BIF Buxton International Festival

WW1 hero whose story stands for millions

How a World War One hero came to represent all those who lost their lives in the conflict will be explored by his famous niece as part of Buxton International Festival’s Book Weekend on November 23.

Shirley Williams, a former Labour Cabinet minister and founder member of the Social Democratic Party, will describe how her uncle Edward Brittain survived some of the fiercest fighting right from its beginnings in 1914 only to be killed by a sniper just five months before the Armistice in 1918.

Her mother, Edward’s sister Vera Brittain, immortalised him in her book Testament of Youth, which was turned into a Hollywood film in 2014.

The story keeps not only his memory alive, but stands for all those who died.

On a recent visit to Edward’s grave in Italy, Shirley found a poppy placed upon it by one of the many strangers who go there:  “Because my mother wrote about him, he seems like their brother, or their uncle”, she said.

Ironically, Vera, whose family was then living in Buxton, had lobbied her reluctant father to allow Edward to apply for the army, and she clung to the fact that he had survived being wounded at the Battle of the Somme where he won the Military Cross for bravery.

But in 1918 he was transferred to what was thought to be the much safer Italian front, until an Austrian offensive there claimed a million lives  – including Edward’s.

The talk at 10.30am in the Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton, is presented as part of the Weekend by The Friends of Buxton International Festival, whose programme has recently featured opera singer Donald Maxwell; Lynne Dawson, who sang at Princess Diana funeral and is now Head of Opera at the Royal Northern College of Music; and Simon Webb – CEO of the BBC Philharmonic.

For more about The Friends, see

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