Two more players of Little Wars, November 9th 1912

Three more early players of the Floor Games at Easton Glebe, November 9th, 1912 identified by Mathilde Meyer, Swiss Governess to H.G. Wells’ two sons Frank and Gip:

“On our return home we found Mr Reginald Turner, Mr Byng and Mr Wells playing the ‘Floor Game’ in the schoolroom.”

[Image Source: Wikipedia. A table crying out for toy soldiers and a spring loaded gun?]

Reginald Turner

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reginald_Turner

Reginald “Reggie” Turner (1869 – 1938) was a friend of H.G. Wells, also an English author, aesthete and a member of the circle of Oscar Wilde.

He worked as a journalist, wrote twelve novels, and his correspondence has been published. However Reggie is best known as one of the few friends who remained loyal to Oscar Wilde when he was imprisoned, and who supported him after his release.

Interestingly R Thurston Hopkins, another accidental witness to Little Wars wrote literary studies about both Wells and Wilde. Wells also knew Robert Ross, another of Wilde’s circle.

Along with the Byng brothers, Reginald Turner is not amongst the more well known literary figures like Wells as signatories of the Authors Declaration supporting the war https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/05/three-more-players-of-h-g-wells-floor-game-little-wars-1913/

Mr Byng

Two possible candidates – both brothers, both friends of Wells mentioned by Mathilde Meyer in H. G. Wells and his Family

Hugh Edward Cranmer-Byng

Hugh Byng (centre) next to Gip Wells on the left

Or maybe the player that day was his brother Launcelot A. Cranmer Byng.

Both brothers were writers or playwrights, fellow Dunmow or Essex residents, so in Wells’ Easton Glebe neighbourhood and ‘scions of the “Torrington Baronetcy”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viscount_Torrington

as well as part of Daisy Countess of Warwick’s circle at Easton.

Hugh Byng (1873-1949)

Hugh Edward Cranmer Cranmer-Byng was born on 12 December 1873. He was the son of Lt.-Col. Alfred Molyneux Cranmer-Byng and Caroline Mary Tufnell. He married Kathleen West, daughter of George Edward West of Dunmow on 24 October 1916. He gained the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery in WW1. He died on 20 September 1949 at age 75. Source: http://www.thepeerage.com/p59516.html

A selection of Hugh Byng’s books

A Pageant for Saffron Walden written by Hugh, Lyrics by brother Launcelot, 1910

A Romance of the Fair and other writings, Hugh and Launcelot Cranmer Byng 1897?

Yang Chu’s Garden of Plaesure (extensive introduction? to Alfred Forke’s translation, co-edited by Launcelot Cranmer Byng 1912)

https://archive.org/details/yangchusgardenof00yang/

Essex Speech and Humour (Benson, reprinted newspaper pieces, not dated)

Dialect and Songs of Essex (Benson, not dated )

He also wrote a number of comic plays, often in the Essex dialect. Along with Herbert Goldstein (musician/ composer) and his lyricist brother Launcelot, they were part of the Edwardian Vaughan Williams / Cecil Sharp generation of the English Folk Song Society collectors; Hugh and Herbert (according to The Sketch Sept 14, 1910) collected and so “rescued from threatened oblivion a delightful collection, not yet published, of old Essex folk songs.”

The Essex tales or topographical books again put him into the same 1910s 1920s genre as R. Thurston Hopkins who was writing about Sussex and elsewhere.

Whilst Wells was busy with his writing and government propaganda work during WW1, 41 to 42 year old Hugh Byng joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) Anti Aircraft unit in London in May 1915, then in July 1916 the Royal Garrison Artillery. He appears to have served on ‘home service only’.

If Hugh is the Mr Byng noted as a player of Little Wars, then his experience of artillery changes from Spring loaded cannons of Little Wars 1913 to the full size artillery of the Great War, including against Zeppelins or the “aerial menace” that Wells wrote about.

Hugh Byng’s service record, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve RNVR Anti Aircraft section London

The Gazette – 1916 Hugh Byng’s transfer and promotion to the RGA

Hugh survived the war and went in to serve in the ARP in WW2, according to the 1939 Register.

The West family were the relatives or parents of his wife, Kathleen West. Appropriately for the daughter of a comic playwright and amateur actor, Hugh Byng’s daughter Roselean is registered in the 1939 Register as an actress.

Essex Chronicle September 23rd 1949

Hugh Byng was also Lord of the Manor of Glencarn in Cumberland (now Cumbria / The Lake District). In August 1912 Mr and Mrs Wells motored up there by car with Hugh Byng and R.D. Blumenfeld (editor of the Daily Express). Hugh Byng had a motor accident on the way home.

De Vere Stacpoole’s obituary from the Penrith Observer 17 April 1951

Launcelot Cranmer Byng (1872-1945)

See above for parent information. Like Hugh, Launcelot was interested in China – sinology – and wrote or edited a number of books of translations of Chinese writing as editor of the Wisdom from the East series.

ed.: The Book of Odes (Shi-King) (London: John Murray

ed.: A Feast of Lanterns (London: John Murray, 1916)

ed.: A Lute of Jade: Selections from the Classical Poets of China

List of books available online: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupname?key=Cranmer-Byng%2C%20L.%20(Launcelot)%2C%201872-1945

Many of these books can be read online at Archive.org

https://archive.org/search.php?query=Launcelot%20Cranmer%20Byng

Launcelot the lyricist was also a friend of the composer Granville Bantock and may even have been a Welsh bard? r For an artistic chap who edited Oriental verse and wrote poems in the 1890s including Poems of Paganism 1895 published under the pseudonym ‘Paganus’, Captain Launcelot A. Cranmer Byng also had quite a long military connection in the Territorial Force and Officer’s General Reserve.

By 1902 he was a Lieutenant in the 3rd (Cambridgeshire) Volunteer Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment and rose to Captain. It is not clear if he served with them in the South African War.

His first wife died in 1913, he remarried one Daisy Elaine Beach twenty years his junior in 1916 during his service in WW1. They had one son.

He became Captain, Adjutant and Quarter Master (London Gazette, 1917). When discharged at the end of the war in 1919, he retained the rank of Captain. His officer records at the National Archives are sadly not available online (not yet digitised) but his Cambridge Alumni listing gives an idea of what he did on the General List in WW1:

Capetian, General List (Territorial Force Reserve) Commandant Prisoner of War Camp, WW1

By 1939 he listed his past military experience on the 1939 Register

Another Byng Barontecy That Wells knew?

Mathilde Meyer, the Wells family Swiss Governess, was helped to find a new position at Capheaton Hall by Evelyn Lady Byng, of ice hockey trophy fame (1870-1949). She was wife of Julian, Lord Byng, General Byng or Viscount Byng of Vimy Ridge (1862-1935), WW1 General and from 1921 Governor General of Canada. In 1910 they lived at Newton Hall, Dunmow, Essex. General Byng was a cousin to Hugh and Launcelot Byng.

Evelyn Lady Byng and General / Viscount Byng of Vimy Ridge. Source: Wikipedia.

*********

What a distinguished group of gentry and soldiers, artists and aesthetes surrounded the Wells family and its Little Wars ‘Floor Game’, united by clever talk of literature and politics as well as indoor and outdoor games.

Not a bad social circle for the son of a gardener, which is what I will explore in my next post about Jessie Allen Brookes, the Wells’ long-serving Nurse / Cook Domestic throughout the Little Wars period, whose father was also a gardener. I think this is what they now call “social mobility”.

Easton Glebe, November 9th, 1912: Mathilde Meyer’s memoir –

“On our return home we found Mr Reginald Turner, Mr Byng and Mr Wells playing the ‘Floor Game’ in the schoolroom.”

Finally, an interesting article from the Essex Chronicle Friday 25 July 1941 looking back on the Wells family at Easton Glebe in the Little Wars period 27 years earlier, noting how many of this Wells and Warwick Circle had moved on and had begun to pass away.

It is suggested that Wells in Mr. Britling Sees It Through, his satirical or mildly wartime 1916 novel written during WW1, uses several of his Easton circle as thinly disguised characters in his book.

“Where are they now, the old figures in the book, whom Mr. Wells so vehemently denied as being copies of the originals?” asks the columnist “An Essex Man”

RDB is R.D. Blumenfeld, editor of the Daily Express, a neighbour of Wells

Karl Butow was the languages tutor for the growing Wells boys; he replaced Mathilde Meyer in 1913, before the boys went to school. A year or so later he would have returned to Germany on the outbreak of the WW1.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 26 February 2021

6 thoughts on “Two more players of Little Wars, November 9th 1912”

  1. Another great piece of research, I find it fascinating to think of all these eminent people crawling around on their knees playing toy soldiers.

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  2. I agree! I wonder what Territorial tactics they brought from the battlefield to it?
    I wonder how competitive the literary men were with the military men?

    Hard to believe that a year or two later it was all happening for real including the Aerial Menace warned of. How prescient Wells could be! It sadly cut off Little Wars in its prime.

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    1. Sadly this wasn’t available for you morning coffee this morning!
      Curiously the one last name that intrigues me most next is his cook domestic Jessie who came from a similar working background to Wells (both their fathers were gardeners, their families in domestic service) and yet he rose through hard work and writing to be in the circles of gentry of this blog post. A remarkable, if flawed man.

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