H R L Sheppard

Hugh Richard Lawrie Sheppard, popularly known as ‘Dick’ Sheppard, was born at Windsor Castle in September 1880. His father was one of the clergy of the castle's St George's Chapel. Whilst pondering his career, Dick volunteered at the age of 18 for the Militia, the then equivalent of the Territorial Army, in which he was commissioned as a junior officer. Then, in early 1900, with the advent of the Boer War, Dick decided to enlist in the Imperial Yeomanry for South African service. As he set out one frosty morning to join his unit, the horse of his hansom cab slipped on the ice, and in the ensuing crash Dick's leg was so badly injured that he had a slight limp until the end of his life. So ended the military career of the future famous pacifist.

Instead, Dick went to Cambridge University and carried out voluntary work at local centres. After graduating he went to Oxford House in Bethnal Green, London to help run boy’s clubs among other things. Later, Dick realised that he did have a priestly vocation, and after training he was ordained in 1907, returning to Oxford House as Chaplain and then as Head of the House, until a bout of asthmatic ill-health, which was recurrently to affect him all his life, forced him to resign in 1910.

H R L Sheppard

H R L ‘Dick’ Sheppard 1880-1937

On recovery Dick served at various churches in the West End of London until in July 1914 he accepted the post of Vicar of St Martin-in-the Fields, Trafalgar Square. Before he could take it up, however, the First World War had been declared, and Dick accepted an invitation to be chaplain of a military hospital in France. Less than a week after arriving, the one time would-be soldier was writing home, "War is awful. More awful than I supposed possible". One of the doctors described how Dick "would identify himself with every dying man...sit there, just because he had promised the dying man that he would, just because he thought it might somehow comfort the poor fellow, who was long past any comfort really... " After two months Dick's health broke again, and he returned to London and took up his duties at St Martin-in-the Fields.

Meanwhile, Dick's direct experience of war had not been without effect and it was in 1919 that he later said that he had become a pacifist. As a committed pacifist, he was concerned by the failure of the major nations to agree to international disarmament and on 16th October 1934, he had a letter published in the Manchester Guardian inviting men to send him a postcard giving their undertaking to "renounce war and never again to support another." Within two days 2,500 men responded and over the next few weeks around 30,000 pledged their support for Sheppard's campaign.

In July 1935 he chaired a meeting of 7,000 members of his new organization at the Albert Hall in London (see programme below). Eventually named the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), it achieved 100,000 members over the next few months. The organization now included other prominent religious, political and literary figures including Arthur Ponsonby, George Lansbury, Vera Brittain, Wilfred Wellock, Reginald Sorensen, Max Plowman, Maude Royden, Frank P. Crozier, Alfred Salter, Ada Salter, Margaret Storm Jameson, Siegfried Sassoon, Donald Soper, Aldous Huxley, Laurence Housman and Bertrand Russell.

Peace pledge: “I renounce war and never will I support or sanction another”

Peace Demonstration

Dr. Sheppard’s Peace Demonstration Programme - The programme above belonged to Siegfried Sassoon, the Sotheby’s proof of provenance monogram at the bottom left hand corner in the centre image above proves this to be the case. Sassoon read extracts from his war poems during the meeting.

This demonstration took place at the Royal Albert Hall, 14th July 1935. It was organised by the Rev. H.R.L. Sheppard, the Canon and Precentor of St. Paul’s Cathedral and one of the Chaplains to His Majesty King George V. This was a single fold programme, page 3 being four hymns to be sung during the meeting. The cover picture is by Arthur Wragg and shows a cenotaph encasing a stricken soldier and dripping with blood. This was produced as a large poster but was banned from the London Underground Stations at the time because it was “too gruesome.”

Peace Pledge Union Programme

Peace Pledge Union Programme - Royal Albert Hall 27th November 1936  - This gruesome cover was designed by Arthur Wragg. Siegfried Sassoon was a member of the P.P.U. and a good friend of its founder, H.R.L. ‘Dick’ Sheppard. Sassoon wrote a poem specially for this event which was published in this programme, called ‘A Prayer For 1936’. Included with this programme is an undated leaflet published by the P.P.U. giving advice to members on the subjects of Practice Black-outs and Gas Drill, Conscription and Red Cross Work, all of which they were against.

Sheppard’s Pie  - By H. R. L. Sheppard, published in 1935 by Cassell & Co. Ltd., with the author’s autograph in pen ‘Richard Sheppard’ tipped into the title page. This is an anthology of extracts and poems copied down in notebooks by the author that seemed beautiful, significant, helpful or pertinent. Included are four of Sassoon’s poems.

St Martins Review

St Martin’s Review, December 1937. A large part of this review was given over to commemorate the life and work of Dick Sheppard. Contributors included the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, the Dean of St Paul’s, Bernard Shaw, Max Beerbohm, John Middleton Murray, and Max Plowman among others, and of course Siegfried Sassoon, who contributed his poem ‘The Heaven of our Hearts (To H.R.L.S.)’

H.R.L. Sheppard - Himself & His Work - A tribute in grateful loving memory by numerous contributors, reprinted from the December 1937 number of St. Martin’s Review. Sassoon’s contribution being the poem, ‘The Heaven Of Our Hearts [To H.R.L.S.]’

H.R.L. Sheppard Himself & His Work

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