Vera Mary Brittain

Vera Brittain
Born: 29-12-1893, Newcastle-under-Lyme (UK)
Died: 29-03-1970, London (UK)

Testament of Youth (1933) is the book that is forever linked to the English writer and poetess Vera Brittain. She was born as Vera Mary Brittain in 1893 as a daughter of a middle-class family from Buxton Derbyshire. She had one brother, Edward.

When she was thirteen years old, her parents decided she would receive her education at St. Monica’s in Kingwood (Surrey). In 1913, she started with a study of English Literature at Somerville College in Oxford. When World War I broke out, she encouraged her brother to join the British army. Her fiancé at that time, Richard Leighton – who she had met at Somerville – and two of his friends, Victor Richardson and Geoffrey Thurlow, also joined the army. They all died in the first years of the war. The correspondence with her brother, fiancé and his friends are documented in the book Letters from a lost generation.

In 1915, she decided to pause her study and work as a volunteer nurse. She saw the full impact of this war and her experiences formed the basis of Testament f Youth. After the war was over, she returned home and picked up her study. She had to adjust to the life after the war. Adjusting to the post-war generation was very difficult for Brittain.

In 1925, she married George Catlin. Their son, John Brittain-Catlin (1927 – 1987) was an artist, businessman and the author of Family Quartet. He had a troublesome relationship with his mother.

Daughter Shirley Williams (1930) is former Labour Cabinet Minister and nowadays Liberal Democrat peer.

In November 1966, Brittain fell while walking in London. She was injured and from that moment, her health started to get worse. She died on March 29 1970 at the age of 76. Her ashes were scattered on the grave of her brother Edward in Italy, where he died during the Battle of Asiago.


The first book Brittain published was the novel The Dark Tide (1923). Her next novel, the one she is most famous for, was released in 1933: Testament of Youth, followed by Testament of Friendship (1940) and Testament of Experience (1958). All these books had one thing in common, they were written straight from the heart and based on real-life experiences.

She combined her writings with the work she did for the League of Nations Union. She was one of the speakers as from 1936. She wanted a peaceful world. In 1937, she joined the Peace Pledge Union, followed by the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship. From that time, she was considered as one of the important figures of pacifism. After World War II, she started the Letters to Peacelovers series.

Although she opposed to the bombardments of German cities in 1944 (Massacre by Bombing), she was one of the British citizens that was on a list of 200 people, that needed to be eliminated once Operation Sea Lion – the invasion of Great Britain by the Germans – was a success.

Poems published on this website

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