The Cartland Family
Barbara Cartland, the romantic novelist, and her two brothers had family connections with Littlewood House in the village of Poolbrook, near Malvern. From 1931 it was the home of their widowed mother, Polly Cartland. “Mrs Cartland opened her gardens to brownies and guides for picnics, was friendly with everyone, and was very generous in her interest in the village,” recalls a former resident. The three children grew up in Tewkesbury where Barbara’s father was involved in local politics. With the outbreak of the Great War, he volunteered for military service and became a major in the 1st Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. Tragically, he was killed in action in May 1918, just months before the Armistice, leaving behind his wife and three young children.
Military Service and Dunkirk
The two boys followed in the footsteps of their military father. John, known as Ronald, was born in 1907. He was educated at Charterhouse and from 1924 devoted his life to politics. He served as the M.P. for King’s Norton in Birmingham between 1935 and 1940, when he joined the army. He became a lieutenant, then major, in the 53rd Anti-Tank Regiment of the Worcestershire and Oxfordshire Yeomanry, and assisted in the retreat of the British army to Dunkirk.
James, known as Anthony, was born in 1912 and became captain in the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. His military service took him to the same region and his unit was also caught up in the retreat to Dunkirk. In June 1940 the Malvern Gazette reported that both brothers had been taken prisoner.
Eleven-year-old Wendy Keyte still remembers the morning service at St Andrew’s Church, Poolbrook when the vicar told the congregation that a terrible tragedy had befallen the village: Mrs Cartland’s son, Anthony, had been killed in action in Belgium on the outskirts of Ypres on 29th May aged 27. Unknown to everyone at the time, Ronald had been killed in action the following day. This was only confirmed to the family a year later. A fellow officer gave an account of the incident: “All our guns were out of action and word had been given to make for the coast. Early on 30th May we were about twenty miles from Cassel, making our way … along a ditch bordering a lane … we saw German tanks going into action against other troops half a mile ahead. We decided to conceal ourselves, but later three tanks converged on us and we had to get up. As Ronald rose he was hit in the head by a bullet and killed instantly. I was about five yards away with fifty men following …”
Anthony’s body lies in a Belgian cemetery only 25 miles from Dunkirk. Ronald, aged 33, and one of the first MPs to be killed in action, was buried at Cassel, about 20 miles from Dunkirk. The Cartland family lost all its menfolk in support of their country.
For more information on Malvern during the Second World War read
Grounds, Wendy, Wendy’s Wartime, Childhood Memories 1939-1945,(2009) ISBN 978 1 873809 82 2 (available at Malvern Museum)
Holt, Gill (ed.), Malvern Voices: Childhood, (2001), ISBN 0 9541520 0 X (available at Malvern Museum)
Holt, Gill (ed.), Malvern Voices: Wartime, (2003), ISBN 0 954152048 0 X (available at Malvern Museum)