7 January 2011

Reginald Ernest James Britton: What Lionel Britton Was Up To

When I first began studying Lionel Britton, and having some knowledge of his family background, it rapidly became clear to me that his only published novel Hunger and Love (1931) is to a certain extent an attack not just on religion, war, the monarchy, the business world, and the judiciary, but also on his own family who represented most of those institutions. I knew nothing of his half-uncle Reginald Britton, although Lionel must have, and at least part of his venom must have been aimed at him: it would be difficult to imagine a better representative of the Establishment than Rex, as his family call him.

I've named the sub-title of this post 'What Lionel Britton Was Up To' by way of an ironic comment on a chapter in Hunger and Love: 'What Evolution Is Up To'. It would have been ironic to Lionel because he would not have associated his half-uncle's life with evolution - quite the reverse, in fact. To say that Lionel was the black sheep of the family somehow doesn't say enough, but it'll have to do until I think of something better.

Reginald Ernest James Britton was born in Alcester, Warwickshire, England, on 4 June, 1887, to John James Britton and his second wife, Maud May (née Coward). He went to Osbourne Naval College on the Isle of Wight, England, where he later taught seamanship, the future King Edward VIII and future King George VI being two of his students. King George even sought his former teacher out on a visit to New Brunswick.

After serving in the forces in the Mediterranean and the Middle East for six years, he worked at St Andrews Mission at Sunny Brae, Moncton, under the auspices of the Rev. Canon W. B. Sisam of Monckton. He later went to King's College, Windsor, Nova Scotia, and became a lay reader in Devon, New Brunswick.

During World War I, he joined the Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion, then the 25th Battalion until being seriously wounded (almost being forced to have his leg amputated) at Hill 60 at the Battle of Ypres, after which he had to return to Canada. He received various decorations.

Rex returned to King's College after the war, where he gained a degree in Divinity, and was ordained at Christ Church Cathedral. He worked in many places in New Brunswick, and was a lifelong member of the Royal Canadian Legion as well being active with the boy scouts.

He was made honorary canon of Christ church Cathedral in Fredericton had encouraged a large number of men to join the priesthood.

During his retirement, Rex lived on Claremont Road, Nashwaaksis, Fredericton, and his hobbies were fishing and communing with nature.

In February 1980, in Saint John Regional Division Regional Hospital, the Bayview Legion, Branch 22 in Grand Bay - after a ten-year search - awarded Canon Britton his 50-year membership pin and his 50-year service medal. He was 92.

He died the following year. His wife Ada Gabriella (née Clements) had died before him, and he left a son, John E. C. Britton, and two daughters: Florence (Mrs Reginald Brown), and Ruth (Mrs Murray Armstrong).

1 comment:

Snatch51 said...

Sadly, John E C Britton has died.

His obituary is here:


Note that his sisters have already predeceased him, so he was the last of John James Britton's grandchildren.