Saturday, 29 November 2014

John Masefield (1878 - 1967) - British


I have known and loved Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever” for many years yet it never occurred to me that he might have been involved in the First World War.

John Masefield was born on 1st June 1878 in Ledbury, Herefordshire, UK.   His parents were Caroline and George Masefield.   Masefield’s mother died in 1885 and his father in 1891 and the Masefield children were brought up by their elderly aunt.

Masefield was educated at King’s School Warwick (now called Warwick School) and at his aunt’s insistence, he was sent to HMS Conway. The "Conway" was a nautical school for the training of Merchant Naval officers founded in 1859. The beautiful, wooden sailing ship was anchored at Rock Ferry in the River Mersey near Liverpool until it  was moved to the Menai Straights during WW2 due to the bombing suffered by Liverpool.  In later years, Masefield was asked to write a song for Conway, which he did but they did not like it and never used it, preferring instead one written by Cecil Roberts some years later.


During his first sea trip, Masefield became ill and had to return home.  His next journey was to New York, where he gave up and tried his hand at a variety of jobs, writing in his spare time.  His first collection of poems - “Salt-Water Ballads”, which includes Sea Fever - was published in 1902.

In 1914, Masefield was considered too old to enlist so he volunteered to join the staff of a hospital for French wounded soldiers in Arc-en-Bois, Marne, France.  He served on the ship during the Gallipoli Campaign.

In 1915, he went to the United States of America on a lecture tour and on his return to Britain he worked on propaganda books about the war for the British Military Intelligence.  Once America entered the War, Masefield worked at the Ministry of Information organising entertainment for American soldiers billeted in Britain.

1918 saw Masefield in America again touring and lecturing to those about to go to fight in France.

John Masefield's cousin, Charles John Beech Masefield, MC, Captain I the 5th North Staffordshire Regiment, was wounded in action on 1st July 1917 and died in a prisoner of war camp the following day.  His poetry collections were 'Dislikes: some modern satires', Fifield, 1914 and  'Poems', Blackwell, Oxford, 1919 and his poems were included in three WW1 Anthologies.

After the death of Robert Bridges in 1930, John Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate by King George V, a post that he held until his death in 1967.  The only other British Poet Laureate to hold the post for as long was Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

John Masefield's WW1 poetry collections were: 

'Sonnets and poems', Chosley, Berks, 1916
'Lollington Downs and other poems', Heinemann, 1917
'Philip the King and other poems', Heinemann, 1914
'Poems', Macmillan, New York, 1935
'Collected poems', Heinemann, 1932.

His poems were included in six WW1 Anthologies.

Photo of HMS Conway at anchor in the River Mersey near Rock Ferry.

1 comment:

  1. Sabes que te han quedado perfectas? Mmmm me habría encantado probarlas. Demir Leather

    ReplyDelete