Friday, October 06, 2006

Barbara Wace

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a strip about a lass called 'Sue Carter' as possibly being written by Betty Roland.

I now think that's wrong. I've just picked up a run of Swift Annual which had three Sue Carter yarns. Although it didn't credit individual stories, Swift Annual did run a list of contributors on the contents page and Betty Roland's name is not included. This, of course, presumes that the annual strips were written by the same author as the weekly comic strip. I think that's a reasonably safe assumption as other known credits tie in.

So, if Betty Roland didn't write the strip, who did? Well, if we presume the strips were all written and drawn by the same people, the author will appear in all three of the contributors lists. Excluding one or two names I know to be associated with other strips that leaves four strong suspects, namely Maud Miller, Margaret Thomas, Barbara Wace and Roger Wilkinson.

I don't have much information on any of them. Maud (Mary) Miller edited film books just after the war and was editor of the Girl Television and Film Annual (1962) -- she was probably editoress of all six editions (the first five, published in 1957-61, were entitled Girl Film and Television Annual, indicating how important TV was becoming by the early 1960s).

I know nothing about Roger Wilkinson or Margaret Thomas (apart from the fact that Margaret Thomas contributed a couple of stories to Girl) but Barbara Wace would appear to be a very likely suspect.

Wace was born in Gillingham, Kent, on 4 September 1907, into an Army family and was educated at the Royal High School, Bath. She spent much of her childhood in Germany where her father, Brigadier E. C. Wace, was serving with the British occupying forces and, in 1920-21, was British Commissioner of the Saar Boundary Delimitation Committee. She trained as a secretary and her knowledge of German helped her get a job with the British Embassy in Berlin where she was working at the time of the 1936 Olympic Games.

In 1940 she transferred to Washington and then New York and San Francisco, helping to set up the British information service which fed material to the American press. In 1942, she returned to the UK and applied for a job with the Ministry of Labour. Because of her travels to America she was offered a post with the news agency Associated Press (AP) which allowed her to become accredited to US forces. In 1944, she became the first British woman to report on the Allied invasion of Normandy, sent to France to cover the arrival of the Women's Army Corps four weeks after D-Day. Wace, who could speak French, travelled around some of the devestated villages interviewing some of the villagers about their devestated lives.

Wace was sent to cover the siege at Brest where the German army was holding out. However, a male reporter was sent to cover the last days of the siege and she received no byline. When her belongings were stolen, she sent a telegram to AP's London office which read: "Lost skirt, Brest fallen".

After the war she travelled extensively, travelling extensively in America and, on the strength of selling several travel articles to Reader's Digest, went freelance as a writer and photographer. She broadcast on the BBC World Service and wrote for the Manchester Guardian and New York Times. She visited at least 60 countries, often the first to report from little known parts of the world such as on her 1957 trip to Albania. Wace wrote extensively about the Middle East.

She continued to make a living as a journalist until well into her 80s. For forty years she lived in an attic flat in Fleet Street, until 1988 when climbing the 96 stairs became too much. She moved to a flat in the Barbican and, later, to a residential home in Blackheath where she died on 16 January 2003, aged 95.

Her travels around the middle and far east make her a very strong suspect as the possible author of Sue Carter, whose adventures took her to the Middle East, Egypt and elsewhere.

By similar logic, I've narrowed down the name of the artist to a handful of suspects: Ursula Blau, John Brinkley Ann Parker, D. H. Ralphs, Eric Winter, Bill White and John Woods. A little more research is needed before I take a stab at who drew the strip but, for now, Barbara Wace is my top suspect as scriptwriter.

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