Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Leslie Howard - Filmstar of the 30's & 40's


Paul Johnson
 Share

Recommended Posts

This mirrors my thoughts too. We are not in a position to say if Howard was or was not fit for duty but it does seem odd that an officer who has been deemed fit for duty should be allowed to resign his commission. Is this to do with the fact that he was a Territorial Officer?

PJ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

..... it does seem odd that an officer who has been deemed fit for duty should be allowed to resign his commission. Is this to do with the fact that he was a Territorial Officer?

PJ

Anything to do with the fact that his father was an enemy alien?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was nothing in the documents to suggest this. His file did not contain many papers so the information is limited.

PAUL J

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This mirrors my thoughts too. We are not in a position to say if Howard was or was not fit for duty but it does seem odd that an officer who has been deemed fit for duty should be allowed to resign his commission. Is this to do with the fact that he was a Territorial Officer?

PJ

Working through posts of the last 24 hours, I came across a topic started by tombowcock under Units & Formations which included posts about Territorials being able to opt out of the war if they had had enough.

Moonraker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Working through posts of the last 24 hours, I came across a topic started by tombowcock under Units & Formations which included posts about Territorials being able to opt out of the war if they had had enough.

Moonraker

Yes, I have seen this mentioned in Charles Messenger's "A Call To Arms" (recommended reading:) ). Once territorials had served their established term, they could opt not to continue their service... Yet , after the introduction oif conscription in 1916, this option disappeared, and unless discharged from the army, all men were to remain in the Army "for the duration".

Gloria

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(...) He never saw overseas service.

Hi Paul, a very interesting bit of information... yet i have a doubt about something:

If he didn't serve overseas, how come he is in the NA online MIC index? I understood that campaign medals were only awarded to those who had seen active service overseas... or was there a different consideration for officers or those who had joined before Conscription?

Gloria

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gloria,

His Service Record only states "Home". Therefore, it must be assumed that, as an officer, he only saw service in the UK. Did he become a Private or rejoin the Army at some point? You can't tell by his officers papers but your point about the MIC may be correct. Maybe the MIC refers to a TA Effieceny medal?

Can anyone confirm that?

Regards

PAUL J

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry to add this additional post but I have just checked the online MIC's.

I can only find 5 Steiners and none of them are Leslie Howard.

Gloria, could you provide a link to the one you found please?

Thanks

PAUL J

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry to add this additional post but I have just checked the online MIC's.

I can only find 5 Steiners and none of them are Leslie Howard.

Gloria, could you provide a link to the one you found please?

Paul, you're absolutely right! My excuses for the blunder. I had not checked the MIC, but misremembered an earlier message of this thread (and didn't re-read it to be sure!), which actually made reference to L. Howard's entry in the London Gazzette, and confused it in my mind with a MIC entry. My mistake entirely.

I'm really ashamed and hiding my head under the ground in the silly and unpractical way ostriches do (Serves me well) :ph34r:

By the way, I had not said it earlier, but you have really accomplished an awesome piece of research regarding the issue.

Best,

Gloria

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gloria,

No need for apologies. We all make mistakes and I am guilty more than most, so please get your head out of the sand and join the "Ooops! Club" (of which I am president).

Phil,

You may have point. I'm not sure when he left for the USA but it could well have been soon after he gave up his commission. You can call me cynical and he may well have suffered a horrible illness but I have seen no mention of this disorder in his later life. It is always possible that he found a medical cure for his condition before he became famous but wouldn't there be some mention of it?

Regards

PAUL JOHNSON

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No idea of the provenance - this is the first time I have heard it was a KLM aircraft, always thought it was a military marked DC3 so who knows.

Sorry, I forgot to add my tuppence worth here...

The aircraft was British owned...

Douglas DC-3

British Overseas Airways Corporation

Registration: G-AGBB (Construction No. 1590)

Shot down in the Bay of Biscay 01.06.43

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Paul

Excellent research and a fascinating mystery. Thanks very much for posting your results.

I would refer to my earlier e-mail with the Dioctionary of National Biography entry which says he did not go to America until 1920:

made his first appearance as a professional actor in 1917, touring the provinces in the part of Jerry in Peg o' my Heart by J. Hartley Manners. He made his first appearance in London at the New Theatre, on 14 February 1918, in the small part of Ronald Herrick in the ‘idyll of suburbia’ The Freaks by Sir Arthur Pinero. Howard continued to act in London until the summer of 1920, appearing notably in Gladys Unger's Our Mr Hepplewhite, A. A. Milne's Mr Pim Passes by, and Gertrude E. Jennings's The Young Person in Pink. He then went to the United States, first appearing in New York at the Henry Miller Theatre in November 1920 in Just Suppose. He continued to act in America until 1926, appearing successfully in a variety of plays, notably as Henry in Outward Bound, and as Napier Harpenden in The Green Hat. He returned to London for a short engagement in 1926, but went back to New York to play in Her Cardboard Lover, and in Escape by John Galsworthy

All the best Dominic

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dominic,

Thanks for the reminder. So the question is now, why was he not conscripted into the army later in the war. I don't think that being an Actor would have been regarded as a reserved occupation as many actors served in WW1. His medical board felt that he was fit for active service in 1915 and there are no other papers in his file that indicate why he would not be acceptable for service in the ranks.

So what happened? Any clues or suggestions?

Thank You to everyone for your input on this. It is a bit of a mystery.

Regards

PAUL JOHNSON

Link to comment
Share on other sites

His medical board felt that he was fit for active service in 1915 and there are no other papers in his file that indicate why he would not be acceptable for service in the ranks.

Indeed, acting was not a reserved occupation... At best, an actor in the ranks could be employed in Concert Parties, but certainly not relieved of service in the forces-I mean, actors within the bounds of required military age after conscription-.

For what I know, many men who, having volunteered early in the war, were rejected because of poor physical condition, would be called up later as conscripts, and even if they medical category was not tops, they would be conscripted nonetheless and a suitable occupation, combatant or non-combatant...

By the standards of the time, I don't think than mere nervous disposition could keep anyone out of the army... Still, as it has already been said, this asks for further enquiries.

Gloria

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dominic,

Thanks for the reminder. So the question is now, why was he not conscripted into the army later in the war. I don't think that being an Actor would have been regarded as a reserved occupation as many actors served in WW1. His medical board felt that he was fit for active service in 1915 and there are no other papers in his file that indicate why he would not be acceptable for service in the ranks.

So what happened? Any clues or suggestions?

Thank You to everyone for your input on this. It is a bit of a mystery.

Regards

PAUL JOHNSON

To return to a theme that I mentioned above. Is there any evidence that his father was interned?

Was the family home in Forest Hill attacked by a stone throwing mob?

In either case would he wish to remain an officer, and what was the army "line" on this?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guys;

I write the below with a bit of trepidation.

Could a factor in all of this be the fact that he was Jewish?

Not in the sense that Jewish citizens were not interested in serving, but in the sense that, in various subtle ways, Jews may not have been especially welcome, especially as officers, and a request to opt out would be received positively. This might explain why he was allowed (or pressured?) to leave.

On the other side, my father, in his oral history, said that he encountered few Jews in the German Army in WW I. (As I work with it I am finding his oral history remarkably accurate.) Again, the same mechanism might have applied, Jews, especially "obvious Jews", being excluded at various points of the enrollment process. Most German Jews (by Rabbinical law, i.e., a Jewish mother) were highly assimilated, and many baptized. Certainly an obvious Orthodox or Hassidic Jew would have made the eyes of a enrollment commission roll. After WW I organized German Jewery engaged in a campaign, publishing books, proporting that they had done their share in the war effort. It would have been an irony to have been excluded from service based on subtle predjudice, and then discriminated against based on supposed failure to serve.

Howard (nee Steiner) might have had a rocky road as an officer, and when he applied to resign his commission common practice might have been bent and he might have been happily eased out. Indeed, we do not know if he was eased out intentionally, even if a medical board was not inclined to release him based on flimsy or non-existant grounds, which would have been a quasi-scientific finding.

Certainly there were exceptional war heros of Jewish origin in both the UK and German forces. But to the non-expert in this area they seem to be a bit thin on the ground. Again, this was likely due to openly Jewish men not being accepted with open arms.

My father's commander in the Freikorps, Major von Stephani, the son of a Prussian general, a Guards officer, and a post-war extreme right-wing plotter, later served in the Reichstag as an Ehrenaryan, or "honorary Aryan"; he was to the right of the Nazis and was Jewish, it seems, so he had to serve in the Reichstag as an "honorary Aryan". Wierd!

I am a bit more comfortable raising this as I am researching my own family, and it seems that my English maternal grandmother may have been Jewish. This calls for more research, but on the face of it this would make me Jewish as well. Quite a hoot, as this side of the family were communist before the war, and after the war they seemed to be the only Nazi sympathisers in the family, much to the amusement of the German side of the family, who may not have known that they might have been Jewish. My maternal grand-mother lived in Germany for 30 or more years, and at least one English relative (my dear Lady Phyllis, a great gal) moved to Germany in the 1930's. She lived for many years, until her death, in a group of luxury buildings on Hyde Park in which both the residents and the staff were expatriate German Jews! Otto Premminger was her next-door neighbor.

Bob Lembke

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Alien/Jewish aspect could well have had something to do with it but there is no physical evidence of this.

I have attached the remaining documents in order that you can see the whole file.

As you will see, all the indications are that he was a fit young man who was deemed to be suitable for service in both the Inns of Court OTC and the Northamptonshire Yeomanry.

My personal view is that as Howard is believed to have worked for the government during WW2 his personal file may have been the subject of some form of official "weeding" either before or after his death.

(This is just my view and there is no evidence to support this.)

PAUL JOHNSON

post-1368-1131383072.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

next

post-1368-1131383148.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

next

post-1368-1131383203.jpg

post-1368-1131383255.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

next

post-1368-1131383317.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

next

post-1368-1131383369.jpg

post-1368-1131383402.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

and the last one.

post-1368-1131383459.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...

QUOTE(Paul Johnson @ Oct 20 2005, 07:51 AM) *

It seems, according to the documentary, that there was a business/political figure on board who looked distinctly similar to Chruchill.

The aircraft was a civilian one ( not sure if it was KLM) and was on a flight from neutral territory.

PAUL J

I've just been watching Churchill's Bodyguard on UKTV History about Walter Thompson, who was Churchill's protection officer for many years, including during WWII. The programme suggested that Howard looked a bit like Thompson and the actor's business manager like Churchill and that a German agent spotted them boarding the plane from a distance. Certainly the manager did have a passing resemblance. I think that this might be the occasion when Churchill was tipped off that there was going to be an attempt on his life and got Thompson to disable his plane (it is said) so his return to the UK was delayed.

(Forgive the vagueness. I started off watching some of the programmes over several days, then part-watched, part-recorded the repeats last weekend: 13 hours in all. so watched them out of sequence. I didn't realise Churchill made so many hazardous trips to confer with Roosevelt and Stalin and to meet the troops.

As the Leslie Howard topic appears played out, I'll digress from it to say that the Churchill series was good (it covered his life in WWI ). But if the voice-over said that he was saddened by something it often showed a photo of him looking sad many years before. And though the series ran to a Thompson-lookalike for reconstructions it couldn't manage a Churchill one, so one had frequent colour shots showing the lower two-thirds of WSC and stick walking through London shadowed by Thompson clutching a gun in his coat pocket.)

Moonraker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To return to a theme that I mentioned above. Is there any evidence that his father was interned?

Just done a quick search of NA files on the search engine and there is a Home Office file on what might be Leslie's father. This must relate to his original naturalisation in the 1890's-wonder if contains any later notes etc.?

HO 144/333/B11330 Nationality and Naturalisation: Steiner, Ferdinand, from Austria. Resident in London. Certificate A6849 issued 26 September 1891.

I wonder if Howard spoke fluent German (taught by his father) and if he got intelligence work as a low grade translator in the security services for the rest of the war. There are staff lists for MI5 during the war years in the National Archives. Might have given him the contacts for later work (if he did it!)

Cheers

Dominic

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...