Anthony Richardson : the RAF poet (2)

Anthony Richardson was educated first at Marlborough College and then at Manchester University. Before the war he would publish a good few books, all of them detective novels, historical novels,  fantasy thrillers or what were then called  “bodice rippers”. They were almost what Quentin Tarantino would call “Pulp Fiction”, but without the sexual content. During his lifetime, Richardson probably made more money from his thrillers and detective stories rather than from his books of poetry, but that’s just a guess.

Nowadays the pulp fiction books are quite rare but they are still obtainable, sometimes at a considerable price. Here is “Ransom” (1925). The plot is that a bad boy returns as a success to the school that expelled him and marries the daughter of his former teacher. Note the UFO hovering over the book:

And ”High Silver” (1926):And “The Barbury Witch” (1927):Other books from before the war were “The Transgressor” (1928) “Milord and I “(1930), “City of the Rose” (1933) and “Golden Empire” (1938).

During the war years, Richardson turned to poetry. After the war, though, he went back to popular prose. His books included “Wingless Victory” (1951), “The Rose of Kantara” (1951):

“Crash Kavanagh” (1953):

“Rommel’s Birthday Party” (1956):

“No place to lay my Head” (1957), the tale of a Byelorussian soldier in the German army in WW2:

“One Man and his Dog” (1962):

Richardson must have made quite a bit of money too from two very successful non-fiction books. One was “Nick of Notting Hill: The bearded policeman. The story of Police Constable J. Nixon of the Metropolitan Police”:

The other was “Wingless Victory”, a World War Two prisoner of war escape story:

During the war years, Richardson wrote three books of verse. The first was called “Because of these: Verses of the Royal Air Force” (1942). I bought a copy about a year ago for two or three pounds. My book has the date April 4th 1942 written inside the front cover, presumably the date of purchase. On this date the Luftwaffe attacked the Soviet fleet at Kronstadt but without success. The book itself was bought at Goulden’s of Canterbury for 1/6d or 7½ pence in today’s money. Goulden’s, an important shop in the area, seems to have ceased trading in 1947. Their shop was on the High Street:

Here is what they sold:

I initially selected two poems to look at from this book. You have already met one of them in my first post, “W/OP–A/G Blenheim Mk IV”, and here is the second of the two entitled “There was an air gunner”.

The first four verses describe a man who lives in Devon, a particularly beautiful agricultural county in the south west of England. There are two verses which list “all that yields beauty and blessedness” in his life, which is, at that moment, completely and totally perfect. So much so that he begins to sing in sheer happiness. He sings the traditional Devon folk song “Uncle Tom Cobleigh”, which every child in England learnt until the Rolling Stones arrived in the 1960s to put a stop to all that kind of innocent childishness:

Here are the lyrics.  of Uncle Tom Cobleigh”.  And here is somebody singing them:

The man’s “lusty voice” echoes down the steep Devon valley, but there is also a supernatural note introduced because “There they echo still.” The supernatural idea is developed in the last verse by the fact that the man has had his voice cut short by violent death on a bombing mission to Cologne. Nevertheless, when the sun in spring is bright, the Devon valley now has, in ghostly fashion, “a voice its own”:

Since I picked out the first two, I’ve discovered a few more little gems in “Because of these: Verses of the Royal Air Force” and I will show you them next time.


Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Literature, Politics, Writing

12 responses to “Anthony Richardson : the RAF poet (2)

  1. Fascinating, John. I have a copy of the Pan ‘Wingless Victory’, but knew nothing about the author.

  2. Thank you, Derrick. Personally, I am very impressed by the fact that he went to Marlborough, which we drove through on our way to Avebury and Stonehenge. A bridge over the main road and your own white horse (now obscured by trees) certainly put them a few classes higher than my old school in Nottingham!

  3. I am thrilled to learn more about Richardson.
    Also, I really like the cover of your own book!!

    • Yes, I think that Anthony Richardson deserves much greater attention than he receives now, which is absolutely zero, except for what will be a series of blog posts from me. He is a very talented poet.
      Thank you too for your compliments about the book cover. The basic design of black at the top and pictures below that is meant to echo the design of my history of the High School. The pictures all have a connection with the death of a particular former pupil. So JHG Walker baled out of his Spitfire (centre) but froze to death in a dinghy waiting to be rescued. Above him is the bridge too far at Arnhem, Bottom left is a ship at Dunkirk, bottom right, fighting in the Western Desert. Left of the Spitfire is the Anglo-Soviet invasion of what was then Persia, right of the Spitfire is HMS Hood, sunk by the Bismarck. The Wellington twin engine bombers and the four engine Halifax represent the largest category of Old Boy deaths in this particular volume, namely Bomber Command.
      Except for my choosing the pictures, the covers of both of my books so far were produced by my clever daughter.
      She also turned the original Word documents I had written (25 of them) into one very long one, and then converted that into the book itself.
      I would never have managed that in a million years!

      • Give my congrats to your daughter! Yes, our generation needs the younger ones to keep us up to date on the ever-changing technology! So much of it just whizzes over my head!!
        I’ve put 2 of Richardson’s books on my wish list with my book supplier (I hope they come down a bit on the price!!)

  4. A fascinating insight John. He was obviously a talented man being able to turn his writing prowess to different genres like that. An interesting song but John Pertwee never struck it with me as Worzel Gummidge, that ruined my childhood impressions of Dr Who!

    • Thank you for those kind words. I agree with you that Richardson was a very talented man, and although he was from a rich family, I think he would have supported himself with his books, especially No place to lay my Head, One Man and his Dog, and Nick of Notting Hill which was the 1950s equivalent of reality TV. Above all, the story of Sir Basil Embry’s escape from occupied France would have kept him in gin and tonics.

  5. I enjoy your posts, they lead me to books that I have an interest in, you obviously enjoy books and literature from bygone days John, can you tell me anything about a couple of books from mid 1800’s I found in South America, Heaths Book of Beauty 1844 edited by The Countess of Blessington, and Good Words edited by Donald Macleod DD 1895, Cheers.

  6. I googled “Heath’s Book of Beauty 1844” and most of the references were merely copies of it for sale. I did discover though that Charles Heath’s book showed “idealized women” and that they “furnished attitudes and expressions” for the women models used by Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill (the latter in particular). Adamson and Hill were two of the very first ever pioneer photographers, working in the Edinburgh, Scotland, area.
    As photography had only just been invented, I presume any suggestions about the poses models should take up would have been welcomed by the photographers, who would probably not have been sensitive artists, but rather chemists and scientists, capable merely of carrying out the complex processes to produce a photograph.
    “Good Words” was a magazine published monthly from 1860-1910. It has its very own Wikipedia page:
    with another one for its editor:
    If you look at the connections on the Wikipedia page for “Good Words” so many of them are connected with Scotland, I suspect that both of these books were owned by somebody Scottish, who had perhaps left Scotland for ever for a new life in South America. Thousands of Scots did this at this time. Perhaps he even knew one or more of the people involved in one or both of the books.

  7. I have looked and my best source says that it would be almost impossible to get hold of any of Richardson’s poetry here in Australia. But I’ll keep hunting.

  8. Pingback: Anthony Richardson : the RAF poet (7) | John Knifton

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