Novelist: Francis Brett Young

Francis Brett Young was a prolific author. He had started writing before the outbreak of World War One in which he served as a medical officer in East Africa. However, on his return in 1918 he was not well enough to return to a medical practice and took to full time writing. Apart from his focus on Africa drawing mainly on his wartime experience, he also writes about the Black Country in which he grew up.

1884 – 29 June, born Hales Owen in Worcestershire
1907 – qualified as a doctor in Birmingham
1908 – secretly married Jessie Hankinson
1916 – medical officer in East Africa
1918 – discharged from military service
1945/6 – moved to Montagu, Cape Province
1956, 28 March – died in Cape Town, his ashes were returned to Britain

His novels, Pilgrim’s Rest (1922), They Seek a Country (1937), The City of Gold (1939) are set in South Africa but do not concern the Great War. The latter two are set pre-1900. In 1942 he published In South Africa being a description of the country (including Rhodesia) as he saw it.

Books on World War One in Africa

1917 – Marching on Tanga (with General Smuts in East Africa) – see Great War Fiction for a publication conundrum
1917 – Five Degrees South – war poetry
1918 – The Crescent Moon – a novel
1916-1918-1919 – Poetry (includes those from Five Degrees South)
1924 – Woodsmoke
1925 – Sea Horses
1930 – Jim Redlake

Tanga Letters to Jessie – his East Africa letters to Jessie published by the Francis Brett Young Society (2016)


Francis Brett Young Society in particular Michael Hall’s publication The World Went Mad: World War 1 in the Words of Francis Brett Young
Cadbury Research Library, Birmingham (TNA listing)
Medal card: TNA WO 372/22/120535
EG Twitchett – Francis Brett Young (1935)
Great War in Africa Association – medical project

One thought on “Novelist: Francis Brett Young

  1. Pingback: Time for a (little) change … | Anne Samson - Historian

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