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Vera Brittain

3 of 25 portraits of Vera Brittain

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Vera Brittain

by Howard Coster
bromide print, 1936
9 1/2in. x 7 3/4in. (241 mm x 180 mm)
Photographs Collection
NPG x24032

Sitterback to top

  • Vera Brittain (1893-1970), Writer, pacifist and feminist. Sitter in 25 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Howard Coster (1885-1959), Photographer. Artist associated with 9350 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 100 Read entry

    Vera Brittain (1893-1970), writer, pacifist and feminist, attended Somerville College, Oxford, in 1914, but left the following year to help the war effort – first as a nursing assistant in Derbyshire, then as a nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment. In August 1915, she became engaged to Roland Leighton. Leighton was a school friend of her brother Edward, with whom he had enlisted at the outbreak of war. Both men were killed in action in France – Roland in 1915 and Edward in 1918. After the war, she returned to Somerville, becoming friends with Winifred Holtby, the pair both graduating in 1921. Her Testament of Friendship (1940) commemorates their unbreakable bond in a biography of her great friend and literary ally. But it is her bestselling autobiography, Testament of Youth (1933), about her harrowing war experiences, for which she is best known. She joined the Peace Pledge Union in 1937, no longer ‘carried away by the wartime emotion and deceived by the shining figure of patriotism’ and co-founded the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in 1957. ‘The disadvantages of being a woman have eaten like iron into my soul,’ she once said, but her life is a more positive testament, in her work for peace and bettering women’s lives.

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1936back to top

Current affairs

Following the death of his father George V, Edward succeeds to the throne as King Edward VIII, but chooses to abdicate in order to marry the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Edward was the only monarch every to voluntarily relinquish the throne.

Art and science

The Spitfire, designed by Reginald Mitchell, has its maiden flight. The RAF and other allied forces used the plane extensively and to great effect during the Second World War.
Television broadcasting begins. Although the BBC had been transmitting television since 1930, regular service did not begin until 1936, when the 'BBC Television Service' (now BBC One) was broadcast from Alexandra Palace.

International

The Spanish Civil War begins. Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco, and supported by Italian and German fascist governments, rebelled against the Second Spanish Republic. The conflict lasted until 1939, and anticipated many of the features of the Second World War: fighting between Communists and Fascists, the rise of nationalism and the use of terror tactics against civilians.

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