The international growth and influence of bioethics has led some to identify it as a decisive shift in the location and exercise of 'biopower'. This book provides an in-depth study of how philosophers, lawyers and other 'outsiders' came to play a major role in discussing and helping to regulate issues that used to be left to doctors and scientists. It discusses how club regulation stemmed not only from the professionalising tactics of doctors and scientists, but was compounded by the 'hands-off' approach of politicians and professionals in fields such as law, philosophy and theology. The book outlines how theologians such as Ian Ramsey argued that 'transdisciplinary groups' were needed to meet the challenges posed by secular and increasingly pluralistic societies. It also examines their links with influential figures in the early history of American bioethics. The book centres on the work of the academic lawyer Ian Kennedy, who was the most high-profile advocate of the approach he explicitly termed 'bioethics'. It shows how Mary Warnock echoed governmental calls for external oversight. Many clinicians and researchers supported her calls for a 'monitoring body' to scrutinise in vitro fertilisation and embryo research. The growth of bioethics in British universities occurred in the 1980s and 1990s with the emergence of dedicated centres for bioethics. The book details how some senior doctors and bioethicists led calls for a politically-funded national bioethics committee during the 1980s. It details how recent debates on assisted dying highlight the authority and influence of British bioethicists.
To celebrate his eighteenth birthday, Geoff Falk planned to visit relatives in Liverpool. Clouding his anticipated enjoyment was his ‘unhappiness’ that his older brother, Cecil, could not share the day with him. Cecil, an officer serving on the Balkan front, reassured his sibling that there was no need to rein in his pleasure. Such gestures were unnecessary, given his confidence in the enduring strength of their bond. ‘You & I miss one another very much,’ he wrote, ‘we have always been equals & always shall be.’1 Other accounts too attest not only to the depth of brotherly bonds but also to their significance as loving relationships. Given the relative youth of serving men in the Great War, established ties to siblings held greater emotional salience. Close relationships among adult siblings can be traced back to their childhood experiences.2 Patterns established in childhood and adolescence extended into wartime behaviours.3 Brotherly relationships appear to have been significant, providing emotional and practical sustenance. By examining the personal narratives of men who had a close, affectionate bond with at least one male sibling, this chapter explores how men experienced and expressed brotherly love and brothering. Comparing pre-war childhood and wartime accounts of brotherly ‘love’ enables us to trace how emotional practices and values instilled at an early age continued into adulthood.
Not only a brother but a good friend
Accounts of close fraternal relationships often suffer from a double absence: the absence of appropriate language to describe these bonds and their relative rarity in autobiographical accounts. Some parents actively discouraged children from wearing their hearts on their sleeves. When relating these non-romantic relationships, men rarely expressed their feelings explicitly in terms of love, struggling to find adequate words to demonstrate their affection. Sisters experienced a similar restraint, Naomi Haldane professing that her older brother Jack was ‘the person I loved best – though I never formulated this’.4 Absorption of family values did not make the expression of fraternal closeness less problematic for men and women. With a nod to respectability, the working-class parents of Sidney M. encouraged him to behave in a ‘gentlemanly way’ towards his four brothers and three sisters. Reviewing these bonds from the emotional landscape of the late 1960s, Sidney tentatively broached their emotional tenor. The siblings, he explained, had to ‘sort of love each other’.5 Claire Langhamer ably shows how the central years of the twentieth century were essential in fashioning the ‘primacy of love’ in romantic relationships.6 Even after this language entered the discourse of intimacy, Sidney M. found it difficult to apply, without qualification, to his siblings. The ‘stickiness’ of values assimilated during childhood held fast when he reflected on familial bonds.
Despite these restraints, many men wrote openly about the closeness of their fraternal relationships. Regarding ‘love’ as the preserve of romantic or paternal relations, or simply as an alien or unmanly way to express their feelings, men typically used terms such as closeness, affection or friendship when describing fraternal ties.7 James Naylor and his brother were ‘very, very close’. Arthur Stapleton wrote of the ‘deep bond of affection’ between himself and his older brother.8 Siblings of a similar age more often bonded through physical proximity and shared activities. Tom Denning, the future Master of the Rolls, and his brother Gordon, a mere twenty months his senior, ‘did everything together’.9 Friendship proved a natural motif to explain the essence of brotherly bonds. The nine-year age gap between Frank Lindley and his older brother Harry did not prevent them from becoming inseparable ‘pals’ who used ‘to go all over together’ when Harry was home on leave.10 Other brothers expressed their closeness through their solidarity as a unit or a tight-knit group. The six brothers of one working-class household were ‘all for each other’.11
Within large families, closeness sometimes appeared as a sub-grouping within the sibling hierarchy. Adverse living conditions forged bonds. The scourge of living with a drunk father who beat his children brought about a particularly close bond between Herbert and Alice B., who laughed and cried together. This created a distinct familial split, as Alice believed that the three younger children never suffered the same abusive treatment.12 Perspectives on these dynamics depended on men and women’s place in the birth order. John E. disagreed with his sister’s belief that the three eldest of their family of seven shared the closest bond. Rather, the experiences of war created an artificial division, only the older siblings knowing a childhood before wartime shortages and rationing.13 The durability of particular sibling relationships provided further testimony as to their strength. A building labourer and his second-eldest brother sustained their ‘long friendship’ all their lives.14 The strong bond of togetherness shaped by parental expectation supported Emily Y. and her elder sister throughout distinct life stages. They remained the ‘best of friends’ through their respective courtships and marriages, and the births of their children.15 Expectations that sibling relationships would endure throughout individuals’ lives were thus cemented in childhood, helping to explain the special nature of fraternal loss explored in Chapters 5 and 6.
Occasionally, fraternal affection was expressed with unexpected openness. After spending a ‘delightful’ day in London with his brother on 24 May 1914, Bruce Cummings (writing under the nom de plume W. N. P. Barbellion) was expansive in his description of the ‘unassailable love’ he held for his brother:
He is the most delightful creature and I love him more than anyone else in the whole world. There is an almost feminine tenderness in my love … it’s like the law of gravity, you cannot dispute it, it underlies our existence, it is the air we breathe.16
Cummings acknowledges manly codes of affection within this description, placing it on the boundary of masculine/feminine expressions of emotion. He balances this by emphasising the innate naturalness of their love. Outsiders, not privy to the intricacies of this specific bond, might not appreciate their mutual affection, as the brothers enjoyed testing each other to the point where it appeared they were quarrelling bitterly. The juxtaposition between the ‘almost feminine’ interior feelings Cummings held for his brother, as compared with their public verbal jousting, shows the complexity of understanding intimate fraternal bonds.
Affection for siblings tipped over into hero worship. Growing up in Harrogate, the siblings of Ronald W. regarded him ‘as something wonderful’. As the eldest of five, he performed his role as ‘Big Brother’ by doling out pocket money to his much younger siblings.17 The distance of age and employment conferred a quality of wonder that closer proximity in age often dissolved. Suzie F. drew a correlation between the provision of family treats and her fondness for her younger brother Sammy. When Sammy came home on leave, he was their ‘hero’, not for his war service but for his largesse in giving his siblings ‘pennies to spend’ and buying fruit and chestnuts to roast on the fire.18 The sibling ‘heroism’ on display in these accounts is far removed from the typical masculine role models of military heroism or familial breadwinning. Providing treats, an injection of fun into family life, out of fairly meagre wages elevated these acts into particular acts of fraternal devotion.19
Parental counsel to children to get on, not to quarrel and to be friends was an essential part of establishing a ‘happy’ family life.20 Parental disapproval of squabbling and fighting fed into men’s understanding and description of fraternal relationships and may have contributed to the relative lack of negative accounts in men’s narratives. As the son of one Yorkshire coal miner stated, there was ‘no falling out’ among the siblings.21 Rather, a differentiation was made between run-of-the-mill tiffs and squabbles and prohibited ‘fallings out’. Having each other’s backs formed the core of sibling cohesion. Close ties were defined indirectly in terms of an absence of conflict or friction. For some, fighting was part of the rough and tumble of daily life. Arthur Stapleton would fight ‘with all the fury of deadly antagonist’ with his brother, but could not recall ‘ever having any unkind or bitter thoughts’ against him.22 Joe Ackerley recalled his older brother Peter being ‘fond and proud of me’. Their compatibility illustrated by the fact that they ‘never quarrelled over anything’.23 Such behaviours did not dilute the intellectual cut and thrust enjoyed by brothers and sisters. After his sibling’s death, it was a sad ‘comfort’ to Gilbert Chesterton to remember that although perpetually arguing, the brothers ‘never quarrelled’.24
There were limits to the acceptance of rough play as part and parcel of family life. Outright bullying was regarded as a breach of familial values and quoted as a reason for sibling rifts.25 John K. presented a rare example of a sibling frankly admitting to bullying a younger brother. Going ‘against all the rules’, he was unfriendly and ‘nasty’ to his younger brother at prep and public school. It is unclear what ‘rules’ John is referring to. Although familial and official school norms would not have condoned such behaviour, at this intersection with the community of his educational peers John may have felt obliged to display different character traits so as to distinguish himself from a ‘weaker’ sibling. One plausible catalyst was John’s embarrassment at his sibling’s visible distress at the station when leaving for school, compounding his fear that any association with similar displays of ‘blubbing’ might cause him further humiliation.26 While the chivalric ethos of public schools emphasised fair play and team spirit, many memoirs attest to the misery of schooldays. Cheek-by-jowl living incubated bullying. Teachers turned a blind eye believing it to be part of boys’ character building.27 John not only contravened his family’s values by acting in this way but also disregarded the fraternal model of his eldest brother, who had acted in a ‘fatherly’ way towards him at school.28
Siblings extended welcome security. Peter Ackerley protected his brother at Rossall School, determined to spare his sibling from his own experience of being held down, being spat at and having ink poured into his mouth.29 Charles Gee experienced the old-fashioned bullying practices of ‘roasting’ and ‘ragging’ at Durham School. Later, he believed a combination of the war and his elder brother’s influence as head of house, along with others of his peer group, helped to put an end to this ‘real Tom Brown’s schooldays stuff’.30 The house or ‘domus’ of school life played an integral role in the ‘hardening’ of young boys.31 As head of house, Gee’s brother had the potential to shape what was deemed acceptable behaviour. Regardless of whether his claim can be substantiated, Gee places his brother among the generation of adolescents and young men decrying the sham of the public-school spirit and its fictional depiction in schoolboy literature. In 1917, Alec Waugh, older brother of the novelist Evelyn, published The Loom of Youth.32 Based on his experiences at Sherborne, the book exposed the homosexuality, cheating and bullying that were rife in so many public schools.33 Waugh was partially inspired by an earlier book by Arnold Lunn, advertised by its publisher as ‘the most truthful book about school life ever published’. Lunn presented a similarly unsentimental view of life at Harrow, based on his school diaries.34 A reformist mindset questioning the militaristic ‘character factories’ of the public schools was developing among their alumni in the early twentieth century.
Contraventions of familial or societal codes regarding good siblinghood resulted in negative expressions of fraternal relations. Drunkenness, with its long-standing correlation with ‘unmanly’ disreputability, was a disruptive and abusive force within households. One son of a widowed farmer was regarded as the ‘good boy’ of the family as compared to his older brother, who drank.35 Drinking not only depleted household income but potentially exposed other members to acts of aggression or abuse. Parental interventions were taken against lesser breaches of family codes. Believing his ‘harum-scarum’ son was a bad influence on his two younger brothers, an engineer father arranged an apprenticeship for him as a midshipman.36 The removal of a malignant fraternal influence reinforced parental values. This seemingly draconian measure may have been prompted by the four-year engineering apprenticeships introduced by the reforming Selborne Scheme in 1902. Placing his wayward son in a disciplined environment where he would receive a guaranteed technical education would have seemed to be a pragmatic solution.
‘I copied him in many ways’
Siblings were sometimes a more visible presence in the lives of brothers and sisters, able to promulgate parental and personal standards. Older siblings were helpful in mediating the norms of communities less familiar to their parents. This generational influence may explain the consistent assimilation of parental values across all classes, contributing to the commonalities among fighting men that have been observed by Roper.37 Men from middle- and upper-class families more often equated these explicitly under the category of ‘gentlemanly’ behaviour.38 The son of a Chester stockbroker recalled the values espoused by his parents as coming under the umbrella of courtesy, comprising ‘cleanliness, honesty, decent manners, kindness’.39 He attested to the positive influence of older brothers as role models and reinforcers of familial codes, stating, ‘I think I learnt more from my older brothers about my behaviour as a boy’. Similarly, Peter E. described his elder brother when at Charterhouse as embodying the conforming characteristics of a ‘perfect young English schoolboy’, exemplified by athleticism, character and decorum.40 Older brothers from all classes shouldered the responsibility of embodying correct values. In turn, young brothers sought to emulate the example set by their older siblings. Graham L. got on ‘wonderfully well’ with his older brother, who assisted him with his schoolwork and the labour examination he needed to pass to leave school aged twelve. Consequently, Graham ‘thought a good deal’ of his brother and ‘copied him in many ways’.41 Brothers reciprocated the consideration shown by their male siblings by replicating their behaviours.
Ever conscious of their brotherly duty to enforce family values, some older brothers were meticulous in carrying them out. Whether this was done in a friendly or authoritarian manner depended on personality and the quirks of each brotherly bond. Apart from instilling standards in his younger brother, Cecil wanted Eric, his youngest brother, to obtain a scholarship to Repton public school, a achievement that would serve the dual purpose of showcasing academic prowess and alleviating the financial burden which the brothers’ education placed on their father. To further this aim, Cecil meted out praise as well as rebukes. When Eric won two prizes at Heath Mount School, Cecil congratulated him on his ‘excellent undertaking’. Regardless of this success, Cecil refused to let his sibling rest on his laurels, urging Eric to match the exacting standards achieved by his elder brothers. He concluded his letter, ‘mind you become head of school before you leave’.42 This carrot-and-stick approach to brothering illustrates the attention that fighting men attached to family values, finances and ambitions. The middle Falk brother, Geoff, ordinarily wrote affectionately to Eric. This did not prevent him from admonishing his sibling for irregular correspondence. Geoff expressed his irritation through his demands for a detailed response:
I asked you a lot of questions in my last letter, but you have not answered them. Apparently Dr Stocks is not teaching you. Why is this? How many music teachers are there this term? & what is the organisation – group lessons or what? Do let me know.43
Apart from his inherent interest in his brother’s activities, Geoff displayed his continued investment in school life. For some middle-class men with a more positive experience of their schooldays than those mentioned earlier, shared memories created a strong nostalgic bond with their younger brothers. Exchanges concerning former schoolmasters, houses, friends and sporting activities permeate their letters. Schools were active in promoting and sustaining these ties through newsletters, creating a thriving virtual community with their soldier-alumni.44
Parents relied on their combatant-sons to continue to perform their roles as advisors or reinforcers of parental values at a distance. Arthur Sadd wrote a fourteen-page letter to his younger sister, Gladys, after she returned home, homesick, from a position in domestic service. Sharing his mother’s and elder sister’s dismay, Arthur does his utmost to convince Gladys to ‘stick it out’. This was the second time Gladys had returned home. On this occasion Arthur reacted strongly after his mother forwarded a number of Gladys’s letters, leveraging his own experience to reassure his sibling that the first month is the worst. Gradually, as he did, she would come to feel at ‘Home’. Second, he appealed to her sense of duty, reminding Gladys that he had no choice but to ‘“stick it” & “stick it” again’. At length, Sadd compared Gladys’s circumstances in a decent family with his own life, living and sleeping in wet trenches or cold billets, unable to dry his clothes and eating poor food:
What would you think of being away from home under such conditions! Why kiddie you’re in clover & bedside you’ll often be able to get home when you want to as I did ... Still if you still feels you must go home at xmas [sic] go by all means you may not be made of such tough stuff as I am.45
In his final retort, Arthur threw down a gauntlet to his sister, using his brotherly knowledge to pick away at her resistance to returning to her situation. The effort that Arthur makes to convince his sister of her obligation to persevere is considerable, even to the extent of using one of his ‘precious green envelopes’ to underline how seriously he took his fraternal responsibilities. Arthur utilises fraternal confidences as a means of displaying his emotional cognition of his younger sister’s position and engendering her trust. Drawing on his own struggles, he tries to guide his sibling through a troublesome rite of passage.
Ever since he could remember, Percy Cearns had shared the same room with his brother Fred.46 They grew up in a family of thirteen in Plaistow, East London, and the potency of joint intimacy remained into their adult lives, giving them emotional sustenance during wartime. Percy described one companionable night which the siblings spent behind the front line. ‘One groundsheet and Fred’s overcoat and the hard ground’ made a poor substitute for their bed in the cosiness of their East London home. Being so close to his brother, an embodied reminder of home life, brought tears to his eyes. The shielding presence of his brother soothed Percy’s restlessness: ‘When I found his arm thrown round me as if protecting, imagine my feelings—I cannot describe them.’47 Percy depicts what Das calls the ‘transmission of the wonderful assurance of being alive’ via the medium of touch.48 Although the hand has been singled out as the most conscious point of contact between the individual and the surrounding world, the special intimacy of body-to-body contact cannot be overstated.49 On their initial meeting, the Cearns brothers greeted each other with a hearty handshake. In slumber, they reverted to a remembered childhood embrace.
Sleeping spaces helped to form and reinforce fraternal bonds, proximity cementing a fundamental bodily familiarity.50 Significantly, bodily contact is also a primary means of fostering loyalty, trust and unity within army units.51 This motif was replicated in accounts of sisterhood, with women sharing beds until separated by work or marriage.52 The family practice of sharing beds outlived childhood and became an engrained part of family memories. Growing up in the Rhondda Valley, Cadoc L. felt closest to Telor, his second-eldest brother. Integral to this was the physical intimacy of bed sharing, as he tried to explain:
I used to think that [Telor] was my ideal … and I used to look up to him so much you know. And he used to care for me for a lot too ... He would look after me you know … and he would – take care of me you see … And we slept together. Oh yes, we did. Oh indeed. That’s right, yes, yes. That’s right. Perhaps that was the reason.53
Cadoc’s hesitations indicate the difficulty of expressing fraternal love. Sibling practices provided him with a shorthand for his sibling bond. Similarly, when explaining her closeness to her eldest sister, one domestic servant condensed it into their sharing a double bed.54 Bed sharing was not restricted to infants and children. Roderick L. slept in the same bed as his older brother while they were still ‘quite big lads’, stopping only when his brother volunteered in 1914.55
Shared bedrooms and beds were domestic spaces where brothers and sisters slept, talked, read and played. Sharing was prevalent across all classes in the pre-war years.56 Within rural and urban lower-middle- and working-class dwellings, overcrowding was an ineluctable feature of family living.57 The habitual nature of sleeping with siblings made this an unremarkable feature of childhood. From the 1850s onwards, advice manuals exerted ‘moral pressure’ upon middle-class mothers to place the correct amount of distance between themselves and their children.58 As a result, the nursery and bedrooms became distinct spaces in upper- and middle-class households. The companionship and affinity between Irene Rathbone’s semi-autobiographical siblings in We That Were Young is flagged up at the start of the novel. Jimmy Seddon still treated the former nursery, now his elder sister’s sitting room, as though equally his.59 Similarly, the war artist Paul Nash remembered the nurseries at the top of the family’s Kensington house as being the happiest part of the household.60 The private space of the bedroom fostered intimacy, and the routine of sharing bedtime stories and secrets carried on into adulthood. When Do Dodsworth returned home after an absence, she shared her sister Eve’s bedroom for almost three weeks before returning to her own room, leaving her sister ‘lonely again’.61 Percy Cearns lay in bed at night, exchanging ‘little confidences’ with his brother, right up to the time Fred left for the battlefield.62 Their room formed a retreat where they spent ‘many hours alone’.63 Empty beds and bedrooms later became a poignant reminder of brotherly loss. When Arthur Stapleton returned home, the ‘joyous occasion’ was tinged with grief. Moved to find his bedroom ‘neat and tidy’, Arthur was saddened that his brother would never share it with him again.64
Bodily weakness aroused brothers’ protective instincts. Percy Cearns was a bit of a ‘lame dog’ as a youngster. The elder by only twenty-one months, his brother Fred referred to him as ‘Young Percy’ and kept a ‘paternal eye’ on him.65 Fred’s sympathy and caring manifested when he ‘sheltered’ Percy with his coat on the way to school when winter winds made Percy ‘gasp for breath’. This attentiveness was mirrored on the front line when the two brothers met on a severely cold day. On taking leave, repeating well-rehearsed fraternal behaviours, Fred took great care in checking that Percy was ‘warmly clad’.66 During wartime, brothers took efforts to protect their siblings from a distance. Will Cearns, the second-eldest brother of the family of thirteen, sent Percy a body shield.67 These ‘life-saving waistcoats’ were not universal issue.68 Playing on familial anxieties, headlines for the Dayfield Body Shield manufactured by Whitfield Manufacturing Ltd claimed ‘You Can Save His Life’. Stating that 25 per cent of casualties would have been prevented by wearing the shield, one advert continued with the emotive strap-line: ‘The Life of Your Husband, Father, Brother, Son, or Friend is Worth 22/6’69 (Figure 1). Similar adverts appeared almost weekly in the national press throughout 1915 and 1916.
It is unclear why Will purchased a shield for only one of his brothers. Possibly, Will felt greater concern for Percy, a habit developed in response to his younger sibling’s childhood frailties. Cost may have been a factor. Another major brand, the Chemico Body Shield, was marketed at £3 15s.70 The average minimum wage was 16s 9d for a fifty-eight-hour week in 1914 (rising to 30s 6d for a fifty-two-hour basic working week in 1918), placing these ‘life-savers’ beyond the means of many families.71 Will established a construction company in 1913, initially specialising in iron buildings, which suggests that affordability was less likely to have been a factor. Regardless of Will’s motives, Percy showed no compunction in following the tradition of hand-me-downs by passing this protective armour along to the brother who, in his eyes, was most in need of it. Percy later discovered that Fred had found it cumbersome and, breaking his promise to always use the shield, had passed it on to a friend.72
Sibling solidarity protected men and women, sustaining the war effort by ensuring that they were fit and able to carry out their work. Working in munitions at the Park Royal TNT factory, Neasden, Kathleen Gilbert and her sister suffered the common side-effects of working with hazardous chemicals. Like other ‘canary girls’, jaundice turned their skin ‘yellow as a guinea’, and they suffered periods of ill-health. Long shifts, unventilated factories and noxious substances created an unhealthy environment for munionettes.73 A study of 1,326 women workers found around 34 per cent complaining of slight fatigue and 8 per cent of severe fatigue.74 Despite precautions taken in the ‘danger rooms’, such as the donning of non-inflammable clothing, provision of disinfectant and monitoring by medical staff, concerns about toxic poisonings and deaths increased from 1916 onwards.75 An investigation conducted by two female medical officers, categorising the ailments suffered by women workers into toxic and irritative conditions, failed to consider the women’s own experiences of ill-health.76 Unable to afford a doctor, the Gilberts took it in turns to nurse each other through unspecified illnesses. An eleven-week bout of muscular rheumatism left Kathleen crying and unable to move. Her sister nursed her throughout, tending her with regular soda baths and wrapping her swollen joints with strips torn from a sheet.77 Shortly after her recovery, the sisters joined the Land Army, working on a farm near Bicester.
After their father threw them out of the family home in January 1912, John and Denis Lucy enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles. During their basic training, having missed his breakfast drink of hot coffee, John fainted when running ‘on the double’. From then on, Denis made sure that his older sibling got his morning beverage.78 Denis’s fraternal care facilitated his brother’s ability to survive the exertions of training. Denis, the larger of the two, was ‘a tiger for fighting’. The hot-blooded siblings presented a formidable front to outsiders, backing each other up
to such an extent that the soldiers found it uncomfortable to interfere with either of us. Anyone quarrelling with one of us had to take on both, and the man who knocked me out got a bad beating afterwards from my brother.79
Their comrades left the brothers alone; no one wanted to ‘fight a family’. This behaviour echoes another common fraternal bond expressed by men: that of brothers defending each other against other boys at school or in the neighbourhood. Although fighting was heavily discouraged inside the household unit, outside the home boys were expected to stand their ground among their peers – an obligation that was eased for those with elder brothers able to come to their aid in playground or street fights. Eddie T.’s parents encouraged him to ‘go back and hit’ anyone who hit him on the street. Often carrying out ‘retributions’ with his brother Bill, the siblings ‘could take care of [them]selves’.80 Boys valued brothers who presented a united front with them in masculine street cultures, public schools or the homo-socio hierarchy of military life.
Concern over the physical wellbeing of siblings provoked angry reactions. Suffering from a weak heart, VAD Kit Dodsworth found a disorganised journey from No. 5 General Hospital, Rouen to Boulogne particularly gruelling, involving an absence of provisions and a lengthy wait at a railway station on a cold December night. Arriving at the Red Cross headquarters, Eve Dodsworth, ‘worried to death’ about her sister, launched a tirade at Commandant Isabel Crowdy.81 Less bellicose than the Lucy brothers, Eve’s sisterly concern overrode any natural deference that her middle-class upbringing and VAD training would have conditioned her to display towards an authority figure. Perhaps fortunately for the sisters’ prospects in the service, Miss Crowdy was sympathetic to her complaint.
Caring for male siblings continued long into adulthood, surviving divergences in men’s lives. The exchanges between the Keary brothers have an easy familiarity suggestive of a lifelong relationship. Fifty-eight-year-old Lieutenant General Sir Henry Keary was in command of the 20th Garhwal Brigade, mobilised for service in France. He regularly wrote to his younger brother, Captain Frank Keary, who did not see active service, remaining at home with his wife and children. Writing in April 1915, Henry was ‘indeed sorry’ to learn that Frank had been ‘seized with that fiend the “flu”’. His recommended remedy harked back to a shared leisure pursuit: ‘try & get a bit of fishing it is worth 10£ to get out into the open & have a change of occupation’. He further cautioned his brother to take it easy and call on his sons for support with gardening and other physical chores. He ended his letter with the affectionate sign-off, ‘Bye bye old dear & get well & fish.’82 When a recurrence of the flu struck Frank, Henry revealed the anxiety underlying his light tone. Commenting on the unexceptional nature of ‘chills’, he advised his brother to look after himself, reminding him that ‘this was what killed poor old Father’.83
Practical experience of warfare conferred the requisite authority to dispense brotherly advice. Readying his younger brother for life in the front line, Cecil Falk advised Geoff on the kit that he deemed essential.84 Phrased as providing ‘one or two tips’, Cecil specified which items to purchase and the best place to buy them:
Get all your tunics, breeches etc. at a tailor as they fit so much better & ordnance are only ready-made – also get Sam Browne & boots at shops. But things like greatcoat, gum boots (especially these – they are so cheap at [Army] ordnance – only 15/- as opposed to 37/6 what I pay at my boot shop) shirts, collars & all kinds of under-clothing & equipment – water bottle, haversack, revolver get at ordnance. You can also get good field glasses there, but not compasses. Also when buying kit make sure to get a good waterproof or trenchcoat also a pair of stocking puttees, an air cushion & an electric torch. These are vital necessities for comfort. Also do not buy full camp kit only bucket, valise & waterproof sheet. You can use all my stuff e.g. bed, bath, washbasin, chair etc.85
Returning to the subject a month later, Cecil shows his ongoing concern through his insistence on obtaining value for money. Cecil disapproved of the quality of the Sam Browne belts found at ordnance, opining that it was worth paying more ‘to get a decent coloured belt & good leather’. Cecil’s dual status as elder brother and experienced combatant rings loudly in his tone. Another worry lay behind his advice. Officers’ uniforms were a visible signifier of class difference.86 His German-Jewish roots made Cecil overly conscious of the need to maintain the correct appearance of an ‘English’ gentleman. Inducting his brother into the homosocial environment of military life on the front, Cecil was mindful of the impact of first impressions. In earlier correspondence he fretted about the fragility of their friendship network if their background became common knowledge. Cecil had first-hand knowledge of casual anti-Semitism, writing of ‘quite the nicest’ officer in his company who ‘hated’ Jews.87 Knowledge of the precariousness of their social standing prompted Cecil’s efforts to ensure that nothing about his younger brother would cause him to stick out for the ‘wrong’ reasons.
Easing a sibling’s transition into adulthood required tact and a delicate negotiation of familial expectations. Following his father and older brother, John Day planned to work at Doncaster railways, training as an engineer. When the works were diverted into munitions, manufacturing machinery and shells, John continued to revise for his examinations. Frank, a draughtsman with the Royal Engineers, advised him on the standard textbooks to purchase, discussing their relative merits and noting which ones he would find useful on his return. Prompting this discussion was a letter from John’s parents querying an outlay of £4 4s, an expense that John had planned to incur without consulting his parents. Deflecting their concerns regarding ‘the cheeky young hound’, Frank sidestepped his parents’ criticism of his sibling with the comment, ‘well he knows best’. By confining his advice within a separate letter to his brother, he acknowledged his brother’s greater, and more current, awareness of the examination’s requirements, reaffirming that John had ‘done right’ to obtain the texts promptly.88
Brotherly advice extended to ‘manly’ matters such as tobacco and smoking. From the 1880s onwards, the affordability and availability of machine-made cigarettes, such as Woodbines, spread their popularity among working-class boys and young men. A docker’s son recalled that all his friends starting to smoke around the age of eight or nine.89 As a result, smoking became part of ‘the initiation into manhood, a potent symbol of male adulthood’.90 Smoking took on greater significance during the Great War. Politicians and medical experts alike recognised its role in alleviating stress. Benedict Crowell, US Assistant Secretary of War, noted that for front-line soldiers enduring hardship, ‘tobacco fulfils a need nothing else can satisfy’.91 A temperate boy before the war, eschewing both drink and tobacco, Rifleman Frank Buggs started smoking on the firing line, a habit that his sister somewhat innocently ascribed to boredom.92 Wanting to know if they should include cigarettes in their parcel, the mother and sister of Alf Page asked if he had taken up the habit, as local boys home on leave said that ‘everyone smoked’.93 In October 1914, the Lancet acknowledged the ‘solace and joy’ that cigarettes brought to soldiers engaged in a ‘nerve-racking’ campaign. Smoking was so universal; tobacco products were almost part of the soldier’s kit.94 Cigarettes were an emotional prop: soothing anxieties and relieving boredom. At the right time, a comforting cigarette ‘worked wonders’.95
Smoking became a shared interest, a link to the normalcy of men’s pre-war lives. As an emotional salve, the provision of cigarettes was a practical means of providing support or caring at a distance. John Pearce expounded on the realities of service life to his brother. He had relinquished the leisurely pleasure of his pipe, it being ‘so much easier to whip out [a fag] & have a few puffs’ during parade rests. As the job of soldiering was incompatible with the sedate enjoyment of pipe-smoking, John would ‘be awfully pleased’ if his sibling could send ‘a few “Wills” now & again’.96 After unexpectedly meeting up, Donald Price spent an evening with his older brother, serving in the army service corps. Their reunion occurred shortly after Donald’s participation in the attack on High Wood in July 1916, an experience leaving him confused and fatigued. In a fraternal gesture, his brother gave him some cigarettes and two or three shillings on parting.97 We might surmise that Donald’s brother presented his battle-worn sibling with the few practical items he had to hand, all he could spare in order to offer some small means of comfort.
Apart from being an essential component of the fighting man’s kit, cigarettes defined class and status. Manufacturers had to cater for a market divided by region, class and individual preferences and tastes. A proliferating cigarette advertising industry drew on successful pipe brand names and key themes such as the Empire, the military and the monarchy in the pre-war years. Competition between brands for soldiers’ custom increased, with one brand, Woodbines, emerging as the ‘Tommy’s favourite fag’.98 Against this background, Geoffrey Falk sought advice as to the best mild tobacco to smoke, prompting the following knowledgeable reply from Cecil: ‘Well Fryers original cut is very good but expensive, ditto John Cotton. Country Life is also good but Fryers is the best of the bunch.’99 Cecil was cost conscious when giving his opinion, which, in his inimitable style, he proffered with fraternal authority. His reply evidenced the array of choice facing soldier-smokers. Later, Cecil congratulated Geoffrey on his receipt of a Mappin & Webb cigarette case, commenting that ‘it must indeed be a beauty’. He showed his continuing interest in the minutiae of his brother’s life by following up with the question, ‘What kind of cigarettes are you smoking now? Virginia or Turkish?’100
Gendered notions of respectability meant that women of all classes declined to indulge in the habit publicly. Led by the ‘new woman’ movement, manufacturers produced brands and accessories directed at women from the 1890s onwards. The First World War saw a shift in attitudes, prompting a moral panic, as the consumption of cigarettes by women accompanied their increasing visibility in the workforce. Manchester-based manufacturer R. J. Lea capitalised on this trend through a series of advertising rhymes. In one example, the company made a clear link between the war effort of uniformed sisters on the home front and their fighting brothers:
With Wrafs and Penguins, Wrens and Waacs,
The girls are on their brothers’ tracks.
They test the aeroplanes and guns,
And fix the bombs that scare the Huns;
They drive the cars behind the line,
And take the Generals out to dine.
’Tis said they like to drive the Tanks
For soldier’s pay and smaller thanks.
But soldierlike, when duty bores them,
A CHAIRMAN cigarette restores them.101
Placing uniformed women in a firmly supportive role, hard work earns them a ‘masculine’ reward, not as a calming restorative but as a way of easing routine boredom. Despite this commercial encouragement, the antipathy towards women smokers remained strong. Sisters Maud and Adelaide Goodall were fined for permitting disorderly conduct at their Strand tea rooms. Among the behaviour causing concern was the sight of waitresses smoking cigarettes and waltzing with uniformed men. The Provost-Marshal charged with investigating their establishment, while noting that no indecency occurred, damningly concluded that there was ‘a grave tendency’ in that direction.102 Stamping out such immoral tendencies formed part of the policing of women’s behaviour in public.103 Even in the last year of the war, public flouting of deeply rooted considerations of respectability led to smoking remaining a reclusive habit among women.
Brothering at a distance
Sending letters and parcels was a means of brothering or sistering at a distance, often supplementing the phenomenal emotional labour undertaken by mothers. An array of food items, toiletries, reading and writing materials, articles of clothing and family photographs were sent out to sustain fighting men and provide them with a comforting link to home. Care pervaded such acts, from the sourcing of items to ensuring their safe arrival. Frank Buggs commended the care that his sister took in wrapping up parcels, a practical necessity to ensure that contents arrived with minimal damage.104 Her sister also praised her thoughtfulness in packing and tying up the weekly parcel sent from the family. Brothers’ responses to the receipt of parcels formed a core component of sibling correspondence, giving a flavour of the range of items sent. Thanking his brother, Alf Arnold wrote,
The biscuits, though good, are perhaps a trifle stale (thought I had better let you know). I hope to read the ‘Sinews of War’ shortly & will also let you know whether the insect powder makes an impression. The parcel was well packed & all the contents including atlas, papers &c were very acceptable.105
Fighting men detailed trench conditions to clarify their pressing need for items, such as warm clothing, from home. Experiencing the harshness of his first winter in the quagmire of the Western Front, Alec Mudie thanked his brother for sending him a pair of much-needed gloves, before requesting a ‘thick, close fitting, arctic cap’ to shield him against the bitter weather.106
Brothers and sisters either contributed to communal packages or sent their own. Fighting men worried about the pressure this placed on incomes. The Day brothers shared a mutual interest in aeroplanes. Frank asked his brother to send him a copy of Flight every week, providing ‘you will let me pay for it’. He stated a preference for his own copy, as living conditions prevented him from keeping back issues, something his brother could do.107 When asked what he would like for his birthday, Raymond Turner, a former hairdresser, advised his sister, Grace, not to ‘rob’ herself of anything and that a pair of socks would be most acceptable. Later, he forcefully gave his reasons for returning the stamps she had sent in contravention of his wishes. Admitting that it was ‘very good’ of Grace, he stressed his objection: ‘I cannot have you wasting money on me because I know your money is not so great & every penny tells.’ He ended his reprimand emphatically, ‘I will not allow you to send them to me.’108 The older by five years, Raymond made clear his discomfiture at having his younger sister lend him any financial support. Grace, a shop worker, wanted to do her utmost for her brother. Disobeying Raymond’s direct wishes overstepped the boundaries of their relationship, undermining his sibling authority. Such negotiations depended on the tenor of the sibling bond. Responding to similar fraternal concerns about the expense of items, Violet Page, a domestic servant, retorted, ‘it is the only thing I can do for you so don’t stop me’. Besides sending her own parcel, she added items to her mother’s, such as the two pairs of socks which she affectionately hoped would make her brother’s ‘tootsies’ warmer.109
Although fraternal visits will be revisited in later chapters, it is necessary to contextualise their emotional import to serving men at the outset of Brothers in the Great War. Paradoxically, regular correspondence and opportunities to meet up brought some siblings closer during the war years. A significant age gap precluded an especially close relationship between Alice F. and her brothers. The sibling duty of letter writing made her ‘nearer I think to them than I had been when I was a child’.110 Alfred Brookes saw more of his brother Rupert during the war, as the siblings ensured that they always lunched or dined together when they were in London.111 Equally, near misses or knowledge that siblings were tantalisingly close resulted in feelings of frustration.112
Face-to-face meetings fulfilled many functions: the opportunity to relax and talk to a trusted confidante; to provide emotional sustenance via a living, breathing link to home and to the nostalgic recollections of childhood; and to support the wider emotional community of the family by providing eye-witness reports of the wellbeing of a son, brother or husband. Such meetings brought home to siblings the effect of war on men’s emotional states. With few working-class families able to afford to visit wounded relatives, the opportunity to relay news to loved ones at home had greater emotional currency.113 Meetings represented a continuum of visits home during school, university or work holidays. A meeting with his brother, Bob Moore told his mother, had left him ‘the cheerfulest lad in France’.114 This feeling of pleasure overcame diverse stances to the war, as recounted in a meeting ‘full of joy’ between the Methodist John Brocklesby, a conscientious objector, and his two officer brothers.115 Similarly, Charles Carrington believed that the ‘happiest times’ for his eldest brother, Philip, a theology student who adopted a pacifist stance, was when he met up with his three younger serving brothers on leave from France.116 As well as acting out of sibling affection, in these meetings men, and occasionally women, acted as proxies for family members at home.
Shortly after arriving in Wimereux, James Burns, a theatre technician serving with the RAMC, was pleased to receive a visit from his chaplain brother. The siblings enjoyed a talk in a café over poached eggs and chips. Seventeen days later Joseph Burns was killed by shell fire, leaving behind a widow and two young daughters.117 At the time, James recorded the loss of his ‘beloved brother’ in a typically brief entry in his pocket diary, ‘Jos died of wounds’.118 Alongside this bald statement is an example of the medical jottings Burns commonly made, a reference to a medical article in the Daily Mail – a sign that until he received the news, this had been a ‘normal’ day. In his retrospective account, Burns provided an understated juxtaposition of the mundane pleasure of a shared meal with the stark news of his brother’s death. Both narrative forms display signs of the shock of his brotherly loss.
Meetings could be spur-of-the-moment events. Matthew Wilkinson met his younger brother, Tom, three times during their service in France. On the last occasion, just before Christmas 1917, he was taken aback to find that one of the horseback riders approaching him on a road near the Passchendaele ridge was his sibling. After ‘a good talk’, Tom invited his brother to tea the following day.119 The brevity of the descriptions of meetings undermines the significance of such encounters, replete as they were with emotion. Francis Buckley recorded that his brother looked ‘worn out and depressed’, and was not surprised when he was hospitalised shortly afterwards with influenza.120 Other men went to great lengths to track down and visit their brothers. Access to transport was a key factor in facilitating these visits. Frank Holding’s older brother, Percy, was among the first Territorials to be called up when war broke out. That August bank holiday, Frank took a tram from Eccles to Walton, followed by a train from Walton to Bolton. Finally, he walked along the Tunmore Road until he reached the training camp just outside Bolton where Percy was based. The brothers spent a few ‘lovely’ hours before Frank made the return trip home.121 Percy Cearns, a dispatch rider, seized every chance to visit his brother Fred, recounting nine visits between July 1916 and August 1917. These varied considerably in length, one lasting thirty hours. Simply taking pleasure in each other’s company, the brothers would either walk somewhere privately or ‘sit and talk and smoke until dark’.122 Nostalgic sentiments were central to these conversations. The siblings talked ‘almost incessantly’ of home.
Brothers greatly valued and anticipated these fraternal visits, at times unable to contain their excitement. On hearing that his brother Ben’s regiment was coming to relieve them, Arthur Stapleton, ignoring any repercussions for himself, ‘broke ranks and sped along to each platoon. Running along the side, I asked them whether they were the 58th, and when they affirmed they were, I called out, Ben! Ben! Ben Stapleton! Ben Stapleton!’123 On returning to his section, Arthur was warned by an angry corporal that he would be shot if he broke ranks again. Later, Arthur learned that the 58th were based nearby at Achiet-le-Grand. Risking the very real danger of being caught by the military police and court-martialled, Arthur set out to find his sibling, roaming camp after camp before finding him. Boyish prankishness came to the fore when, on spying his brother’s ‘familiar fat bottom’ disappearing into a bivouac, Arthur gave it a ‘good shove’ with his foot. Arthur’s defiance of army discipline and his persistent search for his sibling highlights the deep meaning this meeting held for him, his use of slapstick humour being a non-verbal way of defusing this. As he recognised his brother, Ben’s initial anger ‘dissolved’ into the broad grin ‘so beloved by us all’. The Stapletons gave each other ‘a brotherly hug’ before spending the rest of the day together.
Although they were comfortable in embracing each other, Arthur takes care to differentiate this as an appropriately manly, non-sexual embrace. Fraternal accounts provide useful evidence of physical expressions of closeness between adult siblings. The male handshake could signal emotional working-class restraint. One man, the sixth of eight children, classed his family as unemotional, with limited physical contact. There was no kissing within the family, and even when his brother departed for war, ‘we’d shake hands and say “good-bye”’. Visits on leave witnessed similar stoical acceptance, with ‘no falling on each other’s necks, or anything of that sort’.124
Hospitalised due to a septic heel, Fred Cearns missed the ‘big push’ of 1 July 1916. After establishing Fred’s whereabouts a fortnight later, Percy set off immediately to trace him. Recording their initial greeting, Percy movingly captured their pent-up emotions:
What handshaking there was. Recollect it was 21 months since last I saw him and never before had we been apart more than a few weeks. Then think of all he had endured. I confess to a lump in the throat and even tears of happiness in my eyes. Try as he would, even strong Fred could not quite control his feelings. That grip of the hand meant much and I could feel the emotion in his voice as he spoke those first few words of pleasurable greetings.125
This evocative account gives a sense that soldierly stoicism wavered when faced with a loved brotherly presence. The fraternal handshake described here, rather than an antiseptic formality, is laden with feeling. Percy’s description of their joint relief and affection emphasised the force of the siblings’ emotions. Writing about the changing norms of masculine tactile contact in the First World War, Santanu Das argues that the intimacy of trench warfare opened up a new world of tactile gentleness among serving men. Yet, his insightful analysis, with its focus on comradeship, excludes the significance of touch in fraternal relationships, built as they are on pre-existing bonds and behaviours, and shaped by familial and societal emotional codes. Blood ties had an emotive resonance in the public discourse, as was borne out by the images of brothers used in official photographs and news reports to highlight the presence and strength of fraternal bonds among the broader comradeship of the trenches.
There is a significant absence of the brotherly kiss in these narratives. Brothers’ bodily contact on meeting was usually handshaking or hugging. Das’s analysis of the ‘dying’ or ‘mothers’ kiss suggests that ‘friendly’ male-to-male kisses saw a revival in the trenches, a reversal of the ‘normal tactile codes’ which restricted the ‘friendly kiss’ to ladies. Horace Nicholls, appointed the first full-time Official Photographer of Great Britain in July 1917, captured striking images of a soldier and sailor brother kissing (Figures 2 and 3). These formed part of Nicholls’ series of soldiers on leave, perhaps reflecting his aim to ‘build up a “story”’ around his subjects.126 The two photographs show that, like many of Nicholls’ images, this ‘meeting’ was carefully posed and looks staged. The story that the image imparts is one of brotherly love and affection. Clearly, the trope of loving brotherhood was one that the official photographer of the home front wanted to propagate.
Men’s accounts of fraternal meetings testify to the role of physical contact in allaying brotherly fears. Seeing the corpses of men from his regiment after the battle of Le Cateau on 26 August 1914 provoked anger in John Lucy. Anxiety quickly replaced this emotion, resulting in him scrutinising the bodies to ensure that his sibling was not among them before seeking Denis out. In his 1938 memoir John recalled how his sibling’s face lit up at the sight of him. Unable to articulate their joint relief at surviving the action intact, the brothers ‘did a silly thing’, giving each other nearly all they had in their respective haversacks. Realising what they had done, they then grinned and punched each other. The release of mutual anxiety is palpable, albeit deflected via a manly cuff rather than a hug or embrace. Wanting the language to express their feelings, the men showered their affection on each other by sharing all the possessions they had to hand.127
Growing up, men and women relied upon the values instilled by parents and moral instructors when defining their sibling ties.128 In the absence of an emotional vocabulary to articulate affectionate siblinghood, these norms, especially those quieter, temperate values that were obscured by the privileging of military masculinity, provided a structure within which brothers and sisters could describe the substance of their relationships. According to Roper, families resort to emotional role models during wartime as ‘a means of conveying deep and authentic feelings’, making the absence of sibling stereotypes significant.129 Without similar abstract ideals of siblinghood to draw upon, men’s accounts of fraternal relationships are inevitably more piecemeal than those devoted to their mothers and fathers. Men showed both the strength of brotherly bonds and the ‘fundamental’ knowledge that siblings can develop of each other through actions and words falling just short of explicit expressions of love.130 We see a remarkable similarity in the emotional framing of brother–brother, sister–sister and sister–brother bonds across classes. Friendship and togetherness proved a key motif of these ties. Seamstress Florence A. loved all her brothers, but the greatest affection she held for the brother killed in the war sprung from their inseparability.131 Siblings were ‘great friends’, ‘playmates’ and ‘good pals’, mirroring their descriptions of their families as clannish and ‘all happy together’.
The demarcation between the harmonious domestic sphere and the external ‘rules’ of the street or playground where working-class parents often encouraged their offspring to stick up for themselves is clear, underscoring the importance placed on household unity. Separated from the household, elite siblings offered protection in the alien brutality of public-school machismo. The testing experience of encountering and assimilating new and oftentimes conflicting emotional norms was eased by sibling support and encouragement. Shared sleeping spaces and nurseries created diurnal routines and a particular bodily intimacy, enabling the sharing of confidences. Brotherly roles learned and performed in childhood or young adulthood continued during wartime, with brothers dispensing advice and protecting and caring for each other. For young men and women whose closest ties were still with their family of origin, the underpinning dynamics of familial support held strong in wartime.
Notwithstanding the constraints of modern technological warfare, brothers endeavoured to maintain their relationships by correspondence or, preferably, when possible, in person. The imposition of new routines of meeting and letter writing reinforced or reignited these ties. The phenomenal efforts made by mothers have overshadowed the unstinting efforts made by brothers and sisters to provide support at a distance. A lateral perspective provides a more accurate picture of the ebb and flow of familial support, with siblings assisting parental efforts to sustain their serving offspring.
Accounts of brotherly meetings show the emotional solace that siblings derived from each other’s company. The efforts extended to facilitate such events, and physical responses to these meetings, speak loudly as to their emotional import. Occasionally, these took on a domestic flavour, with cake sharing, teas and dinners. Masculine embraces and hearty handshakes were the greetings of brothers who often had not seen each other for months. Brothers’ eye-witness accounts provide first-hand reports of the extreme toll of battle on men’s bodies and minds. Those on the firing line felt equally the constant anxiety of waiting for news of loved ones. Face-to-face meetings alleviated anxiety and war stress, providing a tangible connection to home.