The blog

The content of this blog continues from the blog in the book; some of the topics discussed may be obscure without reference to the book itself. Items of especial importance in the search for the artist are starred★★★★. To add to the blog email

Blog 1

8 October 2013

4The designer of the book that goes with this website is Lawrence (“We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it!”) Edwards, and his work has been interpreted for the website by Richard Hemery. Lawrence pointed out that inside the cover of the sketchbook is a stencilled character, which might be a “4” – perhaps signifying that the book is one of a series of at least four? This is intriguing, for if the hunch is correct than there might be other volumes of sketches by the artist in existence. – JM

Blog 2

8 October 2013

On the worldwide web is a document by Alan Mallet about the staff of Union-Castle Line, who owned Balmoral Castle, which tells us that Captain George, OBE, captained the liner from May 1925 until January 1926. He died in September 1927, aged 63. – JM

Blog 3

8 October 2013

One of the most noted passengers on board was Lt Gen Sir Aylmer Gould Hunter-Weston. He was nicknamed “Hunter-Bunter”, according to Wikipedia (8/10/13), and was heavily involved in the Battle for Gallipoli and later in the Somme. Further research in progress to discover why he was on his way to South Africa in 1925, and if he fancied himself as an artist! Later: it transpires that Hunter-Weston’s papers for the relevant period are in Ladyland, Ayrshire; we have the refs from the National Register of Archives for Scotland so can brief anyone nearby who would like to investigate. – JM

Blog 4

29 October 2013

A question has been raised as to whether or not the artist might have been a member of the crew of the Balmoral Castle. But the authors think it highly improbable that a member of the crew of a prestige liner would have sat on deck making sketches – and then left the ship in South Africa for the journey up-country. – JM

Blog 5

14 November 2013

From working with the authors on the design of the book, I have an observation of my own from a professional/technical viewpoint.

The authors’ printer friend is wrong to have said that the sketches were only bound into the book sometime after completion. The sketchbook is bound in “thread sewn sections” (not single pages, glue-fixed into the spine, as in most paperbacks); this would have required the artist to understand the final page binding imposition and to struggle with unwieldy sheets of paper while sketching on the deck of a ship. Also, the sketches are all on right hand pages and close inspection reveals small traces of colour wash in the spine of some blank facing pages. – LE

Blog 6

18 November 2013

A new thought, more about what isn’t in the book than what is. We’ve always visualised our artist shipping out to Cape Town and then travelling up to Southern Rhodesia, as it then was, probably on holiday.

But that part of the sketchbook stops in Rhodesia. What happened next? Why no sketches of the rest of the “holiday”, the journey home? Why nothing until the sketching resumes back in the UK in the forties?

Might it be that Southern Rhodesia was in fact the destination? Might it be that he or she or they were there to build a new life – to farm, to grow tobacco? Might it be that only when WW2 came did they return to the UK? Perhaps they were a couple and he had a military job to do and his wife had time on her hands, and began sketching again around the country.

So this idea suggests that we might be searching for a couple on the list who in fact were in central Africa from the mid-twenties to the early forties. – JM

Blog 7

19 March 2014

Suddenly, browsing through the passenger names for the umpteenth time, one of them jumps out: Mr F W Nutt. Now, I recall, “Nutt” was the family name of a lady named Sonia who married a man who went to the same school as me. And her father was certainly “F” – for Freddie. It turns out that his father was in turn “F W” but Sonia can remember little of him – except that he did work in the diamond business so he might perhaps have commuted to South Africa on occasions. Sonia can remember tedious visits to see him in a house in Thames Ditton when she was a child, but has nothing in the way of his papers, diaries etc. Anyway, she doesn’t think he was an artistic type; so, even though he could have been the Nutt on the list, another lead goes cold. – JM

Blog 8

23 April 2014

An inquisitive friend has enquired about the technique adopted to make the sketches. Our resident expert on such matters replies: “The sketches are wash drawings. Lines, usually applied with a pen to describe shape and form, are filled with water diluted washes. These sketches appear to use brush-applied sepia water soluble ink to various densities and seem to have no underlying delineation, except perhaps some preliminary light pencil sketching largely obscured by the brush work. Water colour paintings are likewise ‘wash’ – ie pigments diluted to the required intensities with water and applied with brushes of differing sizes. This technique would require the minimum of materials and equipment for the travelling artist.” – JM/LE

Blog 9

21 May 2014

A sudden burst of interest and ideas from relatives, contacts and friends has brought us within touching distance of the artist.

The focus of attention is the sketch of the Manor House at Stenigot in June 1940. It’s a remote and isolated village with little of apparent interest. First of all Barry Makin (author’s brother) points out that Stenigot has a derelict radar station.

Then son Stephen pushes out briefings about the mystery to his myriad Facebook contacts and among them is a fellow theatre producer, Hugh de la Bédoyère, who in turn passes the link on to his father, Guy de la Bédoyère – a noted historian. Guy immediately picks up on the radar station at Stenigot, and points out that a number of other locations shown in the UK sketches also have RAF connections. “My son sent me your link. Most intriguing. It does occur to me that Stenigot is interesting. In 1940 it was opened as an RAF radar station ( and

“Now, could this mean that your man [/woman] was in some way involved? He could have been in his 40s (indeed he must have been at least in his 40s). His skills suggest education and his Balmoral Castle trip some sort of income. Could he then have been an RAF officer in some way connected with the radar station and thus billeted [at the Manor House]? Of course there may be no connection whatsoever but it strikes me as an obscure place to go to in wartime for purely social reasons. Sandbanks in Dorset also had a WW2 airfield […] and North Berwick was close to RAF Drem.”

One of Guy’s fellow-historians comments: “Your man/woman must have been engaged on government or military business in 40-42; it’s completely implausible to think of him [/her] engaging freely in travels around the UK, especially when there is no evidence of him [/her] doing so before the War.”

Following on from here, one of our keenest researchers, David Lowe (also a former RAF crew member), came up with the following:

“The Stenigot radar operation began in 1940 and clearly instruction and training would be necessary at that time. In Cornwall (four Cornish sketches, Sept 1940), St Merryn airfield not far from Trevose became an aircraft training centre in 1940 for observers in what later became the Fleet Air Arm. In 1941, East Fortune airfield near North Berwick became a centre for training night fighter crews (six Scottish Sketches, 1941), and also in 1941 RNAS Sandbanks began training seaplane crews (Sandbanks sketch, Oct 41). In May 1942, there was a huge parade in Torquay when the King and Queen visited the Air Training Corps squadron based there (Torquay sketch May 1942). RAF Llanbedr, just south of Harlech, became in 1942 the towed target centre for gunnery training (undated sketch of Harlech Castle).”

Thus there is an RAF connection for practically every sketch in the UK section of the book – the links in the chain are solid. So we have a high degree of certainty that either the artist (or the artist’s spouse) was serving with the RAF at the time, possibly in some sort of training capacity: they seem to have been around establishments at the time of start-up, and the individual must have been in his/her forties at the time, so is more likely to have been involved in an activity such as training than in operations. Our original thought about “a sketchbook in a military knapsack” gains ever-increasing credence.

Now radar stations do not demand high manning levels – so hence we return to focus on Stenigot. If we can discover the names of personnel there in June 1940 we can cross-refer to the Balmoral Castle passenger lists – and, surely there will be a match?

The obvious source for the names is of course the RAF’s own archives, but perusal of websites quickly establishes that, quite reasonably, the RAF treats all personnel information as confidential other than to families of the individuals concerned.

But we have to ask. So we write to “RAF Disclosures” at Cranwell to see if we can gain some sort of dispensation. If we can identify the artist and locate his or her family, they will surely welcome what we can show them of the work of their artistic forebear.

Now we await the RAF’s response. Watch this space! – Authors et al

Blog 9

7 July 2014

Disappointing news. Somewhat surprisingly, the RAF have no records of who was posted where at any particular time. Writes Katherine Godfrey, Department Head of RAF Disclosures at Cranwell: “Service records are archived by surname, service number and date of birth. We are unable to refine the archival research fields to geographical sites or periods of time. Given the nature and pace of military activity during WWII, such manifests would be impossible to maintain given the constant change/throughput of personnel. Therefore, given the limited functionality of our archive search fields we would be unable to pull forward records of personnel who specifically served at RAF Stenigot.”

Miss Godfrey goes on to suggest some other routes for the search – contacting RAF publications, websites, etc.

One of these links is to a website named Forces Reunited which offers the insertion of tightly targeted messages in their newsletter, and on the list of potential addressees we find RAF Stenigot – with eight possible recipients. So we make the necessary contribution to FR funds and insert a note in the newsletter asking these eight readers to contact us.

There are some other contact points too that we will follow up too.

Then quite by chance at a golf match at the RAC’s country club at Woodcote Park in Surrey I meet an Air Vice Marshal, Clive Evans, who has been heavily involved in RAF personnel management over the years. He is doubtful if he can help with the Stenigot problem, but promises to think about it. – JM

Blog 10

22 May 2014

Nasty dead-of-night afterthought to Blog 9. Suppose the RAF say there’s no match? Then we’d have to plead for the maiden names of the spouses of the personnel at Stenigot at the time. Complicated, eh?

Blog 11

22 May 2014

Now, how about the South African end of our enquiries? David Lowe (see Blog 9) points out that although we’ve made enquiries, unsuccessfully, at all the hotels mentioned there’s one exception: “Table Mountain from Hotel, 22.12.25”. We contact Hugh Leggatt, a former mining journalist and editor who knows all about South Africa. He gets out his map and compass and swiftly comes back to us – with both a correction and an answer.

“The picture is actually wrongly captioned. It is a view of Devil’s Peak, one of the two peaks that stand on either side of the ‘table’ of Table Mountain. The sketch shows just the beginning of the table on the upper right. The Hotel is [almost certainly] the Mount Nelson Hotel which is a Cape Town institution that opened in 1899.

“Looking from the Hotel this view would be clearly visible. I have confirmed this with the street view on Google Maps, tracing in the direction of Devil’s Peak from the site of the Mount Nelson.”

David Lowe right away comes up with this picture of the Hotel in 1910 which plainly shows Devil’s Peak in the background. Note also the uniformed officer walking in the foreground: the Mount Nelson opened in 1899 having been built built by Sir Donald Currie of the Castle Shipping Line, owners of the Balmoral Castle!

Hotel Boat

Says the Hotel’s website: “It was his dream to build a hotel in Cape Town as stylish and elegant as London’s most fashionable hotels, to cater exclusively for the Castle Line’s well-heeled First Class passengers.” That year, at the outbreak of the South African War, Lord Kitchener, Lord Buller and Lord Roberts made Mount Nelson Hotel their base, and the young Winston Churchill was stationed there while reporting on the war.

So we have definitely pinpointed the hotel where the artist stayed just before Christmas in 1925. We contact Vicky Legg who represents the Hotel in London to enquire if the guest registers for that time still exist. She puts us in touch with Gabrielle (“Gaby”) Palmer Bolton in Cape Town who runs public relations for the Hotel in Africa. But alas, the only person who knows about guest registers for “The Nellie”, as she calls it, is on leave until the end of the month, so for the moment this line of enquiry comes to a halt. – JM

Blog 12

22 May 2014

Guy de la Bédoyère (Blog 9 refers) lives in Lincolnshire, albeit not especially near Stenigot, and has been trying to pin down the location of the “Manor House” at Stenigot. He now comes up with what looks like the answer. On Google he’s found this building in Asterby Lane, just down the road from the now-defunct radar station. Although modified to an extent, its outline is a good match to the original sketch, and looks right to us – and it would have been a fine billet for anyone based at the radar station. It is now called Manor Farm, and we are trying to contact the owners to see what they know of its wartime history. – JM

House comparison

Blog 11
★★★ [continued]

30 May 2014

Disappointing news from Cape Town. Julie Rose, Assistant to the General Manager at the Mount Nelson Hotel, returns from leave to tell us that they have no records of who stayed at the Hotel in the 1920s. – JM

Blog 13

7 July 2014

Now a fascinating contact from Simon Wills from the magazine Family Tree, who wants to write about our project. He right away comes up with information which is just the sort of thing we don’t want to hear. He’s found a passenger list from the Balmoral Castle with many more names on it than on our original list. He believes our manifest is of passengers in 1st and 2nd class only, but misses out 3rd class and maybe also people who booked very late, or through travel agents rather than directly with the shipping line. He sends the list to us, and we see it has one great plus point: it gives more information about the passengers, such as addresses, professions/occupations, etc.

With Simon, we explore the problem of all the extra candidates we now need to consider. But as quickly as he’s introduced it, Simon kicks the problem deep into the long grass. He compares the sketch showing the promenade deck done on December 8 (below) with a photograph (also below) of the 1st and 2nd class promenade decks and deduces that they are one and the same. So, the artist was 1st or 2nd class and thus almost certain to have been on our original list – 3rd class passengers would not have been given the freedom to roam in these areas of the ship.

On board

Now comes a flash of excitement from Simon: the new passenger list gives the occupation of one Miss I E Dick as “Artist”. Miss Dick, he has discovered, was born in Holborn, London, in 1880 and died in Worthing, Sussex, aged 96, in 1976, so her age is about right. There are two “Dick” families listed in today’s Worthing telephone directories and we talk to Mr Macolm Dick at one of the numbers (no reply from the other). Malcolm is an artist but knows nothing of Miss I E. We ask him to look at the website to see if anything chimes, but so far there’s no further news from him.

But, even so, are we on the brink? Is Miss I E Dick our artist?

Er – no. We suddenly realise that if the lists are correct she disembarked at Madeira! There is of course the chance that she changed her mind for some reason and sailed on to Cape Town but it seems a very long shot indeed.

Aside: in the midst of all this the Scottish Daily Mail runs a piece about our search and within 24 hours several of the sketches turn up amongst the pictures of the Balmoral Castle on Google Images.

David Lowe (see Blog 9) meantime grabs another passing straw. In the sketchbook were the vaguely sketched initials “JP” and the only person on the list with these initial was a Miss J Palmer. Now on this new manifest from Simon we have an address for her: Ingram House, Stockwell. “It seems to have been a student hostel,” says David. “She may have been an art student. I wish we knew her first name.

“Both Camberwell School of Art and Chelsea School of Art existed in 1925 – on balance, Camberwell seems the most probable as it established a Fine Art Department in 1920 and is not far from Stockwell. I suspect that Miss J Palmer had well-off parents (a trip to Rhodesia would not have been cheap) and presumably was regarded as reasonably talented. In those days, there wouldn’t have been many girls living away from home and studying art. It’s about the only subject that a girl of that age would then have been able to take up. But why would she travel on her own or was she with other passengers? Does the manifest show any other girls of a similar age?”

Well, David’s hypothesis earns some plaudits as the next entries in the list are three members of the Richards family, of 42 Palace Road, Streatham Hill. Miss B Richards is a student aged 22, so very much a contemporary of Miss Palmer. Miss E is also a student, albeit rather older, aged 57, while Mr T (?) is an underwriter – aged 67. There’s nothing concrete to tie them to Miss J Palmer other than David’s thesis that Miss Palmer needs to have had travelling companions, the “student” link, and the fact that Streatham is just down the road from Stockwell. And the final tenuous linkage? In 1925 what subject might a 57 year old female student have been studying? Art would surely be close to the top of the list.

Simon comes back with one more nugget: the National Archives in Kew have some operational records from RAF Stenigot 1939-1941 (their ref AVIA 7/483). He’ll look at them for us when he next visits. – JM

Blog 14

16 September 2014

JM writes: an intriguing contribution from a fellow Old Kingstonian and former head of BBC Radio Drama, Gordon House, who thinks he might have spotted an interesting link via golf.

His thesis runs thus:

“I personally am convinced the artist is a woman – she (I’ll now assume) has handwriting astonishingly like an aunt of mine who also was an artist, though (as far as I know) she never visited South Africa. Also various clues suggest a female artist – for instance, a man, in my opinion, would be less inclined to write ‘Cornwall’ after ‘Trevose Head’.

“Now – whether or not she was on holiday in Africa, or went to live in Southern Rhodesia – we do know for a fact that she was back roaming around Britain in the early part of the Second World War. She – or her husband – must have been engaged in war business for them to be able (or wish) to travel so freely. Let us suppose (though of course, this is only a guess) that he was the one doing the ‘war work’. It would leave her time for some sketching. (You know what darling – I’m going to get my old sketchbook out again and see if I can still do it . . .)

“But even a working man deserves a break and so, on the 20th and 21st June 1941, when on duty in Scotland, they have a relaxing long weekend in North Berwick. [Gordon has checked and discovered that a number of the sketches were done during weekends.]

“We know she does two sketches on those two days – the second one, on the 21st, from North Berwick golf links. Note the ‘from’. I have played North Berwick and this is indeed a view from the links. So why is she there? Maybe because she doesn’t play golf – but her husband does? (Of course you must have a round of golf, darling; you’ve been working so hard . . . don’t mind me, I’ll just doodle in my sketchbook . . .)

“So, were the North Berwick links open in 1941?

“If so, was a list kept of those playing on Saturday June 21st 1941?

“If so, did any of those names match those of the passenger list of the Balmoral Castle all those years before?”

The phone lines to North Berwick are quickly humming – but instant disappointment. No, they have no archive material going that far back – and the course was closed for the duration of the war, anyway.

Nice try, Gordon.

Blog 15

16 September 2014

The sketchbook contains the initials JP and the only JP on the Balmoral Castle passenger list is Miss J Palmer. My hypothesis is that she is the artist. We know that she was born in 1904 and was either a temporary or permanent resident at a hostel for young ladies in Stockwell, so she might have been studying at the Camberwell School of Art. Parents clearly not short of money – she travelled to South Africa first class on the Balmoral Castle and stayed at the pricey Mount Nelson hotel in Cape Town – and then did the tourist trail, using her interest in art to do a few sketches along the way. Maybe she subsequently married in Rhodesia, and was too busy with domestic life to do any more drawing until she came back with her husband to the UK at the outbreak of war.

He would have been in the services and by 1940 probably too old for active service. However, we know that Rhodesians were involved in joint service training in radar, meteorology and bomb disposal, any of which would have given the couple ample opportunities to travel around the country during the early days of the war when normal holiday travel would have been discouraged and difficult. Virtually all the UK sketches can be linked to a military establishment.

I have trawled through lists of 1940s RAF and RAFVR officers looking for people with Rhodesian connections but nobody seems to fit the dates. I haven’t yet found similar lists for the army. I’ve also looked for references to washed-away railway lines, and although it was not an uncommon occurrence, again I can’t find anything which ties in with the dates. I’ve tried (rather inexpertly) to find details of marriages in Rhodesia during the 1920s but that gets you into the ancestry game (very difficult without a clear foundation of names to work with). The main difficulty of course is that if the hypothesis is correct, Miss J Palmer changed her name when she got married and immediately became virtually invisible. – JDAL

JDAL is David Lowe, RAF aircrew and longtime colleague and friend, and a welcome regular voice in these columns. If David is right, can anyone track down J Palmer, born in 1904, living in Stockwell in the early twenties, maybe studying at the Camberwell School of Art 1925 and then living in Rhodesia 1925-1940ish and probably marrying sometime in this period, either in Rhodesia or back in the UK? Can’t be that difficult, can it? – JM

Blog 16

16 September 2014

As mentioned previously there have been flickerings of media interest in our search. Several journals north of the border – the Scottish Daily Mail, Highland Times and the Aberdeen Press & Journal – published some of the Scottish sketches and details. Further south a couple of Cornish publications expressed some interest but we’re not sure if they published anything. Surrey Advertiser gave us “local authors” coverage and the Lincolnshire Echo is about to put the spotlight on the possibility of Stenigot being a key link in the search. The Royal Automobile Club’s membership magazine devoted four pages to the story and Country Life is working up a feature about it, too.

Amongst the genealogical media, Peter Calver, on his highly successful LostCousins website, is planning to give us some coverage and Simon Wills came up with a Q & A piece about the project in Family Tree magazine. Simon has found, in the National Archives in Kew, some operational records from RAF Stenigot but has been ill subsequently so all we have heard so far is this:

“Re: the Stenigot RAF station record I retrieved. Some of the names of people mentioned in it 1939-41 are:
A P Rowe
A F Wilkins
Mr Reichman
R A G Cooper
G S Jones
R A Smith
F L Sawyer
John F W Mercer
Dr W B Lewis
Mr Garrard
Mr Gay

“Jones was the station’s Flight Lt and a real martinet, it seems – there’s an amusing letter of complaint about him. I’ll send more when I get a minute but thought you’d like the names quickly. These are just the people who happen to crop up in official memoranda, not a complete personnel list – although many are visiting technical experts coming to calibrate the station’s aircraft detection system.”

Expert indeed: “Jimmy” Rowe and Arnold Wilkins were among the most prominent of the scientists working on the early and crucial stages of the development of radar. “Mr Reichman” might have been Walter Reichman, a US radar pioneer. R A G Cooper was a scientist working at the installation at Worth Matravers in Dorset. “Dr W B Lewis” is almost certainly Wilfrid Bennett Lewis, a highly prominent physicist who had been working on nuclear physics in Cambridge with J D Cockcroft. When war broke out he was asked to join the Air Ministry to work on radar systems, and became a senior military scientist.

So Stenigot was attracting all sorts of interest from the scientific establishment in those days. But that’s as maybe, for it still leaves us with our question: who was there who had been on the Balmoral Castle back in in 1925?

Blog 17

16 September 2014

We have been gently chided for an inaccurate caption to the image of bombed-out London which appears both in the book and on the website. I (JM) had misguidedly persuaded myself that the church standing like a beacon amongst the ruins was St Bride’s, close to where I served my journalistic apprenticeship in Fleet Street. But Guy de la Bédoyère doubts this:

“I am confident that it isn’t St Bride’s which has a multiple series of tiers. The clue to its real identity are the four spikes appearing over the roof line to the right. These might be the pinnacles on the tower of St Michael Cornhill, or St Mary Aldermary. It all depends on how accurate a painter he was, and I’m not sure he was that precise. However, St Mary-Le-Bow is very close to St Mary Aldermary and it would have been possible to paint it from the other side of Cheapside.”

Philip Somervail comes in: “I reckon [the more distant church tower] could be St Mary Aldermary – which is at the opposite end of Bow Lane from St Mary-le-Bow. The painting appears to show the ruins of another church on the left hand side, but I can't work out what that might have been.”

The photograph Philip has provided (below) shows St Mary-le-Bow on the extreme left and this, surely, is the church in the centre of the sketch. – JM


Blog 18

16 September 2014

A tantalising thought from another old friend, John Edney. Could “W E John” on the Balmoral Castle passenger list be a mis-transcription of “W E Johns”, he of immortal fame as the creator of Biggles and his female counterpart, Worrals?

Well now, here’s a thought! And a first trawl through his biog notes reveals that Johns trained in the first place as an artist! What a coup it would be, if . . .

Johns didn’t write an autobiography, so for Johns’ life story we turned to Biggles! by Peter Berresford Ellis and Jennifer Schofield (Veloce Publishing, 1993). It transpires that Johns did indeed have considerable skill as an artist, specialising (unsurprisingly!) in aviation illustrations. But in 1925-26, when Balmoral Castle was sailing to South Africa, Johns was in the midst of a seven-year commission, employed by the RAF in their Record Office at Ruislip.

So, no, Capt W E Johns was not our elusive artist. – JM

Blog 19

2 December 2014

A note about our search in Airmail, the magazine of the Royal Air Forces Association, brings an email from a reader, whose mother-in-law Vera Ladds was based at Stenigot radar station early in wartime (see Blog 9) – and a few days later we talk to her on the telephone. Now well into her nineties, she looks back on her days as a radar operator with considerable pride.

Vera was 18 when the war began, working at Lloyds Bank in Cambridge. She wanted to join the WRAFs right away, but her mother thought she was too young and said she’d think about it. After two years of fruitless badgering Vera and a colleague just went to the recruiting office to sign up on the way back from work one day. “Mother was livid,” says Vera. “She said, ‘I only said I’d think about it’!”

After training as a radar operator Vera was posted to the Isle of Man where the radar teams watched for enemy bombers heading for Liverpool, giving the fighter defences the chance to get into the air against them before they reached their target. “It was dreadful,” says Vera. “There were hundreds of them at a time coming in and we realised that our work was crucial in giving early warnings to the defences.”

In 1943 Vera started her year or so at Stenigot where the task was somewhat different. “We worked in teams of twelve, six of us operators and six ‘mechanic mates’, men who looked after the technical side of the equipment [later, Vera was one of the first women to be trained in this work so as to be able to maintain and service the electronic equipment if necessary]. We were a very closeknit team, working together and eating together on long shifts.”

Lincolnshire was one vast airfield with dozens of bomber bases (45 by the end of the war) occupying 30,000 acres of land; 16 airfields were within ten miles of Lincoln itself. Stenigot was part of the chain of home radar stations across the country and they had the twin roles of detecting incoming enemy aircraft, and acting as “air traffic controllers” to the bombers flying to and from the Lincolnshire airfields. “We knew what we were doing was vital,” says Vera, “and we were fiercely proud to be helping in the middle of the war effort.”

One gripe from Vera is that in the wartime films that feature air traffic control centres, the focus is never on the radar WRAFs in the back rooms, crouched over their screens in the dark – yet they are providing all the data for “the pretty girls” (Vera’s description) who are shown on-screen manoeuvring their markers across the giant table maps. “It’s not fair,” protests Vera somewhat indignantly.

Vera’s spell at Stenigot must have been one or two years after our mystery artist and his/her spouse were there and she has no memories which might relate to them, or of anyone living at Stenigot Manor. “There was one clever artist there,” she recalls, “but he just did lovely caricatures of us all.” Vera went on to work at many important radar establishments across the country – Bawdsey Manor, Clee Hill, Worth Matravers. She remembers with affection many of the people she worked with at Stenigot: Mary Cundy, Teddy Lamkin, Phil Stuart, Emily Partridge, Win Howe.

One notable experience for Vera came when some local bomber crews visited Stenigot so that the radar operators could explain their work to them. Having seen the equipment working in the ops room the crew navigators asked if they would like to see the navigational equipment in the Lancaster. “Of course,” says Vera, “we all jumped at the chance and a few days later they whisked us away to the airfield for a flight in a Lancaster. It was wonderful – and really the highlight of my war.”


Blog 20

3 December 2014

Welcome to Sleuth City, everyone, a new township peopled by dozens of detectives joining the hunt for our lost artist. They arrived from all parts of the world in the past few days following a mention of the search in Peter Calver’s excellent LostCousins newsletter ( and a splendid long article by Patrick Sawer in the “Sunday Telegraph” (

Over the following 48 hours or so there were over 750 hits on this website plus a stream of emails. Below we’ve transcribed some of them into blogs: where an investigator wrote more than once we’ve sometimes conjoined their emails, but largely they are as written, though sometimes excerpted or condensed and occasionally edited for sense or syntax [square brackets indicate some of the editors’ interventions]. Please let us know if you don’t think we have correctly represented what you wanted to say – it’s easy to make changes.

We’ve grouped a few by subject matter, sometimes together in the same blog: the art, the artist, “Miss Palmer”, radar and the RAF etc. Thanks go to all. As well as those quoted in what follows, we had notes from Keith Pearce, Rosemary Heaversedge, Robert & Katharine Johanna Mayrs (nee Makin!) in Malaysia and Ian Lawlor. We also heard from a couple of JM’s old school chums, Graham Baird and David Giles, but they mainly wanted to point out that he’s not 71 but 77.

So far the mystery remains unsolved, with no single note nailing our artist: but every scrap we receive is studied and slips into the jig-saw of the mystery. Surely THE breakthrough must come soon? – JM & AJM

Blog 21

3 December 2014

From DH, in the US
I can analyse handwriting as a lifelong amateur. The handwriting samples represent two different times, during which the artist’s personality changed somewhat with maturity. I can tell you for certain that this artist was right handed, and had at least some training or familiarity with art as is obvious from the compositions of the sketches.

The person was very highly intuitive and excitable in their early life; such a person who would excitedly run out the door and forget their hat when going somewhere. They calmed down considerably with age. The person was a mild extrovert who was somewhat, but not overly, social. This person had limited aspirations when young, and even more limited aspirations when older, although the war may have put a damper on everyone’s aspirations for the future in the early 1940s. This person was not overly generous, but not stingy, in the middle, throughout life, which kind of goes along with being mildly social – the person is a bit reserved with strangers. For an artist, this person was not much of a highly original thinker, rather this person was highly intuitive, but conventional in their thinking. There are no signs of genius in the handwriting.

I speculate that the artist had at least some interest or training in geology, as the bedding of rocks is recorded in some detail in many sketches, while no such attention is paid to anything else, such as clouds or ocean waves, except the structures and to some extent, vegetation and clothing. There are two children in some sketches, and I surmise that these are the people who you might conceivably meet assuming that they are the children of the artist, if they survived the war, and the many vicissitudes of life to present.

I have time to ponder this, and have some hope of sending you information of substantially more interest – specifically the name of the artist – if we get lucky. Although it seems highly improbable that I will succeed, I have some tenuous preliminary ideas about how to proceed into an investigation of the identity of your mystery artist.

PS: I forgot to mention that the author writes their dates in the older “European” style in the early series of drawings, and then in the newer “International” style in the second series of drawings. I cannot say what the significance of this is, only that it is highly significant in terms of where the artist spent the intervening time, who they were with, and what they were doing in those years.

Blog 22

3 December 2014

Claire Clark, Vice President of Watercolour New Zealand Inc, loves painting in the open air at her local beach. She feels in tune with the unknown artist who had to choose subjects close by in order to get as much painting time as possible during a few hours off-duty. Claire has an appreciation of puzzles and genealogy and contributes to the Historypin website trying to place the location of WW1 art. She was especially attracted to this project as the sketch of the promenade deck of the Balmoral Castle on 8.12.25 is the same scene painted by Sapper Sydney Higgs (below) in 1918 when the Balmoral Castle was a troopship transporting New Zealand Expeditionary Force servicemen to England. Claire is using Higgs’s watercolour as an image promoting ‘WW1 in watercolours at Splash’ an exhibition of WW1 art and contemporary watercolours she is arranging in Wellington, New Zealand next April for the Gallipoli commemorations.

Sydney Higgs painting

Writes Claire: That simple drawing of the lady on board ship is personal. If the artist is a man, then this could be his wife (yes, I know it could be his daughter but the artist doesn’t feel old to me). It takes time to do a pen and wash and she would have stood still for him for a period of time. [In another email, Jennifer Hoodless has suggested: “The girl at the ship’s railings clearly looks like a sketch of someone sketching which makes me think that it might have been two artists travelling together.” – Eds]

This artist is competent: the shipboard scenes on deck are carefully composed and have points of interest. The artist is also well able to paint in the open air and this is his passion and pastime. He has the confidence to try and capture scenes as they are happening, eg Madeira and the railway line.

The golf links painting suggests it is his wife and two children. The date is June 2 1941 so it suggests he is married with young children aged perhaps six years and three years. Again, it could be his wife at Harlech Castle sometime in or after 1942.

The long hiatus between sketches from Africa to England can be easily explained by saying that he/she used different books during the intervening period. As artists who regularly paint out doors, we all have several sketchpads on the go at once.

When I flicked through the Sketchbook images originally it was the Stenigot subject that jumped out as significant and being pivotal to who the person in the story was. Afterwards [when I] read the Blog I was pleased to see the link emerging of it being an RAF installation and the unfolding impression this was a person with RAF links.

Your artist wasn’t an arts school graduate. But he or she is an accomplished technical drawer (hence the careful composition and symmetry, vanishing points of the on board scenes). The open air paintings are interesting but do not have the depth and detail that an accomplished artist would use to go back to the studio and do a better version. The limited palette is also not the choice of an accomplished arts graduate – and the artist sticks with this palette for over 20 years.

Your artist is a classic case of a weekend painter – a watercolourist with a passion for en plein air painting. When there is a free moment in a busy schedule he is off with his sketchbook under his arm and maybe a stool, a jar, water, a tube of sepia paint and a plate or similar on which to mix the paint and water. As a weekend painter, choice of subject is often one within walking distance as being the quickest place he can get to, eg down the garden to paint the house at Stenigot.

If it is wartime and he has use of a government vehicle he wouldn’t drive on a personal trip to a scenic mountain or the seaside to paint. Hence the significance of why he painted the subjects where he did. There are no multiples of any subject which would have been expected if he had been stationed for a term at any of the RAF stations. So I go with him being a person who arrives for a quick inspection visit at multiple RAF bases, staying for several days and working during the week and grabbing some hours off at the weekend to go painting.

The idea of him being accompanied by a wife, dabbling in her spare time, doesn’t wash with me at all. Again there would have been more images of each subject and she would have been painting around the hotel and not the RAF station.

The JP initials may be a significant point of interest. It may be these are his first two initials and how he signs his paintings. Not everyone chooses to put up their surname.

JP initials

I would favour the Balmoral Castle trip all the way to Matapos [Rhodes’s Grave] as being his honeymoon. That special painting of the lady at the railing could be his painting of his new bride. He rarely paints people as they are difficult. If my logic is correct and they marry in 1925 then by 1941 his family will have started – perhaps the golf links painting is only some of his children, and definitely all conceived before the war. Just a family playing on the beach figures, with the info you found that the golf club wasn’t open at that time during the war.

It fits a pattern of activity. The concept of a weekend painter is used to describe people who only produce sporadically (like myself) when there is time and opportunity and the drive to get on and paint.

Chris Wells comes in:
For what it’s worth, being an amateur artist myself, I think the hand which sketched and painted these is that of a woman; the detail in the buildings and the boat pictures are not precise enough for a male. Men do tend to be quite clinical when drawing buildings, especially.

And Willem Pleijzier writes from the Netherlands:
I was given two aquarels [watercolours] 30 years ago. The subject (ships) only differs. But in technique and style they do have similarities. They are of an earlier date/time, at the end of end of the 19th century, but the handwriting/comments on the sketches look very similar. [Can you send us scans of the pictures, Willem? We’d love to see them! – Eds]

And a side-note arrives from Marion La Rooij
Agatha Christie novelWhat startled me was that I remember an Agatha Christie mystery and the name of the ship in the plot, from and to South Africa, was Balmoral Castle so perhaps she travelled on it herself. I believe the book was The Man in the Brown Suit a Colonel Race book. There was something about the man in the suit having arrived in England on that ship and I think the heroine caught it to go to SA, too, but I might be muddling them up. It’s about 50 years since I read it. If it turns out to be the wrong book let me know and I’ll have another think. I have had family travelling on this ship too but not at that date as far as I know.

Nice try, Marion, and almost a cigar. The liner in "The Man in the Brown Suit", the first of Agatha Christie's "Colonel Race" thrillers, was the "Kilmorden Castle" – a fictionalised sister ship to the "Balmoral Castle". Diamond thieves, murderers and political shenanigans feature strongly as the heroine voyages to Cape Town, leaving on January 17 1922, three years before "our" voyage of the "Balmoral Castle". First class fare: £87. After landing in Cape Town she stays at the Mount Nelson by Table Mountain and then travels by rail to the Matapos to see Rhodes's grave – all just like our mystery artist. – Eds

Blog 23

3 December 2014

A number of detectives have written about the radar connections. Let’s start with Lewis D McCann, a retired IT Support Engineer living in Milton Keynes.

In your blog there seems to be a connection with early radar. We recently stayed in Great Malvern which was the home of the Telecommunication Research Establishment (TRE) after the war. In the museum next to the Abbey hotel they had information on display about TRE and might have knowledge of records. TRE was near Swanage at Worth Matravers in the Poole area before it moved the Malvern.

I’ve been looking at the Balmoral Castle passenger list and a way forward could be to add the names of those who did not get off at Madeira to an on-line tree at Ancestry. Then make that Ancestry tree searchable to other Ancestry users. After adding them to Ancestry then one tries to identify each individual from FreeBMD database and add that to Ancestry. The final stage would be to try to find each person in the 1911 census and rope in the LostCousins website which is a great way to match to related family members. It’s a bit of a long process, but if there are any family members of the artist hopefully they will make contact.

Thinking about Lewis’s suggestions we suddenly made a connection we hadn’t previously considered. One sketch is of Sandbanks in Dorset just across the water from the Isle of Purbeck and only a handful of miles from Worth Matravers, which was, from May 1940 to May 1942, “the nerve centre for radar development in the UK” according to Wikipedia. So is it possible that our artist wasn’t in the RAF directly, but working for the Air Ministry/Government at Worth? Watch this space as we hope to start cross-checking lists of people at Worth and Malvern with the 1925 passenger list. We are grateful to Hugh Williams, chairman of Malvern Radar and Technology History Society, who is guiding us, we hope, towards some useful personnel lists in this connection.

Next comes this from Noel Bain.
I enjoyed your story about the artist who travelled the world. I think your suggestion that there is a connection with the RAF radar stations is a good one. There were many set up in the early forties all along the eastern coast of England and east coast Scotland. I worked on many of these in the early fifties as a radar fitter.

Although a lady could have travelled with her husband, security may well have been breached if she knew so much about his work. Perhaps she was an RAF officer responsible for training radar operators who worked in the plotting rooms and overseeing their welfare? So this officer could have been responsible for the control of several stations within the chain. This would explain her visits across the country and does away with the need for a husband.

The other ones along the east coast were West Runton near Cromer, Staxton Wold near Scarborough, Danby Beacon near Whitby [no sketches near any of these], Drone Hill near Dunbar and Eyemouth [not that far from the Firth of Forth sketches]. As you have already suggested many civilians worked on these sites including people from the Air Ministry such as clerks of works and engineers.

Ref the Scottish sketches, Davy Stinson offers these thoughts: Further to the previous assertions about a military connection: travel was certainly not easy during the war years, [and in particular] the Highlands of Scotland were actually a controlled area to which access was restricted: even locals had to have passes. Whether this encompassed Nairn and Aviemore I cannot say, but if it did then this might reinforce the military line of enquiry.

Ian Bleasdale from the Isle of Man adds: I was impressed by the sketches reproduced in the Sunday Telegraph and wish you well with your researches. However, just a small matter which might affect things. You say the lady’s husband was too old to serve in WWII but was training RAF personnel. My father was in a similar situation. Although he had flown with the Royal Flying Corps in France in WWI, he too was too old to join the RAF in the Second. He was employed though, as a Civilian Instructor with, but not in, the RAF, training ground crew. So if the artist involved followed a similar course, it may be very difficult to find any WWII service record at all.

Blog 24

3 December 2014

In Sleuth City one favourite topic, as in many great detective stories, is Find The Lady. Yes, it’s Miss J Palmer we are after! [New readers start here: the initials JP appear on the flyleaf of the sketchbook and Miss J is the only JP on the “Balmoral Castle” passenger list. You can read what we know about her in Blog 13].

From Richard & Sarah Palmer in Zimbabwe
Have just read the article in our electronic edition of the Sunday Telegraph. We are quite intrigued with the mystery. Our great grandfather James Palmer was an 1890 pioneer of Rhodesia, and we now live in Mutare, Zimbabwe and we have a daughter Miss Jessica Palmer. We have a relative in Cape Town who is very knowledgeable on family history so will forward your website.

James Greenall
Having read about your mystery in today’s Telegraph I have been browsing your blog. One fact that does not seem to have been mentioned relates to the timing of the original purchase of the sketchbook. It was purchased in 1971 and it strikes me that in all probability it was there as the result of a house clearance of somebody recently deceased, possibility in the locality of the shop [The bookseller said he thought he’d got in a “country house clearance sale” but he couldn’t remember where. – Eds] If this was indeed Miss Palmer then that would put her age at the time of death at around 66 or 67.

I have never looked into this sort of thing before but have just done a search of via Google which reveals 92 birth records for a J Palmer in 1904 and 51 marriage records in 1926. I have not pursued further but extracting and cross-referencing this data might yield more information for you. Probably 50 per cent of that list are male and can therefore be discounted immediately. As you have already surmised on your blogs once you have a first name the process of tracing somebody becomes much easier.

Finella Read Powell, genealogist
Have just searched through births for 1903/4/5 on-line, as births registered at either end of a year are included in the quarter of the previous or following year. There are very few female Palmers with a first name beginning with the initial J, barely a handful, so should be easier to follow up for deaths and marriages. Was she engaged to be married? Was she born in Rhodesia and returning to her family?

Rhoda Overson
Saw the article in today’s Sunday Telegraph. A couple of things: is it not possible that the woman (if the artist was a woman) was married? There are one or two married couples with surnames beginning with P on the passenger list. Perhaps they were newly married and setting out on an extended honeymoon in SA; or, if Miss J Palmer were the artist, she may well have returned to England within the next few years.  I had a look on the incoming UK passenger lists at, and found a Miss Joan Whicher Palmer aged 23 returning to England from Durban on the Balmoral Castle arriving Southampton on 4 August 1927. She was accompanied by Dr Percy Allan Palmer, a Medical Practitioner, 58, of 49 Albert Bridge Road, London SW11. They are to be found in the 1911 Census at 86 Overstrand Mansions, Battersea Park, where Percy Allan Palmer, 41, was a practising Physician and Surgeon, born Southsea, Hampshire, married to Agnes Charlotte Palmer, 34, b Egremont, Cheshire, with two children: Joan Whicher Palmer, aged seven, and John Whicher Palmer, five – both born Battersea.    

Martyn Kerr
I read the article about your sketchbook in the Telegraph, and it’s a fascinating story. Coincidentally, I have some hazy memories of travelling to South Africa and back to the UK on the Caernarvon Castle and visiting Victoria Falls as a child in the late fifties.

Your enquiries seem to be on the right track, and I hope you are able to identify the artist. The missing years from 1926-1940 intrigue me, and do suggest that the artist may well have lived somewhere else (Rhodesia or South Africa?) during this period, but don’t really offer any explanation as to why he or she abandoned sketching, only to take it up again shortly after the war began [maybe she had more than one sketchbook – see Blog 22. – Eds]

You obviously have no idea how the collection ended up in an antique shop, in Britain, and I have a tentative suggestion. Perhaps the artist continued to sketch after 1926, but those sketches could be in this country, and publication of your book might shed some light on this, but there’s also a possibility that they are in Zimbabwe or South Africa. I think the chances of making successful enquiries in Zimbabwe are remote, given the changes that country has gone through, but South Africa might be more promising. Many Rhodesians moved to South Africa in the eighties, and the artist may have lived there.

I don’t know if your book is available in South Africa [thanks to York Publishing, etc, it’s available everywhere in the world! – Eds], but there is a market for Africana there, and the sketches are the sort of thing that would appeal to collectors. I’m in the UK at the moment, but I’m probably going back to South Africa in a couple of months and I will speak to a couple of friends in the local Africana trade who might be able to put you in touch with possible sources of information.

David Andrews
It occurred to me that one way to follow up the possible “Miss J Palmer” suggestion would be to look in the 1911 Census for girls of that name, of about the right age, and who were in a well-to-do family. The first such that I came across (alphabetically) was Jane Ambrosine Palmer, aged six, in Barton-under-Needwood, Staffs. She was a daughter of Ambrose Henry Palmer, a Medical Practitioner. Among the 14 members of the household were two nephews of AHP who were born in South Africa: Ernest Ambrose Palmer (six) and Philip F Donald Ambrose (five).

I found from the BMD records that Jane Ambrosine Palmer was born in Feb 1905 and died (unmarried) in 1984, in East Staffs. So she would have been slightly under 21 when the Balmoral Castle sailed. Then I Googled Jane Ambrosine Palmer and found her (unusual!) name in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force list for 7 April 1941, “Assistant Section Officer” – see According to Wikipedia duties of such officers included radar work.

So there we have a Miss J Palmer with South African and Air Force connections.  [It’s a most unusual name and one of our most promising leads yet – can anyone find anything else on her? – Eds]

Comment from David Lowe: Assistant Section Officer was the lowest commissioned rank in the WAAFs equivalent to Pilot Officer in the RAF. However there’s no mention of her in the official list ( although as so few people are listed, it may be far from complete. Radar plotting of some sort still seems to be a possible thread and a reason for moving around the country, and she might have had a training role.

Jane Paton
This is a jolly long shot and may not get you anywhere. My mother travelled in December 1923 on the Union Castle ship Norman to Mombasa, and sat at a table with a Miss Palmer-Kerrison “who is going out to Government House Nairobi – her brother is the Governor’s ADC and her cousin his wife.”  

I have my mother’s diaries of the trip. My mother and her father went from Mombasa to Nairobi by train, across Lake Victoria to Uganda and ultimately walked about 100 miles  with 30 porters until they joined a river steamer on the upper reaches of the Nile in Sudan and thence to Cairo. Miss P-K features again at a dance in Nairobi.

Possible scenario, and I’m making this up as I go along:  Governor Nairobi gets transferred to Rhodesia, taking with him young ADC, visited again by his sister. There are such things, or used to be, as Colonial Office Lists produced annually where one could check where people were. Such “stud books” were to be found on shelves of London clubs. Might now be in FCO library, the archive of London Library, or possibly county libraries? Just an idea. [We think that Jane, aided by her Mother’s diaries, our sketchbook and a fertile imagination, has the germ of a great novel here. Miss PK couldn’t be the ADC’s sister of course as she’d need to fall in love with him (he’s an electronics whizz by the way) and they marry and build a life in S Rhodesia. Then when the war comes, they trek to Cairo and get to the UK where husb is dragged into radar development etc etc. – Eds]

Steve Allen
I’m sure you’ve covered this already, but have you considered looking at the Rhodesian RAF/RRAF records for the period immediately prior to the war? I did a very quick search and it would seem that the Rhodesian government and the RAF set up a large pilot training facility that opened in May 1940. As the artist (or his/her partner) appears to be involved in setting up facilities of this kind it seems likely that they would have been involved in similar activity in Rhodesia. Similarly, this might explain why the people in question turn up in the UK in June 1940 – perhaps they were previously engaged on similar projects in Africa? It might also be worth looking at non-military types in this context. Were they involved in specialist construction activities rather than being military personnel as such?

David Lowe comments: Yes, I’ve dug into this aspect as best I can from an RAF perspective. The official list of RAF officers 1939-45 has a fair amount of background detail and in some cases gives the maiden name of wives. I’ve looked at all the officers with Rhodesian links but nobody fits the bill. And nobody married anybody called Palmer! The main problem of course is the lack of a name to work with.

Blog 25

15 December 2014

Entry from John and Alicia Makin

Well, we can only put it like this: we think we know who did the sketches!

After an intensely hectic weekend, with some of our wonderful amateur sleuths at full stretch (we’ll mention them now: Lewis McCann, David Lowe, DH, David Andrew, Claire Clark and Guy de la Bedoyere) we believe we have identified the artist who created the sketches that have kept us in thrall for over forty years.

Our plunge forward began via Lewis McCann’s labour of love working through the passenger list, which got us to the point of drafting a new Blog 48 hours or so ago. Here’s what it said.

Well, it might be him – or his wife! Look at for the biog of Arthur Hadley, our most promising candidate yet, almost certainly the same Hadley identified on the “Balmoral Castle” passenger list by Lewis McCann. Hadley was a prominent electrical engineer (the biog is actually his obit, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) with strong connections with Central Africa and he was a keen painter. Hadley’s wife was Clara Louisa Shuff, born in 1880, and they both died in the same year, 1954. Hadley worked for the Ministry of Munitions in the first war, so in WW2 he could have been posted to RAF/radar stations to advise, say, on electrical supply issues.

But before we managed to switch this Blog to “live” on our website, the rest of the team pitched in. Evidence flooded to us that confirmed that Arthur Hadley, electrical engineer and artist, ticked a whole list of qualifying boxes and soon we had on screen the separate 1911 census records for Arthur and for Clara Louisa (to see Arthur’s entry click here. For Clara’s, click here. Source – the National Archives). Quickly, various elements of evidence began to circulate amongst “the team”.

Now comes a key contribution from DH in the US, a keen graphologist. This simple note relating to Clara’s handwriting on her 1911 census form burst like a bombshell on our computer.

I stopped counting when I had 25 points of similarity between the handwriting on the 1911 Census, and the handwriting on the sketches, with no points of (fatal) disagreement.

“I have no doubt that these two samples were written by the same person.  There is almost no chance that these two handwriting samples were written by two different people. 

“All of your sketches were annotated by Clara Louisa Shuff.  

“Please let me know if you believe I am wrong – I can argue my point, and am more than willing to consider all evidence, even, or especially, that which disagrees with my conclusion [later, DH provided some technical notes on his analysis of Clara’s handwriting; to see them, click here.].”

Had we really cracked it? Were we now truly looking at the name of our artist, Mrs Arthur Hadley, nee Clara Louisa Shuff? Well, as of that moment, 09.55 on Sunday December 14, the answer seemed to be a quiet, satisfied muttering of “YES!”

But nothing in this chase has ever been straightforward so why should this be any different? Doubts followed almost at once as historian Guy de la Bedoyere was not enthusiastic about Clara’s handwriting. He commented:

“At a first look I couldn’t see any resemblance between her hand and that of the sketchbook at all, but I can see that in some instances there are similarities, e.g. the ff in Suff and the ff in Cliffs (Canford Cliffs). So that is certainly possible, but I’m not 100 per cent convinced yet that she and the sketchbook inscriber are one and the same person – however, I am not speaking as any sort of expert, so I would be happy to be convinced that they are the same. Obviously, if it is her then the sketchbook is at least attributable to the couple.

“I’d also still say the handwriting in the sketchbook is not entirely consistent within itself – in short, I am intrigued by the suggestion it’s all the same person because some of it looks noticeably different. I suppose this might be explained by different times being involved when this was done. But note especially how differently ‘Aviemore’ is written on two successive sketches, supposedly on the same day.

“This also raises another interesting question. When and by whom then were the sketches done? Presumably Clara. But is the sketchbook some of his work, and some of hers? That seems unlikely since the sepia wash style is pretty consistent but I now notice that from the Stenigot Manor house on the artist has clearly used pencil first to sketch an outline in and then applied the wash; this is the case for almost all the later sketches. In some cases the shading has been reinforced with pencil.

“But the South African sequence seems to lack the pencil APART from in the captions! So, the earlier pencil captions may well have been added later by the pencil user. Do we have him starting off the sketchbook, setting it aside in 1926? Then in 1940 she picks it up and starts to use it herself, annotating the earlier pictures? Or is it all her from the outset, and when she resumes her work she goes back over it and adds at least some of the captions, as well as modifying her style and making more use of pencil to create more precise images?”

The email buzzed energetically throughout Sunday but by the end of the day, we, at least, were convinced. Arthur (see link to biog, above) ticks so many of the boxes in terms of timing, his movements, his occupation and his reputation as a painter. It’s reasonable that his wife might have been a keen artist as well, albeit not to Arthur’s own standard; and we have the conviction of DH that the handwriting on the sketches matches that on Clara’s census form.

So, unless and until persuaded otherwise, we’re taking it that one way or another the sketchbook emanated from the Hadley household, most probably with all the sketches by Clara, maybe with some annotation in places by Arthur.

Clara and Arthur had one son, Ronald A Hadley, who was born in 1917; he married Vera G Illsley (1915-1990). Ronald died in 1969. By that time, he was living in the family home in Darsham House in Suffolk (was it mere coincidence that it is in the same neck of the woods as Bawdsey, one of the centres for radar during the war?). Arthur is buried in the graveyard at Darsham. The House became derelict (but has now been restored) so at some point around the end of the sixties it would have been cleared out – which is maybe how our sketchbook “from a country house that was being sold up” found its way into Harrington’s bookshop in the King’s Road in April 1971.

Lewis McCann has discovered that Ronald and Vera had three children, but the first two, twins, Marjorie and Miles, died shortly after their birth in Lancaster in 1946. Linda L A Hadley, the third child, was born in 1951 and is hopefully still alive. She married Evan T Rourke but it seems they were later divorced and Mr Rourke then married Susan Jean Eccles, born in 1954, who died in 2002.

So the next task is to see if we can locate Linda L A Hadley [who might of course be using the name Linda L A Rourke], and/or Evan T Rourke who might know Linda’s whereabouts.

Lewis has also found, via the Ancestry software programme, that Arthur’s sister Maud married a man named Richard G Baillie who died in 1945. Their son, John R E Hamilton-Baillie, died in 2003, but he and his wife Lettice had four children, two female and two male whom we would very much like to meet. Contact with any of them will we hope lead us to understand more about the lives of Clara and Arthur. By the way: although we are fairly certain of Clara Louisa's first names, she is sometimes referred to on www sites as Clare Louise or Clara Louise or Clare Louisa – so care is needed in web-searching for material to do with her.

Two other elements we are keen to have “filled in” are whatever else we can discover about the life and times of Arthur and, perhaps more importantly, of Clara Louisa, the lady we believe to be the artist. And from there, of course, it would be fascinating to find just what they did in wartime when they were travelling around the UK from place to place, as our sketches show.

The search goes on!

Blog 26

15 December 2014

Book plug: how about getting hold of a copy of our little book “Sketchbook Mystery: On the trail of an artist unknown” published in June 2014? It contains the sketches, the passenger list and the itinerary, plus some of the early blogging. It’s available from at £9.00 plus p&p.

Blog 27

19 December 2014

Further entry from John and Alicia Makin

More deductions, suggestion, discoveries and revelations from our usleeping army of sketchbook sleuths.

When we left you, somewhat exhausted, at the end of Blog 25 a few days ago, we promised the search would go on, and go on it has.

We wanted to know what else we could discover about “The Hadley Sketchbook” and the evidence that it had been created largely by Clara Louise Hadley (nee Shuff) and her husband Arthur Edward. Then we wanted to see if we could piece together more about where the couple were and what they did in wartime when the nostalgic set of sketches from around the UK were being created. Finally, we’re keen to find out what we can about their living descendants to see if they can help us fill in the blanks.

So, first, the evidence. Quite quickly one of our correspondents swung his spotlight on to “the sketch that wasn’t there”! When we were originally assembling our book for publication there were two rather uninteresting pictures that were a nuisance: they were “upright” format when the book was going to be “landscape”. They didn’t look to matter at all: one was a routine shipboard sketch and the other was what appeared to be some sort of woodland with a fairly illegible annotation which included “Ascot 1942”.

So we left them out. But we did include “Ascot” in The itinerary of a travelling artist both in our book and on the website. David Andrews, sharp-eyed, spotted the anomaly. If Ascot was in the itinerary, where was the sketch? We wriggled: well, it was a rather uninteresting picture of some trees and stuff and the annotation just said something or other – but out came the magnifying glass. “It says Englemere something or other, Ascot 1942,” we told David.

Back he came: “Could it be Englemere Hill?” he asked. Magnifying glass out again. “Well, it could be,” we told him – and almost heard his shout of GOTCHA from Blandford Forum as he shot back an email to us with a highly substantive piece of evidence to tie the sketchbook to the Hadleys.

In 1937 Arthur Hadley had become Chairman of Rhodesia Railways Limited, and one way or another RRL had close ties to Englemere Hill, the home in Ascot of Sir Charles Wright, one of the giants of the steel industry with Baldwins Limited (later Richard Thomas & Baldwin) between the wars and into the forties. Like Arthur Hadley, he had been in the Ministry of Munitions during WW1 – he was controller of iron and steel production – so they would have known one another in those days.

One newspaper even gave Englemere Hill as the address for RRL in the UK.

So we have a Hadley sketch completed at Englemere March 1942, a month before Arthur chaired the RRL Annual meeting in the City of London. Far more telling, and unequivocally linking the Hadleys, RRL, Englemere Hill and the sketchbook together comes the fact that three years later RRL actually held their annual meeting at Englemere Hill – with Arthur once more in the chair.

Pictured below are Arthur Hadley and one of his watercolours; Englemere House in 1931; and the “missing sketch” of the gardens at Englemere Hill, Ascot, dated March 1942.

But now comes a twist. DH’s handwriting analysis had made it clear that it was a near-certainty that the sketches had been annotated – and thus, presumably created, by Clara Hadley. But Guy de la Bedoyere had been uneasy about this, pointing out that the annotations were inconsistent and he had drawn particular attention to the way that “Aviemore” was plainly written by two different hands on successive sketches on the same day, August 2 1941.

Now, Guy expressed his doubts about the Englemere sketch, too.

“The Englemere Hill sketch is stylistically quite different from the [rest] in the sketchbook: it just smacks of a different hand. The treatment of the vegetation is not the same. The Englemere Hill artist has emphasised the outline of the trunks and branches and uses parallel lines to solidify them; the result is rather two-dimensional and the whole composition lacks depth. The sketchbook artist suggests branches and trunks by depicting the shadow and thus creates suggested mass, subtlety and movement.

“The sketchbook paintings have more depth as well as having a clearer sense of perspective. The enclosure wall in the Englemere Hill drawing is ‘not quite right’. The slight suggestion of shadow by the enclosure wall is also not matched by the two-dimensional treatment of the trees. In short, had the sketchbook artist executed the Englemere Hill drawing, I’m confident the whole treatment would have been different.

“I’d guess that the Englemere Hill sketch is by Arthur. [I think] that Clara had the better eye of the two – but it only emphasizes the touching possibility that this was a hobby husband and wife shared.”

Lawrence Edwards, who designed our book that included the sketches etc, took a similar view, although contradictory in part: “Guy makes a very good point; the style is quite different – but unlike Guy I find it a much better drawing, quite different to those in the rest of the book. Also the choice of portrait format as opposed to landscape is in itself, now I consider it, quite significant.”

So, accepting that Clara is the main artist, is this one sketch by Arthur? More views please!

Now for our next enquiries: what happened in wartime, and who is alive now, descended from the Hadleys?

Let’s reflect first on their lives. Arthur’s biog is set out in Blog 26, via the weblink in para 3, which details his career, but we can now add in some personal particulars. He was born in Kensington in 1870 and after school and his early career he married Clara in 1914. After the first war and the voyage to Cape Town, when we thought they might be living in Rhodesia, they were actually living on and off in Claygate in Surrey (ironically, no more than three miles from where we live today). They had a flat in Grosvenor House in the centre of London, too. As we know, they travelled to South Africa, probably several times, and 1937 Arthur added Rhodesia Railways to his directorships.

We know little about Clara. She was born in Macclesfield in Cheshire in 1875 and over the following years lived in Berkshire, Sutton and St Pancras and by 1911 was in a smart West Kensington flat in London. In 1907 her sister Mabel had married an Irish Baron to become Lady Trimlestown. The social column of the Irish Times puts Lady T at Leopardstown races in 1912 with her sister, “Miss Shuff” [Clara presumably] wearing “a grey coat and skirt and mauve hat”. So the Shuffs moved up in the world, though Mabel was to die in 1914. That same year Clara married Arthur at St Mary Abbots in Kensington, but so far we know nothing of the circumstances of their meeting.

We still do not know how Clara and Arthur were occupied during the war other than their locations as indicated by the sketchbook itinerary. After the war there’s no great commonality in the various addresses listed for them (were they estranged, perhaps?) but both died 1954, Arthur at Darsham House in Suffolk and Clara in hospital in London.

They had one son, Ronald, born in 1917, who died in 1968. His wife was Vera G Illsley (1915-1993) and they shared three children – but the first two were twins who died the month they were born, December 1946.

Their third daughter, Linda L A Hadley was born in 1951 and is hopefully still living. So far we haven’t been able to contact her so we would be very grateful for any news of where she lives now in the hope that we can talk to her about her grandmother, Clara. Linda was married at one time to a man named Evan T Rourke, so she may be known as Linda Rourke.

Somewhat more distant from Clara are descendants from Arthur’s sister Maud in what is now the Hamilton-Baillie family. They may also have helpful information about the Hadleys – Arthur, and his wife Clara.



Blog 28

29 December 2014

Further entry from John and Alicia Makin

Can it really be only a week plus a few days since since we were last here? So much has transpired and somehow we managed to fit in Christmas, too.

When we left we had finally convinced ourselves that our sketchbook had come from the Hadleys, “Clara” and Arthur. The mysterious Englemere Hill sketch had provided compelling (although still circumstantial) evidence of the link between the Hadleys and our sketchbook. The graphology showed that most of the annotations of the sketches were by “Clara”, so surely she was the main artist; but some of our assiduous followers were still uneasy as to who did which sketches, and worried about anomalies in the annotation.

Our hope then was to get in touch with Linda Hadley, granddaughter and nearest surviving relative of the Hadleys. Miraculously, last weekend a series of emails and phone calls led us to Linda and we were able to talk to her at her home deep in the countryside “a retired lady looking after retired horses”.

She was amazed by our call, knowing nothing of us, our sketchbook, the book we published about it or the website. But once she gathered what we were talking about she was able to confirm our thesis but with one massive adjustment: “Clara” – or Clare, as Linda tells us she was known – was not an artist at all. The sketches in our book may have been annotated by Clare, but the sketches themselves were by Arthur.

For a moment we go back to October 2013, when our book was at the design stage. As you can see if you flick back to Blog 1, the book’s designer, Lawrence Edwards, postulated that the mysterious “4” stencilled in the front of our book could indicate that it was one of a series.

He was right – for Linda has at least two of the others in the series, Book 2 and Book 6.

4 and 2

Book 2 is virtually identical to our book, although bound in black leather rather than blue; the gold motif which edges the inside of the binding is slightly different but plainly belongs to the same set; all three books are the same size.

And these two sketches from Book 2 are unmistakably in the same hand as the sketches in our Book 4.

Budleigh Salterton

Budleigh Salterton

>Woodcote Park

Woodcote Park

And Linda is quite certain as to the provenance of the sketches. “I grew up with these sketchbooks around me,” she says. “Arthur was the artist. He died when I was very young but his presence was always there through his pictures, and his father’s pictures and photographs too.”

Referring to the Balmoral Castle sketches, she says: “That’s Clare, standing by the ship’s rail.”

But how do we account for the handwriting being Clare’s on so many of the sketches? A telling clue comes from this very early sketch in Book 2 by Arthur on board the Lusitania as it headed for the US.


It is a relatively unsophisticated piece of draughtsmanship compared to the later sketches, but the most interesting element is the annotation: “about 1912”, it says – a caption plainly written with uncertainty some time after the drawing was completed. And that, Linda agrees, was probably the pattern. Arthur sketched but seldom annotated; Clare, pictured below, added the particulars, sometimes so far after the event that they were not certain as to the date.


Some mysteries remain: our art experts believe that the Englemere Hill sketch came from a different artist, so it seems likely that this was Clare trying her hand. We may never know. But one key enigma that we believe might still be resolved is the role played by the couple as they travelled the UK at the start of WW2, and what follows may help. These are jottings by Linda, an inventory, if you like, of the contents of Sketchbooks 2 and 6. We’ve arranged them chronologically, and added a few asides of our own [in square brackets].

Book 2

About 1912: The “Lusitania”
- New York (skyscrapers)
- Pikes Peak USA
- Rocky mountains, Colorado
1/6/18: Kensington Gardens (house)
2/6/18: Ranelagh (lake)
13/6/18: Sheffield (factories)
16/6/18: Ranelagh (lake)
1918: Ronnie in Hyde Park
1918/Sidmouth (Ronnie and Clare? on beach)
- Camouflage ships off Sidmouth
- Sidmouth (Harbour)
- Budleigh Salterton (beach)
August 1918: Exeter cathedral (interior)
10/5/19: Milton Abbey, Dorset (exterior)
June 10 1919: Seaplane blown ashore at Sandbanks
June 1919: “Westridge” sandbanks mouth of Poole harbour (Yacht)
- Corfu (sketches with yacht)
June 30 1919: The royal yacht
9/8/1919: Woodcote park (trees)
September 1919: “The Highlands” Stroud Glos.)
October 1 1919: Cromer (Landscape)
October 5 1919: The Gangway, Cromer (view)
June 1920: “Stadt Antwerpen”, Dover Ostend
June 1920: La grande place, Brussels
June 1920: Ruins of Cloth Hall, Ypres
June 1920: “The Vindictive” at the mouth of Ostend harbour
4/7/1920: Ivy farm, Overstrand
21/7/20 : Ivy farm, Overstrand
6 July 20: Mundersley (windmill)
August 1920: Cromer (street view)
August 24 1920: Blickling Hall
September 6/1920: Baths

Book 6

21/8/39: Coltishall mill
- Yachts
August 1939: Ludham (windmill)
1939: “Prairie Star” (boat)
16/5/40: A wave, Cooden beach [Sussex; the last sketch before the “wartime sketches” begin in  Book 4]
October 16/17 1940: bomb crater Losebury [one of the houses where the Hadley family lived in Claygate, Surrey; it is the only sketch from Book 6 that is within the timeframe of the “wartime sketches” in Book 4]
8/7/42: Harlech Castle [this is a kind of “continuation” from the “wartime sketches” which finish with an undated sketch of Harlech Castle immediately after the Cockington sketch dated May 20 1942]
1/9/42: The Wye from Ross
3/9/42 Ross on Wye
September 1942 Bude (beach)
September 1942 Bude (cliffs)
20/4/43: Woodcote Park [interesting: Woodcote Park is the RAC’s country club (see below), and the Club’s official history says that Woodcote Park was a farm “for the duration”]
24/3/43: “Good Friday” Cromer (church)
24/4/43: Cromer (church)
August 23 1943: Devon coast from Exmouth
31 August 1943: Hayes Barton, East Budleigh, Devon; Birthplace of Sir Walter Raleigh (House)
September 4 1943: Exeter Cathedral (exterior)
October 1 1943: York
23 October 1943: Windermere from low wood
February 1944: Budleigh Salterton (beach)
February 1944Budleigh Salterton (fishing boats)
June 1944: Oatlands Park Hotel [Weybridge, Surrey], Cedars of Lebanon planted by the son of Charles the first
July 1944: explosion of flying bomb broke dining room windows
September 24 1944: Worcester (street view)
October 11 1944: Rock (boat/seascape)
October 18 1944: Padstow from rock (seascape)
May 8 1945: Bournemouth (beach)
June 1945: University tower, Bristol
18/7/45: Burhill the 12th (house) [Surrey golf club]
- Kynance cove
October 1945: High tide Westward Ho!
October 1945: Bideford (landscape)
- Valley of the rocks, Lynton
1945: Lynmouth (harbour)
Easter ???? 1946 Cromer (view)
July 1946: Flualece? Switzerland (landscape)
July 1946: Baden Switzerland (landscape)
3/8/46: Langdale Pike, Windermere
5/8/1946: At Ambleside (boats)
7/8/46: C.L.H crossing the Troutbeck above Low Wood hotel
17/8/1946: Britannia barracks, Norfolk regiment, Norwich
- yacht
September 7 1947: From Sheringham golf lawns towards Weybourne
Jan 1948: Oatlands Park Hotel
February 22/1948 Oatlands Park Hotel
August 1949: Overstrand (traction engine with threshing machine)

So, there’s lots to be chewed upon in this chronology: it may be fragmentary, but it provides a panorama of the lives and times of the Hadleys in the first half of the last century. But to us, of course, what isn’t in the chronology is almost more intriguing than what is: what were Arthur and his wife doing in 1940-42 when “our” sketches in Lincolnshire, Cornwall, Scotland etc were produced?

The Hadley family lived in Darsham in Suffolk after the war, an area at the heart of radar research (there was a massive mast in Darsham itself), and Bawdsey, a few miles down the road, was home to the first fully operational radar station in the world. The chain of evidence linking this to Stenigot and on to other venues which Arthur sketched, all close to RAF/radar establishments is still weak, but as implied in the previous para it is the absence of information about the Hadleys’ activities in those years which makes us believe there are more discoveries yet to be made in our searchings. We were surprised earlier in the hunt by the shortage of information from the RAF, but now we have a name, we shall enquire again.

A couple of personal notes to conclude: we thought that the artist was probably living in Rhodesia between the wars. How wrong could we be? The Hadleys were actually in Claygate, no more than three miles from where we live in Surrey.

And one of our blogs explored the mystery artist’s possible links to golf and these postulations have turned out to be well founded. Says Linda: “It was Clare who was the golfer – we have a cup from a tournament somewhere. Perhaps he sketched while she went round the greens!”

The coincidence here is extraordinary: many of the golfing venues mentioned in the chronology – Woodcote Park, Burhill, Oatlands Park, Sheringham – are familiar territory to quite a number of those who have been contributing to these columns, and three of us (JM, David Lowe and John Edney) play golf regularly at Woodcote Park, sketched at least twice by Arthur. When the search began in earnest again some months back, JM in vain scoured the Royal Automobile Club archives in Pall Mall to try to find a match to any passengers on the Balmoral Castle. Now a fresh search reveals that he was a member there from 1919 until his death in 1954.

PS: there’s a follow up piece by Patrick Sawer about our findings in the “Sunday Telegraph” this week; we’ll have a weblink for it shortly but meantime you can read a slightly longer version of it on the Electronic Telegraph:

Blog 29

27 January 2015

Being yet another entry from John and Alicia Makin

First, meet the man . . .


Yes, it’s Arthur Edward busy at his easel, on a beach in Cornwall, we think. It’s a picture found by his granddaughter Linda as she trawled though her memorabilia. She’s also found two golf trophies won by Clare.

One is somewhat prosaically engraved The Royal Cromer Golf Club 1948, but the other is of more interest: it’s The Lady Betty Trafford Challenge Cup for 1931. The ladies of Norfolk still compete for a trophy under that name today, and it’s for the best 36 holes gross (ie “scratch” – ignoring handicaps). If the format was the same back in 1931 (and it probably was) then it would have been won by one of the very best lady golfers in the county, which means that Clare was a player of considerable ability, even aged 50-plus as she was in 1931. Coming shortly, we hope: some examples of Linda’s own art.

Back in Blog 27 we mentioned the Hamilton-Baillie family, descended from Arthur’s sister Maud, and we’ve now had some correspondence with Maud’s grandson Tom Hamilton-Baillie, a cousin to Linda. Amongst his remarks:

“If I am not mistaken, Arthur Hadley was my great uncle, so I am pleased that your research helps me to bring to life a person in my family whom, so far, I knew very little about. 

“My assumption is that A E Hadley was a son of Edward Hadley QC, brother to my grandmother Maud, later Baillie, and brother too to another very talented and adventurous Hadley, Frederick Augustus (died 1961). Interestingly, Fred Hadley was a good watercolourist too, though I rely on my late father’s reminiscence for this judgement.”

In a later note he continued:

“I am not, sadly, able to help you answer your question about Arthur’s wartime activities. I [have] very little information on my grandmother’s siblings and I very much doubt that any documents among the family papers in my possession [will] reveal any more than you know already.  

“My grandparents, Richard and Maud H-B, lived in Clifton, Bristol at 10 Hughenden Road after Richard left the Army in 1922. My father, Jock (never called John), their only child, was brought up in Bristol in fairly modest circumstances. Richard and Maud do not appear to have been very sociable. Maud, whom I remember only rather faintly as a distant and austere elderly lady, played little part in our lives. We had no connection to any of my father’s family though there were quite a few living in Britain.

“It was my mother’s family that provided playmates for us and my parents’ frequent guests. The only uncles on my father’s side I ever heard mentioned were Uncle Fred (AEH’s younger brother) and an Uncle Jack and Aunt Daisy Baillie. Some Baillie cousins living in Canada, with whom I am still in infrequent touch, were also occasionally spoken of. But of Arthur himself or Clara/Clare nothing was ever said.”

Then in a third note Tom proffers these thoughts on AEH’s role in WW2.

“My speculation is that AEH took on some kind of inspectorate role in the war dealing with administration and or power supply in home, maritime, land or air defence. As he was quite elderly, a quite well-found and a responsible citizen, he [might have taken] on this work pro-bono but [perhaps]obtained, in return, permission for Clare to accompany him, perhaps as his unpaid driver.”

One result of Tom making contact – a delight for us – is that he and his “long lost” cousin Linda are now in touch, and, who knows, a reunion could be on the horizon.

Finally as a coda comes this from Tom.

“I have been fossicking in the back of a seldom used cupboard and found a photograph album. I have seen it once before, years ago, but had forgotten all about it. It was, I presume, my grandmother Maud’s [Arthur Hadley’s sister].”

From the album Tom offers these two pictures, one of Arthur, the other of Clare (confirmed by Linda) showing off her golf swing.

Arthur and Clare

Blog 30

14 March 2015

Being a further entry from John and Alicia Makin

We continue to dig, snapping away at any unconsidered trifles which might lead us to solving the mystery of the Hadleys’ early wartime activities. But alas, since the euphoria of our Christmas success no further gifts have fallen into our laps.

We do however have one treat for fans of this site – [click here to view it]. It’s a presentation by granddaughter Linda Hadley of her own work, with a written commentary. Enjoy!

Two asides: Linda has included a picture of her friend Nel Garnett at “Wolfhall” in Wiltshire – sometimes called Wulfhall – and, yes, it links back to the eponymous manor which was home to the Seymours in Tudor times that now features as the title of Hilary Mantel’s first novel in her trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. And there’s an affectionate piece about Nel and her three sisters (of “Bloomsbury” lineage) by Liz Hodgkinson at

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