Richard Dormant | “The Peculiarity of Algernon Newton, Daniel Katz Gallery, London, review” | 2012

Algernon Newton, "Spring Morning Campden Hill"

Algernon Newton, “Spring Morning Campden Hill”

Excerpts from Richard Dormant’s November 2012 review of an Algernon Newton retrospective published in the The Telegraph. Algernon Newton was Robert Newton’s father, a painter.

Juxtapose with Robert Newton’s character, the painter Lukey, in Odd Man Out.


Invalided out of the Army in 1916, divorced and living apart from his children, at a low moment he was reduced to selling his paintings on street corners, so ashamed of his failure that he pretended to be disabled, and wore a mask to disguise his identity. By the time he was 40, he had long been familiar with what the 19th-century critics Jules and Edmond de Goncourt described as “the bohemia that embitters”. […] Read the rest of this entry »


P. Jacobs | “An Interesting Experiment Described,” Sight and Sound | 1945

this happy breed

Celia Johnson in This Happy Breed (1944)

G.T.C. Film Group, Sight and Sound, 14:54 (1945: July), p. 59.

P. Jacobs describes the result of his experiment. He took groups of teenage girl cadets to the movies, and discussed with them whether or not they gained anything from the cinema. Note his summary of the girls’ evaluation of This Happy Breed, especially how it relates to war, and Robert Newton. In particular, the girls see the description of the car accident as not properly belonging to the movie. [war and the garden] Additionally, they see the movie as specifically being apart from the many war films produced around the same time.


“I started the Rickmansworth G.T.C. Film Group, because I wanted to find out whether the girls gained anything from going to the cinema, or if they merely went as an escapist pastime without using their sense of judgment. The majority of the 30 cadets all between 15 1/2 and 18 1/2, I discovered visit the cinema once a week, quite a number twice a week, and a few even more frequently. […] The following films were selected: This Happy Breed, Going My Way, Song of Bernadette and Rebecca. […]

The Discussion. General: It was generally considered a very good English film. The acting was marvellous, and the technicolour such that you could look at the film without getting eye-ache.

The voting on the film was as follows:– Outstanding – no votes; Very Good – 21 votes; Good – 4 votes; Fair – 1 vote. Read the rest of this entry »

D.A. Yerrill | “On Charts and Horses,” Sight and Sound | 1947

restoration still from

Stills showing BFI restoration.

Below is an excerpt from D.A. Yerrill writing in 1947 Sight and Sound. He diagnoses a failure of leadership in British cinema, and paraphrases Robert Newton’s call for “bloody revolution” in Yellow Sands. Note that Newton mentions “bloody revolution” in This Happy Breed, and in the editing process the word “bloody” is carefully muted. Note also the discussion of censoring wicked lines.


Of course, the new era of the British cinema has produced films that are good– a lot of them are very good– very good in the tradition they have just created. But the tradition is bad. Read the rest of this entry »

Allan D. English | “A Predisposition to Cowardice? Aviation Psychology and the Genesis of ‘Lack of Moral Fibre'” | 1995

Sigmund Freud

“Lack of Moral Fibre” (LMF) applied to aircrew in WW2 was controversial, and the threat of being labeled LMF could inspire as much fear as operations against the enemy.

This article traces the origins of LMF from WW1 antecedents, through interwar years, into early WW2.

Bartlett, founding member in 1939 of the Flying Personnel Research Committee (FPRC) was one of Britain’s most distinguished psychologists, w/major contribution = comprehensive use of Freudian theory to explain psychological disorders of war. He stated that temperament, which he described as an “endowment,” was most important factor for individual adaptation to military. Said that “weaklings,” described as mentally unfit personnel,” should “be eliminated” from the services. He emphasized that personal will, based on temperament, allowed soldiers to combat mental illness. Read the rest of this entry »

Nafsika Thalassis | “Useless Soldiers: The Dilemma of Discharging Mentally Unfit Soldiers during the Second World War” | 2010

Intelligence test world war 1

Intelligence test administered to soldiers during WW1.

Summary. During the Second World War, an unprecedented concern with the mental fitness of troops led to new selection procedures designed to ensure that soldiers possessed a certain level of intelligence and emotional stability. Using a variety of sources, including case notes from contemporary psychiatrists, this article explores two categories of soldiers who were up for discharge: those with “low intelligence” and those with “inadequate personalities.” It suggests that many psychiatrists and combatant officers did not believe it was wise to retain the maximum number of soldiers in duty because many men were thought to be inherently incapable of becoming efficient soldiers.

Mass military deployment during 20th century brought w/it conclusion that some men were unsuitable for military service. Boer War, WW1 = men with deficient height, puny physique. After WW1, it was mental qualities that fell under particular scrutiny.

This article examines two categories of men who were discharged during the Second World War for psychological inadequacies. 1) those w/”low intelligence” 2) those w/”inadequate personalities.” People were discharged for other reasons, too. The purpose of this article is to examine these 2 categories of men, whose values as soldiers, for the first time, became questioned for the first time during WW2. Read the rest of this entry »

Matthew Hendley | “‘Help us to Secure a Strong, Healthy, Prosperous and Peaceful Britain’: The Social Arguments of the Campaign for Compulsory Military Service in Britain, 1899-1914” | 2001

William Le Quex The Invasion of 1910

Image from William Le Quex’s anti-German invasion fantasy The Invasion of 1910 (1906), a phenomenal bestseller.
“COPY OF THE ‘DAILY BULLETIN’ OF THE LEAGUE OF DEFENDERS. […] Those chosen knew that their last hour had come. Some clasped their hands and fell upon their knees, imploring pity, while others remained silent and stubborn patriots.”

Summary: The National Service League was a pressure group which argued the case for compulsory military service in Britain between 1899-1914. Initial impetus for its creation was Boer War. Concerns over British military strength, and existing schemes of recruitment, led to creation in 1902. Social arguments linking conscription to health Britain grew from fears of physical deterioration which arose from Boer War. Before 1906, National Service League pamphlets and speeches pointed to Germany as model nation combining compulsory military service with social reform. British conscription movement insisted conscription was not a departure from peaceful British traditions. Switzerland pointed to as model society.

Of all major industrialized nations of Europe before 1914, only Britain without some system of compulsory military service.

National Service League pamphlet, 1909: “Help us to secure a strong, healthy, prosperous and peaceful Britain.” Called on British citizens to join conscription movement in a wide reaching scheme which would have a variety of benefits for the nation.

This essay will examine how the conscriptionists tried to widen the scope of their appeal.


It is impossible to understand the mentality and development of the conscription movement without realizing how deeply its members were shaken by the Boer War. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephen M. Miller | “Duty or Crime? Defining Acceptable Behavior in the British Army in South Africa, 1899-1902” | 2010

Herbert Kitchener

Kitchener on horseback in The Queenslander Pictorial in 1910.

Crime committed in South Africa by British army during Anglo-Boer conflict kept hidden from public. Comments by Daily Mail’s Edgar Wallace were typical: “Whatever may be said of the Anglo-Boer War or 1899-1902, it must be confessed that never was war waged where so much humanity was displayed on both sides as in that war!” Notion reinforced three decades later, J.F.C. Fuller, The Last of the Gentleman’s Wars.

One subject that remains virtually untouched by historians of the South African War is the subject of discipline and punishment in the British army. This study shows that the army defined crime and punishment not simply to produce obedience but also to satisfy the moral conventions of Victorian society wherever it was transmitted.

Recidivism was a universal problem and drunkenness often was a gateway to more disturbing crimes. [See Alan Ramsay Skelley’s groundbreaking work in the 1970s, including The Victorian Army at Home: The Recruitment and Terms and Conditions of the British Regular, 1859-1899. Kitchener Read the rest of this entry »