they will start telling you that little girls should be seen and not heard. Don't let them get the upper hand or before long they will be turning you upside down and giving you some painful smacks. I could give you a lot more advice but this will do for the present -- retain the whip-hand.
`When you are as old as I am, I calculate that it will be 2042 A.D. `Yours sincerely, Arthur Villiers.'
Those who never knew this remarkable man may wonder what he looked like. He was slightly built and had noticeably small features. His hair was sandy until it eventually whitened, straight and short cut and latterly sparse, and his moustache, which was kept short also, was unobtrusive. He had two usual expressions, one the more usual of the two, of genial benevolence, the other of quick concentration or sudden interest in something seen or said. With either of them went always the penetrating intelligence that shone in his pale blue eyes. What his friends loved to see, especially as he grew old, was the almost impish way in which his face would be prepared for a chuckle when he thought something funny was coming. 'Arthur Villiers, charming and light-hearted lived on.' This was said of him before the 1914-1918 War. It was true half a century later.
Those who never knew him have had in these pages information and opinions from many sources bearing on his complex character. If it still seems enigmatic to them, so indeed it does to many of those who did know him and have tried to grasp and interpret the lines of thought of this most reserved of men. Mr. Gordon Davis remembers that he said that his mother's advice to him as a young man was never to refer to his own health, religion or money. In fact he never talked about himself at all.
Those who deeply loved him may have thought, and may still think, that his reticence was one of the many rare and noble characteristics that made him so exceptional, next only to his bravery, his iron control of himself and the matchless, idealized magnanimity on which he chose to employ his talents.
Even if something has to be left to personal judgment, is it not reasonable to consider him, in some ways, the greatest man of his time ? Others were great in other ways, but surely there was no one quite the same. It may be true that he never really loved anyone, but (as at least his letter to Sarah Marsh shows) he was kind and warmhearted. He may have seemed unemotional, but he gave up all his fortune and all his life to doing good to others. He believed in things, such as the values on which the power for good of his own country was based when he was young, and which in his old age he wanted to restore. He succeeded in getting most of his hard purposes fulfilled. He spared neither his friends nor himself to achieve what he thought ought to be done. Now that his long life is over who is there of whom as much could be said?
Arthur Villiers died, aged 86, on May 7th, 1969. He left everything he possessed to the Manor Charitable Trust. His total personal estate was less than 1 per cent of the amount that had been spent by the Trust and remained still to be spent out of what he had given to it and made for it.
This account of his funeral was printed in the Oxford Mail on May 14th.
`The Major' goes home for the last time. By John Owen.
Major The Hon. Arthur George Child Villiers, second son of the seventh Earl of Jersey, returned to his old home at Middleton Stoney where he was born nearly 86 years ago, for the last time yesterday.
The banker, soldier and philanthropist who died last week in London was buried in the churchyard of All Saints, where he was christened.
Nearly too of the old members of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry --the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars -- who served with him in France during the First World War paraded to pay a last tribute.
The ceremony was a week short of the 51st anniversary of the action at Gillemont Farm when he won his first D.S.O.
The first mourners began to arrive more than an hour before the service in the little church, which seats only about 25o.
A canvas stand had been erected at one side of the churchyard for those who could not find seats inside, and the service was relayed to them by loudspeaker.
The veterans, marshalled by Mr. Maurice French, who for years had organized their annual reunion at which 'The Major' presided, sat among the tombstones or grouped themselves near the newly-dug grave.
Most of the villagers were there as well, among them old men who remembered when the Jersey family still lived in their ancestral home at Middleton Park, now the management conference centre of the National Westminster Bank.
Most of the rest of the family estate had been bought back by Major Villiers in recent years.
At College
Among the first arrivals was his oldest friend, Sir George Schuster, who had first known him at New College which began a close association which continued throughout the 1914-18 War in the same regiment, and in business.
The Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Col. John Thomson, who commanded the Oxfordshire Yeomanry in the last war, attended officially, with Mrs. Thomson, and the members of the family were headed by Lord Longford, a nephew, and Lady Longford.
Among others were Viscount Villiers, his great nephew, the Hon. Charles Child Villiers, Lady Isabel Child Villiers, Lady Violet Powell, Mr. David Colville, the Hon. Joan Colville, the Hon. David and Mrs. Rhys, Hope Lady Dynevor, Lady Mary Clive, Lady Ann Elliot and Mrs. Anthony Pigot.
Ex-Cpl. Tom Easby, who had served with him, was there, he being now Alderman T. L. Easby, Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council, and there were large contingents from Hackney and Leyton, London, including the Mayor of Waltham Forest, Alderman G. Mace, the Town Clerk, Miss E. A. Cann, and the Town Clerk of Hackney, Mr. L. G. Huddy.
Old Friend
The Rector of Middleton Stoney, the Rev. John Larter, conducted the service, assisted by the Rev. A. W. S. Holmes, a former curate of St. Mary of Eton, Hackney, and an old friend.
Mr. Larter said Major Villiers had devoted his life to the service of others, bent on seeing that, as far as it was possible for him to ensure, others, especially the less fortunate, enjoyed happiness and comfort.
`In those parts of London where he spent so much of his life, the name of Villiers became synonymous with kindness, friendliness, and generosity.'
Arthur Holmes, gave the address at the service. He took as his text 'Honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time nor that is measured in number of years' (Book of Wisdom : Four: VIII), and described his address as a panegyric. In it he said :
`The word "panegyric" means a public festival. Looking out of the window in the early hours this morning across to this old
church with the marquee close by, it looked a little festive -- all ready for this public meeting. Arthur Villiers would have approved of that -- he loved people to get together and enjoy themselves.
' "Panegyric" on the Service Paper came to mean a laudatory discourse, given at public festivals or meetings in Greece when people were praised and often flattered. So this address should be one of praise. You couldn't flatter Arthur Villiers.
`The emphasis at church must certainly be praise, the praise of God, our Maker. But a funeral has the purpose of paying respect to one passed on. If we are wise we shall stop to think about our life here, a pilgrimage, and we may thank God for the life of Arthur Villiers.
`Forgive me if I speak a personal word and say how much of a privilege and an honour it is to stand here and pay tribute to this unique person. Is "unique" too strong a word ? I don't think so. Apart from an age group, or even an income group, you couldn't easily classify him. No one we have known has been quite like him. Still speaking personally, it has been a privilege to have been one of his innumerable friends for just over thirty-five years. Since hearing that Arthur had passed away, suitably without fuss in his 86th year, I recalled how last month, when I was with him and we chatted --about everything and everyone but himself, of course -- I thought that it might be the last time. And, since hearing the news, many memories of this kindly, generous and unassuming man have come crowding into my mind. It must be so with all who knew Arthur. He was so often the subject of conversation among his friends, who were so often amazed at his latest scheme or interest or act of kindness.
`Very many could speak of the great amount he did in Hackney Wick in the twenties and thirties. Others were much involved with him, but Arthur was the mainspring. His were the farsighted ideas, and he was always there, not going down to the East End several nights a week, but living there. But no nonsense about it being wrong to be comfortable or to enjoy food and drink. All this was shared. He was quite frugal on his own, but had interesting parties with all kinds of people and with wonderful talk and argument all through those critical years. We remember his help and kindness to the Eton Mission, from which Eton Manor sprang. During the last war Father Bell of Mirfield, an Eton Missioner in the early Eton Manor days, returned to take charge of the Mission. It was a happy reunion, and what happy reunions Arthur must be having now with all those who have preceded him in Paradise !
`In spite of the bad old days, the thirties and even the days of the blitz, what cheerfulness there was at the Manor House in
Riseholme Street and on the Wilderness! This period would have been much bleaker for thousands in and around Hackney Wick but for Mr. Villiers at the Manor. The name Villiers became synonymous with kindness and friendliness. He was a hero and a practical friend to so many, with his great concern for the elderly and the young.
`How one could go on ! But what is fundamental to all these things which I have tried to sketch was his real care for people and for this country. Vast changes in society didn't seem to matter to him, so long as people, young and old, could be happy and cared for. If change was inevitable then all must be adapted to it.
`We have come to Middleton, where Arthur lived as a boy. His friendliness and interest in every sort of person began here. Now he is, as we say, at rest. But it is not easy to think of him enjoying rest, and we can imagine him thinking out some scheme to improve the Garden of Eden! Dear old Arthur -- we thank God for him. As a Bible reader he would have known the words of St. James : "Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only." We thank God for his humour and friendship, for his generosity of wealth and time given for others, for his courage as a young man and as a man growing old, with never a word about himself. A "chevalier sans peur et sans reproche".'
The following Address was given by Sir George Schuster at the Memorial Service for the Hon. Arthur Villiers at St. Michael's, Cornhill, May 28th, 1969.
`We are here this morning to honour the memory of a much loved and unique man.
`I have chosen these words carefully. Arthur disliked heroics; but I don't think he would have objected to my words.
`I like to feel that he is with us and that our thoughts this morning should be in harmony with his.
`I want to put a picture of him before you and perhaps I am qualified to do this since he and I were friends for nearly 7o years.
`The first touch in my picture is taken from a time before I knew him. Arthur was always very modest. He used to say that he was the worst cricketer who ever got into the Eton XI. In his only match at Lords he got a couple of ducks. Old Lord Jersey, for whom he had a very deep regard, took this most hardly and was in the depth of misery. Arthur said, "I am most awfully sorry, father, but after all, it's only a game."
`That shows us Arthur -- quiet, unruffled and regardless of personal repute, with a truly balanced sense of values. He at least never broke that important commandment, "Do not take yourself too seriously."
`But he did take very seriously the tasks to which he set himself, and his life record is one of great personal achievement.
`I must briefly review what he did ; but what really matters is what he was.
`He and I worked together in the City for seven years before August 1914 and I was able to see his qualities of shrewdness, always one move ahead of current opinion, ready to back his view by quick decision.
`On August 14th, 1914, he at once joined his Regiment, the Oxford Yeomanry, and a few weeks later got me into the Regiment --one of the great debts which I owe him.
`In his obituary notice you will have read of his war record -- with two immediate awards of the D.S.O. and twice wounded. But in my picture of him as my Squadron Leader what I think of chiefly is his concern for his men -- always looking after them, always giving the "chaps" credit for good results.
`After the War he joined Barings, and was made a director in 1919. As a very active director he made a great reputation in the City. But behind all his successful business work he devoted himself to his great interest in life -- the welfare of residents in East London based chiefly on the Eton Manor Boys' Clubs in Hackney Wick. By his vision, foresight and shrewd investment policy he built up a great fortune, not for himself but for his personal Charitable Trusts and was thereby able literally to transform a large area in the boroughs of Leyton and Hackney and to provide splendid sports and athletic grounds, besides helping in countless other ways.
`But I think not so much of his material achievement as of his attitude to the boys of his clubs. I remember once in the Second War, talking with him and making some reference to my having two sons on active service. He said to me, "Yes, George, I know, but I have hundreds." That is how he regarded them -- as his family, each individual personally, knowing the character of each, ready to help each in time of trouble.
`And it was not only his Hackney boys whom he helped like that. He never forgot a personal connection. He never missed a chance to pay a personal visit or give help to anyone who needed his help and advice. I was always amazed at how he did it.
`I must also mention the other great interest in his life -- his love of the English countryside, focused especially on his old home at Middleton Park.
`As a measure of his amazing success in investment policy, he had been able before he died to acquire for his Charitable Trust the whole of the former Jersey Estate at Middleton Stoney amounting to some 3,000 acres. Here he had established a social centre to which his countless friends from Hackney Wick could come, or at which his old comrades from the Oxford Yeomanry could meet.
`That brings me to another touch in my picture, which I see vividly because the memory is so recent.
`After the end of the First World War, Arthur started an annual reunion for men of the Oxford Yeomanry who had served in it, beginning first with men only from his own Squadron, the Banbury Squadron; but in the last years, as deaths reduced numbers, including men from other Squadrons too. The attendance was astonishing. In our reunion last September there were still 146 men coming from all over England. This annual meeting was the great event in their lives. Arthur was the centre ; but the remarkable thing which I always felt was that this was not just a gathering looking to him as a sort of figurehead; but that there was not a single man there with whose life he had not kept personally in touch, not a single man who had ever needed help or advice to whom Arthur had not given it.
`Over 120 comrades came at short notice to his recent funeral service at Middleton.
`And that brings me to the final touch in my picture.
`After that Service one of our mutual friends came up to me and spoke of another very special old friend -- older than both of us. He told me that he had just met him and that he had said "I would like to have 'Thank God for Arthur Villiers' engraved on my tombstone. One of the things in my life for which I can truly thank God is that I had Arthur for a friend."
`That I can say too from my heart.
`I am sure that there are many hundreds who would say the same. `That is Arthur's true memorial.
`Could any man have a better ?'
Appendix A: More About Barings
Some particular memories by Mr. James Masters
Investment. He had flair for recognizing the salient features of complex commercial matters, and this was amply demonstrated by his complete mastery and development of the large commercial credit accounts -- a highly specialized business.
Over the years he progressively strengthened the relationship between Barings, Rothschilds and Schroders to such an extent that very large transactions indeed were undertaken by the trio.
With regard to Stock Exchange investment generally he had an almost occult appreciation of the economic, financial and social consequences which could flow from a particular placement. His foresight in this area was extraordinary, and he consistently brought many ventures to brilliant finality.
After the last War he made several visits to Germany. After one such he told me he had seen a lot of men with ropes over their shoulders dragging a huge transformer along the street. When asked where they would put it, every building being in ruins, they replied that didn't matter -- they would throw a tarpaulin over it as a roof--what mattered was to start reconstruction. From that he told me he concluded that the Germans would be up on their knees before long and back in business much sooner than we expected. 'Don't you think we ought to buy a lot of their busted bonds ?' We did -- at around 8 per cent, I think -- which were sold for about ten times that figure.
School. One evening he came up to my office and asked if I was busy, and if not would I like to go to Hackney and meet his architect Lobb and go over a school he had built. I went with him and was shown over an astonishingly modern school building, incorporating all sorts of new ideas, including, I remember, a playground under the building, for use in bad weather, as well as the normal provision. I expressed astonishment that he had even been given permission to get it built, as only the L.C.C. could construct such facilities. He said, `I've provided a lot of financial assistance and done a great deal of persuading !' I believe Princess Margaret opened the place. Additionally he told me he had persuaded the parents of children who would be attending the school to allow the pupils to be in uniform, as when they understood what the uniform could do for their children there was no real opposition. He, of course, was revered in all that neighbourhood.
While we three were having a drink together after the visit to the school he remarked with evident satisfaction that as Hitler had done a good job in demolishing a lot of rotten old buildings the least one could do was to put something really worth while in their place.
Travel. He once came upstairs and said that Alfred Wagg, Elwyn Rhys, another whose name I forget, and he were going to have a look round the Far East and would I help Whitfield (a dear, birdlike, very active and highly competent chap on the staff -- who, alas, died young) plan their itinerary, two going via Russia and two by another route, part by sea. Eventually we handed him the plans, and a day or two later I happened to be downstairs just as he was walking out and he said, 'Oh, there you are -- very many thanks indeed to you and Whitfield for your help -- I'm just off.' He wore a very short overcoat, a soft hat, I think a flannel suit, and a very small bag indeed. When I remarked that his luggage seemed very modest he replied that he would buy as he needed more things. To a query as to how he would organize things in very strange places, with odd languages, etc., he replied that when he was a bit lost he found it useful to look rather silly and somebody always offers to help. He was the most uncluttered man I ever met anywhere.
On his return he reported that the four had duly converged in the appointed place, but that Whitfield and I had been badly out on our timing of some train, as it was nearly an hour late at Kobe ! But it had all turned out to be very interesting indeed : great fun !
Conversation. In the many talks we had it became obvious that A.V. had a great knowledge of history, and that his Mother was a most remarkable woman. He would tell me about days at Osterley. He sent to me at Stratton a quantity of his Mother's personal belongings -- for safe keeping till after the War, a large quantity of his wines and cigars etc. He said that in modern times she would be called an intellectual. Obviously this great lady was one of his exemplars, another was Lord Mount Stephen, both of whom he said took the view that if one had to live in this wicked world one had better make some contribution to its welfare, however trivial-seeming. He used to say these two people were 5o years in advance of their time.
As a host. Many of the staff at No. 8 remember the marvellous dinners
he gave at the Wilderness after the sports -- the crowded dining room and the happy noise of friends well met together enjoying excellent food and drink -- with A.V. beaming at us all. Those were happy, happy days indeed -- one looks back on them wistfully.
When I told him of my decision to accept the invitation of Mr. Crump, President of the Canadian Pacific, to go out to become Vice-President, Finance, of that Company A.V. said it was destiny working on me, that I knew Lord Mount Stephen brought him into No. 8, that Edward Charles Baring (First Lord Revelstoke) organized massive help for Lord Mount Stephen when he was in dire financial straits trying to finish the building of the railway, that Lord Mount Stephen never forgot this and when the Edward VII Hospital Fund was formed gave it large sums, for Barings were running it! Now, he said, for years you have helped to run that Fund during John Lord Revelstoke's time and later with Sir Edward Peacock (who was then the senior director of the Board of Canadian Pacific), now you are going out there to work with them!
He told me that when Gerald Wellesley, Alfred Wagg and he were raising money to build the Club in Riseholme Street he wrote to Lord Mount Stephen, expecting to get £25, and was delighted when a cheque for £500 arrived, with the hope that the Club might teach the boys to work rather than to play games!
Some comments in his letters to me
`As a matter of fact since 1914, if not before, events beyond my control have made my life -- 5 years of the Great War -- 6 years of the last affair, and the greatest financial slump in history !
`However, largely through the luck of being connected with Barings, Eton Manor and the Yeomanry, I have survived and during all my life I have been associated with the most splendid people and had most excellent health -- what more can anyone desire ?
`Luckily I am sufficient of an historian to have never expected Utopia, but the world is perhaps more unsettled than even a pessimist expected!'
(He dated this particular letter: November 24th, 1883-1965).
`The pound is obviously of little value -- one-tenth of a 1938 pound -- and less before long ! My hero Per Jacobsen said before the last war "If a country does not trust its own currency the foreigner won't." He was thinking of Brazil, etc.
`It is the Unit Trusts who keep saying that only a fool has fixed-interest, whereas a crafty chap has shares. They are the menace, not the Gnomes of Zurich ! Personally I think that for a short while you
may lose less in fixed-interest stocks which double themselves in ten years than in a "well-spread" list of equities, when you are sure to back losers ! The only chance in equities is to pick the right one with good fixed assets and a smallish capital ! .. .
`Lord R., after his 1890 experience hated borrowing money from anyone ! "Keep down the overhead and know where your own money is" were his words of wisdom!'
An appreciation by Mr. Gordon Davis
I can contribute little or nothing to the war years. I remember, of course, his periodical visits to Stratton and the stimulating, if at times unusual, conversation which took place at luncheon as a result of his presence. He invariably put his bicycle on the train to Micheldever and cycled the three miles and back, and only on one occasion can I recall his deigning to accept a lift by motorized transport.
One story I remember his telling me against himself; which I think is revealing and bears comparison with that well-known cricket one which Sir George Schuster recounted so well. It occurred during his Far East tour (I cannot remember whether it was pre or post the First World War). He was apparently detained for interrogation at an outlying Russo-Chinese frontier post and it was some time before he was eventually released. He said, 'I think I must have behaved and talked in such a way as to convince them that I was a complete simpleton.' Perhaps other people will remember this story in greater detail and with more accuracy.*31
One of the things which remains in my memory is the advice his mother gave to him as a young man: 'As topics of general conversation never refer to your health, religion or money.' This advice, I think, he strictly observed. In fact one of his greatest gifts was the ability to greet and converse with people of all walks of life in an informal and disarming way, often with peculiar insight into their individual activities and interests. One certainly learnt not to inquire after his own state of health, even in his latter years.
I leave the Investment side to the last. His skill in this field is so well known that little can, or need be, added even by one who was privileged to become so closely involved as I was. Except perhaps to say that, in my somewhat limited view, no one foresaw with such clarity of vision (if not always of expression) the relentless inflationary pressures which were to follow the end of the Second World War with their consequent and continuing erosion of the purchasing power
of money. In the management of charitable and other funds under his control or supervision this thought was uppermost in his mind. In later years he often commented, when reviewing the performance of these portfolios: 'It is quite fantastic because I did nothing. It just happened !' The remark 'Never get caught with "shorts" ' was attributed to him, though he really should have added 'or "longs" either', because he saw the absolute futility of investing in gilt-edged. Someone approached him in the early 50's for advice on a portfolio consisting entirely of fixed-interest investments and it was obvious that the owner regarded equity investment as an uncharted and dangerous sea. Eventually he was persuaded to take some shares of one of our most solid and reputable City institutions. A.V. said with an impish sense of humour: 'You had better earmark that item in his list under the heading "Treat as Gilt-edged". ' One of his favourite quips (I forget to whom he attributed it) was, 'If you take a Director's tip to buy shares in his Company you stand a fair chance of losing half your money. If you take the Chairman's, you're certain to lose the lot.'*32 A final comment under this head -- though he rarely quoted the scriptures he certainly was familiar with, and interpreted in his own inimitable way, the Parable of the Talents.
Appendix B: More About Eton Manor
Taken from notes by Mr. E. A. (Taff) Wilson
The story really begins in the year 1907, when Mr. Gerald Wellesley, at the age of 22, came to Hackney Wick at the suggestion of his mother and that great Old Etonian, the Hon. Gilbert Johnstone, to help with the Eton Mission, which was doing splendid work among the poor people, most of whom were living in wretched conditions of squalor and hardship, with the men spending more time out of a job than in one. G.V.W. was appalled by what he saw, and particularly by the effect that these terrible conditions were having upon the boys and young men of the district. He decided that he would devote his time, and much of his money, to doing something to raise their morale and outlook. In this work he received tremendous help from the then Curate of the Eton Mission Church, the Revd. Maurice Ponsonby, himself an Old Etonian. The Vicar of the Parish, the Revd. R. Beresford Pierce, and his Parochial Council had a small group of ladies, which included Lady Jersey and Gerald Wellesley's mother, who helped financially, and some of them went down to look after the needs of the older people and the younger children. They ran soup kitchens and gave out food parcels, vouchers for coal, and sums of money to those in desperate straits, of whom there were all too many.
Old people still alive can recall the long queues of women (and there were men too) who shuffled along outside the pawnshop opposite the Church on most mornings, pledging their few possessions, even their bed-clothes, to raise the few shillings they needed for food for their families, or to pay the rent. Most, but not all, would redeem their possessions by the following Saturday, provided that their husbands had earned some money during the week, mostly as casual labourers. Just a hundred yards along from the Church was the Casual Ward, a polite name for the Workhouse, and here every evening one would see a hundred or more poor souls, mostly drifters, men and women, queueing for admittance. A few, at most half, would be admitted for one night, the rest would be turned away, to find rest and some kind of shelter wherever they could. A favourite `doss' for the unlucky ones would be in empty coal wagons on the
sidings at the rear of the Church, or, if it was not too wet or cold, on the nearby wastes of Hackney Marshes.
The district was a maze of mean streets, mostly unlit at night, with hundreds of small terraced houses, each comprised of no more than four rooms, a small kitchen with sink, and coal fired 'copper' to boil up on washdays, a tiny backyard, and an outside 'privy' which always froze up in the cold weather ! In these houses invariably were to be found two families, one up, the other down, and, as most families had three or more children, one could imagine the terrible conditions under which they lived, or rather existed. The mortality rate among all ages was extremely high, and so there were very few old people. The menfolk found employment, mostly of a casual nature, in the many factories which abounded in the district, a wonderful example of cheap labour. The boys and girls, on leaving school at age 13-14, would also be 'absorbed', the girls getting 5/-- a week and the boys 7/6, and this for a week of 55 hours, ten hours a day and five on Saturdays ! Many of the boys at school, and some of the girls, either had no boots, or had somebody else's 'left offs', picked up on the local market stalls for a few coppers.
This was the atmosphere in which the Eton Manor Clubs were started by G.V.W. As the need for more people to run them was terribly urgent, in 1909 G.V.W. launched an appeal to young Old Etonians to help him in his task, preferably by coming along themselves, but also by making donations to the project. The first, or among the first, was Geoffrey Gilbey, who at that time had a strong desire to enter the ministry, and came to live at the Settlement House attached to the Church, where G.V.W. also lived. This would have been in the latter part of 1909. A little later, probably early in 1910, Alfred Wagg appeared on the scene. He it was who met Arthur Villiers on a business trip to Europe and persuaded him to come down to Hackney Wick, not to live there, but to give a hand with running the show. This he did, to be joined in quick succession by Julian Martin-Smith, Edward Cadogan, the Hon. Kenneth Kinnaird and a Mr. Andorson, who was a Danish barrister. G.V.W. was the Head Man, and also ran the Otters at Hackney Baths and the Boxing. A.G.C.V. organized and ran the Harriers, Julian Martin-Smith the Cricket, and, with G.V.W., the Football. Alfred Wagg started a Penny Bank and Edward Cadogan started a library and an art section.
The Club grew and grew during the next two years, 1911 and 1912. More Old Etonians joined the band at Hackney Wick, and some brought their friends, including Francis Weatherby, whom G.V.W. knew through his racing interests, and who was a tower of strength with the Football and Cricket. Geoffrey Gilbey also helped with the Cricket and the Harriers, and tried to interest the members in the Drama and in Music. The Head Masters of the two local schools, Mr. Swift of Berkshire Road, and Mr. Freeman of Gainsborough Road, who were keenly aware of the splendid work being done for the boys of the district, joined in with the rest. Julian Martin-Smith's brother Oliver also joined the Managers and helped with the Physical Training, on which he was very keen.
At about this period, 1912, it was apparent that the small Clubs in Daintry Street were far too small to house the growing number of boys and Old Boys, and an appeal to the parents of boys at Eton and to Old Etonians went out, asking for £30,000 to buy a site and to build a new Club. The Vicar was appalled, as he was also launching an appeal for a large sum to improve the Church, the Church buildings, and to build a new Tower to the sky ! Relations became strained between G.V.W. and him, and he is said to have forbidden G.V.W. permission to build his new Club in the Parish of St. Mary of Eton. G.V.W. countered this by purchasing the old Manor Dairy Farm in Riseholme Street, which was in the adjoining Parish of St. Augustine.
Work on the Manor House and the new Club proceeded apace, and when the former was completed in the Spring of 1913, the Managers, G.V.W., Alfred Wagg, Arthur Villiers,*33 and Francis Weatherby took up residence. Much of the furnishings and furniture was provided or purchased by Mr. Wagg's sister, some came from the Jersey family, and some from the Wellesleys.
By the summer of 1913 the new Club, designed by a brilliant young Old Etonian Architect, only 26 years of age, named Goodhart-Rendell (he was later to become the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects), was opened with a tremendous amount of ceremony and a galaxy of Old Etonians present. Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, V.C., who had become the Club's first and only President, was the guest of honour and performed the opening ceremony. There were inspiring speeches by Lord Roberts, G.V.W. and others, and a military Guards Band provided the music before the show!
In the year that followed the opening of the new Club, activities expanded tremendously, and there was enormous enthusiasm for everything, with both Clubs, Boys and Old Boys, pretty full every evening. Membership leapt to some 400 Boys, and the Old Boys, whose number had grown to over 100, helped with the running of the Urchins Club on two evenings a week. The Urchins were the age
11-14 boys from the local schools, and their Club, originally an idea of G.V.W.'s, was tremendously successful, so much so that the numbers had to be necessarily restricted because of space and adequate supervision for their games.
This then was the picture, success in everything, top dogs in the sphere of Boys' Clubs in London, a happy and wonderful crowd of Managers in the Manor House, who made it their practice to be in and about the Club and their particular activities on most evenings and at weekends. This state of affairs was to last for little over a year, for in 1914 came the First World War. Within a week of the declaration of war all the Managers, with the exception of the very sick Alfred Wagg, had joined the forces, so had almost every member of the Old Boys' Club, and some of the older members of the Boys Club (it was possible to join if you looked as if you were 18!).
Activities for a time came to a bit of a halt, but very soon Alfred Wagg, with old Mr. Swift and a few other helpers, got things going again. The older boys, with a few Old Boys who were still about, all helped, and very soon things were going as merrily as ever. For Mr. Wagg, life became more active and fuller than ever, under the stress and strain of running his Banking business, running the Club, keeping up an enormous amount of correspondence with the Managers and members in the forces, and sending parcels of food and cigarettes to those serving in various parts of the world, and he really flogged himself almost to death.
Meanwhile the casualty lists got heavier and heavier, and some of the badly wounded and discharged were already coming back into the Club. Julian Martin-Smith was killed in the first fighting of the war in France.
The Managers were all doing splendidly on the battlefields, winning their battles and gaining all sorts of awards and distinctions. Mr. Villiers himself apparently had unorthodox ideas about trench warfare. He was hardly ever to be seen without his umbrella, even when going over the top, although it is to his credit that on these occasions it was rolled! The Germans must have thought it some kind of secret weapon ! He and G.V.W. managed to scrounge a captured German gun, which they shipped back to England and it was placed in the forecourt of the Club, where the youngsters used to climb all over it whilst waiting for the Club to open in the evenings.
With the war over, the Club became filled to capacity again, the Managers were all back at the Manor House, in a short time the whole set-up was humming and alive again, the Club went from strength to strength to become famous throughout the land. Mr. Weatherby came to the Club more often, joined now by wartime comrades, Mr. Edward Howarth and Mr. Cecil Liddell. Mr. Oliver Martin-Smith also came along to help, especially with Physical Training and Gymnastics. Mr. Villiers was always present, except when he was abroad on business, and Mr. Edward Cadogan, who had been knocked about whilst serving in the Middle East was a regular attender. Things continued along these lines until about 1922, when a great many changes took place. G.V.W.'s health broke down, but it came as a great surprise when he decided to leave the Manor House to go and live down in Sussex, followed soon after by Mr. Wagg, who went to live with his sister at East Grinstead. Sir Edward Cadogan also had a breakdown in health and went to Italy and Africa for a long spell. On his return, much better in health, he went into politics. And so one saw the first breaking up, for want of a better word, of the 'Old Firm'.
From this period on Eton Manor became more and even more the perquisite of Mr. Villiers, and it became his great purpose in life. A few years later he persuaded one of his partners, Mr. Evelyn Baring, to join him at the Club. E.B.B. soon entered into the scheme of things and in no time was running the very large Otters' section among other activities. Also, at about this time, A.G.C.V. got the Manor Trust to take over a derelict Boys' Club in Hoxton, built a brand new Club, to be called Hoxton Manor, and persuaded Sir Edward Cadogan and Evelyn Baring to run it.
In the middle 1920S, after the 'break-up' of the then Manor House team of Managers, A.G.C.V. decided that the time had come to engage a 'professional' staff to run the routine day to day administration of Eton Manor and its multifarious activities. He engaged Mr. Cooper, a former Officer of the Marines, to act as full-time Manager, and a Secretary, Miss Oatway. Later, after Cooper died suddenly, he was followed as Manager by Ernest Hartley, a first-war comrade of A.G.C.V. In the early 1930s Ernest's brother, Frank, came up from Oxfordshire to help at Hoxton Manor, and a year or two later he was transferred over to Eton Manor. In 1937 or thereabouts, when Ernest met with a serious head injury whilst playing hockey and left to return to farming back in Oxfordshire, Frank took charge of the Club.
(Taff next tells of the coming to the Clubs of the new generation of young helpers, described by him as 'keen, active and interested'. He recalls that Arthur Villiers's nephews, Frank Pakenham (now Lord Longford) and David Rhys, were the first and brought some of their friends, David and Ronald Shaw-Kennedy, Roger Chetwode, Henry Whitehead and others. From Helbert, Wagg & Co. came
Douglas Jardine, Hugo Fleury and Denis Scott. Others were Val Fleming's son, Peter, and Anthony Crossley, who taught tennis, and a little later Philip Connell from Barings, a marvellous helper for David Shaw-Kennedy with the boxers and for him and his brother with Rugby football, which Frank Pakenham had suggested and they had started.)
This then was the picture, a picture of great activity, much success, and behind it all the genius and benevolence of Arthur Villiers himself. All that he had worked and striven for had come to pass, a huge Club for Boys and Old Boys, magnificent buildings and sports grounds, a wonderfully full and satisfying experience, happy members and Managers, built up by a man whose friends numbered thousands. And then came 1938 and the Munich crisis, like a black cloud looming over what had previously been blue and sunny skies. From now on everything had to be subjugated towards the National effort. The members of age were encouraged to join the Territorials, the R.A.F.V.R., the Naval Reserve, the Home Guard and Civil Defence, and the younger members to join the R.A.F. Cadet Force, which took over the Old Police Station as its headquarters. The R.A.F. provided Instructors from Hornchurch and North Weald, most evenings would be spent studying and learning Navigation, Radio, Mechanics, etc., and there would be flying for the likely air-crew candidates at airfields in Essex. The older boys would be spending some evenings with their Army training and training camps at weekends, and so the build up for war went on.
(Then came the war, and in October 1940 Taff Wilson left the rigours of London and the Wick, on being commissioned in the non-flying branch of the R.A.F.V.R. George Jackson's account of Arthur Villiers's wartime life at Eton Manor appears in the main narrative. But the following words of Taff Wilson's must be added.)
On the odd occasions when I saw A.G.C.V. during the war whilst on leave, I sensed that he was under much strain, he tried to do so much, almost to the point of exhaustion, but he would not leave the Wilderness, or the Wick, or Leyton. Many are the stories of his acts of kindness and generosity to those who had suffered by loss of a close relation, or by bombing. In the Spring of 1941, on my first leave, I spent the weekend with him at the Wilderness, and it was a tremendous and yet a harrowing experience. On the Saturday evening there had been a heavy raid, and early on Sunday morning A.G.C.V. and I toured the Wick on bicycles. He climbed about all over the wreckage in what was Prince Edward Road, and a huge crater in Felstead Street, while I had to try to get the names of those who had been killed or badly injured, and we were there most of the day. When we returned later to the Wilderness, he was sad and moved to tears. He was upset by it all, but more I think by the number of young 18-year-old air-crew boys, nearly all ex-R.A.F. Cadets of the Club, who had been killed in the early days of the war. To him they were always more than members, they were indeed as if they were his own sons, and he could not have felt the loss more. This is another side to his nature, outwardly calm, austere in some respects, yet just below the surface he was as human, and as tenderhearted as any man.
All through the war years he would look forward to the visits of the forces members and the Managers, he kept in touch by letter with hundreds of serving members, and he must have written a hundred letters a week at times. Eventually it got too much for him, and he compromised by sending out a weekly news letter to everybody serving, giving them the news from the Wick and the Wilderness.
Immediately after the war was over, all the effort which A.G.C.V. had thrown in to the task of defeating the enemy was directed towards the revival of the Eton Manor Clubs. Back from the wars had come Evelyn Baring, David Shaw-Kennedy, and then Ronald Shaw-Kennedy. For the first time for years A.G.C.V. had other Managers around him on which to lean. Against this he had lost Frank Hartley, who had laboured valiantly at his side through and before the war years. And so began the long haul back to one of the Club's greatest periods of its history. One by one the various activities were reorganized, and, as and when facilities became available, new committees were formed, new sections were started, and helpers there were many among the returned Old Boys. At one stage we had as many as a hundred Old Boys all actively engaged in running or helping to run these sections, which, under the wise influence and leadership of A.G.C.V., D.S.K. and E.B.B., expanded and developed until they were more successful and larger than ever. It was as if the Club had been born anew. Moreover the old Club in Daintry Street, after repairs, was put into use as the headquarters of the newly formed Brookfield Manor Girls' Club.34
In 1946-47 A.G.C.V. became very concerned about the great many younger Old Boys back from the war, now married but with nowhere to live, mostly lodging under difficult circumstances with
relatives or in-laws. With children of these marriages now being born, or on the way, A.G.C.V. decided that it was the right and proper thing to house them. He embarked upon a vast policy of buying up houses which became available in the district, and putting the members into them at low rents. He purchased a whole block of 4o flats just built at South Woodford, and another row of to houses completed nearby. On the Old Manor Hall site in Hackney which he had purchased cheap, he built a block of 10 flats, and got the Old Police Station in Wick Road converted into another five or six flats. Within a few years he had found homes and houses for something like 150 members and their families, all at ridiculously low rents. Most of these members were those who had had a rough time during the war, and they were eternally grateful to A.G.C.V. for his wonderful help and kindness.
During the war years A.G.C.V. had interested himself in a small Church of England School in Hackney. The Headmaster, Jimmy Hollick, was Chairman of the Hackney Schools Athletic Association, of which A.G.C.V. was President. Old Hollick was badly knocked about in the war by a bomb, which also damaged his school. A.G.C.V. had promised him that, when the time came, he would help him to rebuild his school, and so he started a fund for the purpose. Most of the money he gave himself, and from the Manor Trust, and a little more came from some of his friends. Not only did he rebuild Hollick's School but, by offering the L.C.C. half the money towards a site, and another half towards building costs, he obtained permission to build another magnificent new senior school on a bombed site in Hackney nearby. Its foundation stone was laid by H.R.H. Princess Margaret. The fund was later strengthened by further large donations to ensure that there would be enough money to pay for the school's maintenance for as long as it should stand.
In 1950 came a turning point in the history of the Club -- David Shaw-Kennedy, heir apparent to the whole Eton Manor set-up, died. He was only 47 years of age at the time of his death, and was possibly the only man that A.G.C.V. would have happily and willingly handed over the vast Empire that he and his friends had built during the 40 odd years of its existence. I don't think that the Club, certainly not A.G.C.V. himself, ever really recovered from this setback, which was to leave its mark for many years to come. David Shaw-Kennedy was the one man, other than A.G.C.V. himself, that Eton Manor could not afford to lose. His loss also had a depressing effect upon all the members and the Managers, particularly E.B.B. To David Shaw-Kennedy, Eton Manor was such an integral part of his life that he devoted almost every spare moment to the welfare of the Club and to its members.
The economic situation of the country had improved greatly, and the investments of the Manor Trust prospered under the wise management of A.G.C.V. and his fellow Trustees. He now began to widen his sphere of benevolence outside the Manor, and to take a greater interest in, and a more personal study of, the problems of older people and their welfare. It coincided with a particularly severe winter which killed off a great many old people, many of whom died simply because they were half-starved, or had no fuel to warm themselves or their homes. Through the Manor Trust, donations were made to the various Old People's organizations, and blankets, bedding, coal, and money were also made available in a number of individual cases which were brought to his notice, and where there was extreme hardship. A survey was made of the older members of the Club, also the widows, and, where necessary, financial and other means of assistance were provided. Another survey was made among the parents and widows of those Manor members who had been killed in the war, and similar help was provided for them. This form of welfare was to continue right up to the time of A.G.C.V.'s death, and after.
During the 1950s A.G.C.V. began to take a greater interest in other youth clubs and organizations in Hackney and Leyton, and did much to help them, mostly by financial grants. He provided the money to re-build the St. John at Hackney Club in Hackney, and, in Leytonstone, 'The Pastures', a new type of Club catering for the up-to-21 age group. But the older people were not forgotten and money was made available for a new centre in Leyton where they could get a meal during the day, and have a centre at which to meet in the evenings.
Meanwhile Sir Edward Cadogan, who made over his Warren Farm to the Manor Trust, developed it as an educational establishment. In this he had considerable help from the Provost of Worcester College, Oxford, Sir J. C. Masterman, and from the Dean of Worcester. They provided over the years some splendid teams of tutors, of whom one was Asa Briggs, now a Professor of Sussex University, said to be the greatest historian of this day. At the same time Easter educational courses were organized at Eton College, under the direction of Mr. Brian Rees, then an Assistant Master, and now the Head of the Merchant Taylors School, and at Hertford College, Oxford.
Eventually A.G.C.V. had the idea that the Club needed a completely new look, new ideas, new schemes and new interests. He had been adding to the Club executive staff Derek Marsh, Peter Muncey, and later Bill Glibbery, and other very young men, and whole new teams of young Etonians were introduced to help to run the old Club with the new look. These included Christopher Norman-Butler, a former President of the Cambridge Union, Viscount Chelsea, great-nephew of Sir Edward Cadogan, Edward Cazalet, a rising young Barrister, Anthony Wagg, great-nephew of A.R.W., Francis Carnwarth, son of a Director at Baring's, David Peake, son of the Chairman of Lloyds Bank, and the Martineau brothers. The new look certainly got off to a great start. The Boys' Club had about 600 members, and the Old Boys' Club over a thousand. For a few years the Club enjoyed tremendous success in almost every field, and then gradually, one by one, the young Old Etonian Managers married and were seen less and less, as they moved away or were immersed in their own domestic affairs and in business.
So we come to more recent years. In the meantime death had taken its heavy toll, and the old Manor team was split asunder. Sir Edward Howarth had gone, also the great Gerald Wellesley, Sir Edward Cadogan, Evelyn Baring, Cecil Liddell, Frank and Ernest Hartley, and Mr. Harvey and Mr. Foulsham, both of whom had done so much for so many years for the Club and the Manor Trust. Now, since A.G.C.V.'s death, Alfred Wagg, Sir Francis Weatherby and Geoffrey Gilbey are all gone as well, all remembered with love and gratitude for what they accomplished in their splendid and separate ways.
The Old Club in Riseholme Street, now razed to the ground, the Wilderness closed behind locked doors, and the great man himself, Arthur Villiers, also gone to join those countless numbers who were his friends in life, rich and poor, high-born or humble of birth ! What a great man he was indeed, what a wonderful life he lived, a life he alone chose to live among those he loved, and who in turn loved him. Had he wished, there was nothing in this world that he could not have had, wealth, position, power, but he chose the path which led him to the Wick, to the East End of London, a path that he was to tread steadfastly, and with courage and purpose right to the end.
He left behind him countless thousands of friends, friends in good and bad times, friends in adversity and in joy. He could be happy, and the few people who knew him well also knew that he could be sad. What a man indeed, there will never be another like him, God Bless his Memory.
Appendix C:
More About the Q.O.O.H. Old Comrades
Mr. Maurice French has provided the following information in a letter dated March 22nd, 1970
Major Villiers started a 'D' Squadron Reunion in 1919, and they have continued ever since, except for the 1939-45 War period. We shall be celebrating the 44th Annual Reunion at Middleton Stoney on September 8th. It has now become a Regimental Reunion, as the years have taken their toll. Last year 125 men who served with the Regiment in France 1914-18 attended. This must be a unique record for any Regiment in the British Army.
During all this time Major Villiers has taken a personal interest in every man, and has provided the money to pay for everything, including hotel and travelling expenses, and moreover he attended every Reunion to the time of his death.
About 12 years ago he provided money to start a Welfare Fund for old members of 'D' Squadron, and this I have administered. Men who have been in hospital I have been able to send on holiday, and, where men have to rely entirely on their State pension, gifts of or so twice a year have made a big difference to their lives. To give an example how much Major Villiers thought of the men who served with him all those years ago, he was staying at Droitwich a year or so back. It was a very hard winter, and he wrote to me saying that he was in a nice warm hotel and had been thinking that perhaps many old yeomen had not enough fuel or warm clothing to keep warm, so would I see that no one went short of extra fuel, warm blankets or overcoats.
Another example: A man came to the Squadron in 1917 and was only with us a few weeks, because the first time in the trenches he was wounded and had his leg amputated. Everyone in the Squadron had forgotten him, but not Major Villiers. He wrote about three years ago saying that he had been thinking of . . . and wondered if he needed help ! These are just two examples of his wonderful interest and generosity.
Major Villiers was a man with a great sense of humour. One story he told was of the time he went to see a cricket match during the Essex team's Leyton Cricket Week. Although he was a member and always entertained some of the teams, he went to the ordinary turnstiles to pay his 2/-- or so. The attendant looked at him and said: `Old Chap, if you go to the other entrance for pensioners you can get in free.' This he did.
Major Villiers for the past fifteen years has also (until three years ago) entertained members of the Old Regiment in July at Eton Manor, Hackney Wick, and as many as 120 have attended. He also took a party to tour the battlefields, and again in 1953 he took twelve members of 'D' Squadron for another tour. This time we went by air from Lympne to Le Touquet with three cars and spent four days touring the battlefields. I might add entirely at his expense.
The following paragraphs are taken from the Q.O.O.H. `D' Squadron `News Letter' of August 1967.
It is a great pleasure once again to send you a News Letter to coincide with an invitation to the 41st Annual Reunion of 'D' Squadron. You will note that as last year, it will be a Luncheon at Middleton Stoney on Friday, September 15th. Arrangements will be as last year -- anyone travelling by train to Bicester Station or coach to Bicester, please let me know time of arrival and I will see that transport is there to bring you to Middleton Stoney.
Last year the arrangement to break with tradition and hold a Luncheon at a different venue was a huge success. 16o Yeomen who served with the Regiment in France 1914-18 made the journey from all parts of the country: two 'young' officers especially making the long journey -- one from Scotland and the other from Devon. This must be a record attendance for any Reunion and it was most gratifying to have so many officers turn up. They were : Major Villiers, Major Fleming, Sir Francis Weatherby, Captain Rawlinson, Captain Palmer, Lieut. Evetts, Lieut. Wise and Lieut. Williams. Captain Worsley, who is living in South Africa, sent a telegram with his best wishes. It was a great thrill to see many who had not been to a Reunion before. One 'C' Squadron man wrote afterwards `I would like to express my sincere thanks to Major Villiers for such a wonderful day. For me it was indeed an added pleasure to meet again "Pip" Hughes of my own Troop. We had not seen one another since April 1915. Major Villiers's comment was "This is the kind of thing one hoped might happen." It may have happened to others and they must have been equally thrilled.
`I would like to acknowledge the great help given by the Eton Manor contingent who came down especially from London. I hope that the pleasure they saw in an "Old Soldiers" Reunion made the journey and efforts worth while. Every contingency was catered for -- wheel chairs for the unfortunate who now have a job to walk --two Red Cross nurses and even a stretcher!
`A remarkable photograph was taken of the four Troop shoeing smiths of "D" Squadron, the eldest being 85 years old. I wonder what other cavalry regiment of the First World War could get together a set of Squadron "Shoeie" ? Major Villiers wrote afterwards, "In my 83 years I have given many parties, I have never been at one which I enjoyed more -- I believe that was true for many of those present. It far exceeded my greatest hopes."'
On March 31st, 1967, the 'Last Post' was sounded for the old Territorial Army. One small company, with Headquarters at Banbury, will still retain the name 'Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars'.
The Annual Regimental Reunion was held at Eton Manor, Hackney Wick, London E. on Sunday, July 9th. Eighty-eight old Yeomen made the journey on a beautiful summer day, some travelling long distances despite advancing years. Many thought it was one of the best Reunions held at Eton Manor and again on your behalf, I must thank Major Villiers for his generous hospitality and members of the Eton Manor Club for the great trouble they take to look after us and make it such a memorable day.
I am very grateful indeed to all those who have helped me towards doing justice to this very noble man. I have left readers to decide for themselves what were the real motives for his selflessness. But I knew him for forty years and will venture to say a word on the subject.
Lady Jersey and Lord Mount Stephen believed (so Arthur wrote in his letter to David Rhys) that 'if you have to live in this wicked world, you should endeavour to make some contribution to its welfare'. He knew that he himself was endowed with many talents. And I think that his simple conclusion was that the greatest contribution to the welfare of others is demanded from those that are as well endowed as he was by birth, by character and by ability.