There are many unanswered questions concerning the lives of Will Arnold-Forster and Ka Cox. Here are just a few of them. If you can help, please use the contact page to contact me. Any information provided by you that appears in the biography will be fully credited. To save you repeating the question, I have given each question a number – please just put Q.1 or whichever number applies in your answer. I will revise the questions as I find answers (whether from you or my own research), and will probably be adding new ones as my research progresses. A warm thankyou for any help you can give me.
Q.1 WHERE ARE WILL’S SKETCH OF HERBERT HOOVER AND HIS OTHER NORTH AMERICAN DRAWINGS?
On 5th January 1937, Will met former US President Herbert Hoover at his home near Stanford University, California. The following day, Will wrote to thank the President and Hoover replied thanking Will for a sketch he had made during the visit, saying that he had enjoyed their dicussion and that he was glad to have such a personal momento of their meeting. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum has no record of this sketch – does anyone know what happened to it?
Will visited the USA and Canada on a number of occasions during the 1930s, and everywhere he took his sketchbook. We know, for instance, that he painted the Brooklyn Bridge and he almost certainly drew some of the gardens he visited. Some of these sketches might still be around. Does anyone know anything about them?
Q.2 WHO ATTENDED KA’S MEMORIAL SERVICE?
I have identified most of the guests, but there are a few people I cannot place. You can find the list here. Do you know who any of these people were? This list was updated with several new names in May 2015, in case you have looked at it before then.
Q.3 WHEN DID KA AND WILL MEET?
We know that Ka met Will while she was working at the Admiralty, some time after her return from Corsica in the summer of 1916, and that she worked as Sir Arthur Salter’s private secretary from 1917/18, but when exactly did Will and Ka meet?
Q.4 DOES ANYONE KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE CHARMILLES SCHOOL AT CHATEAU D’OEX NEAR GENEVA IN SWITZERLAND?
Will and Ka’s son Mark attended this preparatory school from around 1927 until 1930, but I can find no trace of it now.
Q.5 WHO STAYED AT THE EAGLE’S NEST, AND WHEN?
Will and Ka lived in the remote and rugged house known as the Eagle’s Nest (bought by the artist Patrick Heron after Will’s death), above Zennor on the Penwith Peninsular in Cornwall. Despite its remoteness – and lack of creature comforts – many famous people visited the Arnold-Forsters there. These included Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Ivor Novello, and Emperor Haile Selassie. Does anybody know of any other guests (there were many) or know the dates of Ivor Novello’s or Haile Selassie’s visit(s)? Has anyone got the guest book which the Arnold-Forsters almost certainly kept?
Q.6 WHAT CONTACT DID WILL AND KA HAVE WITH RUTH MALLORY AFTER GEORGE MALLORY DIED?
Will shared George Mallory’s interest in climbing, briefly attended the same school, and both he and Ka had friends in common with George. Will and Ka socialised with George and Ruth after their respective marriages. However, so far little has come to light about the contact between the Arnold-Forsters and Ruth Mallory after George was lost on Everest in 1924. After Ka died in 1938, Will married Ruth just over a year later. Was theirs a sudden romance, or had it been years in the making?
Q.7 WHAT ROLE DID WILL PLAY IN DESIGNING THE GARDENS AT BORDIGHERA ON THE ITALIAN RIVIERA?
Will is believed to have advised on the design of the Parco dei Giardini Lowe or the giardini Moreno, or perhaps both, in Bordighera, some time in the 1920s. What did he do and how did this come about?
Q.8 WHAT WAS WILL DOING IN JAMAICA IN WORLD WAR ONE?
Will Arnold-Forster joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on 24th December 1914 and in the Navy’s records for December 1915 is listed as being a temporary Lieutenant on active service in the Trade Division of the Admiralty. He was assigned to HMS President, the Drill Ship of the RNVR, which was also the station of those on miscellaneous duties under the Admiral Commanding the Coast Guard and Reserves. He was to remain with the Trade Division in 1916, and on the 4th of June he was promoted to the rank of temporary Lieutenant Commander. In 1917 and 1918 he was still listed as working in the Trade Division, but was described as “temporarily detached”. In fact, he was working for the Restriction of Enemy Supplies Department on the blockade.
I have had sight of an undated letter from Will to his mother, clearly written during WW1, in which he says:
“Yes, Naval Examination Office
Is what I am doing. Quite enough.”
I can find no reference anywhere else to his ever having visited Jamaica. As far as I know, he spent the whole of WW1 at the Admiralty in London. I have established that his brother, Hugh Christopher Arnold-Forster (known as Christopher but listed in naval records as H or HC) was appointed temporary Harbour Master at Kingston Jamaica on 19th December 1917, but the letter to Mrs Arnold-Forster of definitely from Will, not Chris.
I am hoping that someone with expert knowledge of WWI, may be able to clear up this mystery for me. Is it possible that Will was originally sent to Jamaica when he first joined the Navy, before being assigned to the Admiralty in London? Was the Naval Examination Office In Kingston some kind of clearing house? Or was “Kingston, Jamaica” simply the name of a naval base in England, rather like “HMS President”? Or is there some other explanation altogether?
Q.9 WHY DID KA NEVER TAKE CUSTODY OF RUPERT BROOKE’S PAPERS?
In March 1915, Rupert Brooke, like all members of the armed forces, wrote several letters settling his affairs, in case he should be killed. He told Ka and his friend Dudley Ward that he was leaving all his papers first this his mother, and then on her death to Ka. Mary Brooke died in 1931. In her will, she left Rupert’s papers to his literary agent and friend, Eddie Marsh, and after that to King’s College, Cambridge, where Rupert has studied. Ka clearly had a claim on the papers, but she does not appear to have exercised it. Does anyone know why not?
Q.10 WHEN DID KA STAY WITH MAYNARD KEYNES?
Ka knew the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes from her youth, and frequently visited him at his family home at 6 Harvey Road in Cambridge. In a letter dated 3rd August (without a year) she asked if she could stay with him, and in another letter dated Friday 13th August (again without a year) she thanked him for the visit and said she had enjoyed meeting the artist Frederick Etchells. All the evidence suggests that this would have been in 1912, when Keynes took over the Crown Hotel in Everleigh for the summer and invited his friends, including Rupert Brooke, to stay at different times. However, on 2nd August, Rupert left Everleigh and drove down to Bibury, where Ka was holidaying with her aunts, and told her he was breaking off their relationship for good. It seems hardly conceivable that Ka, who was heartbroken, would have written the very next day to Maynard Keynes and asked to stay in the place that Rupert had just left, and that she would have enjoyed her visit. Can anyone shed any light on this?
Q.11 WHY DID WILL ARNOLD-FORSTER CALL HIS FRIEND ELLIOTT SEABROOKE “MIKE”?
Will attended the Slade School of Art at the same time as the artist Elliott Seabrooke, and they became friends. Seabrooke later went to stay with Will in Italy. In his letters, Will always refers to Elliott as “Mike” and mentions his wife in a letter dated 1913, although Seabrooke did not marry until 1930. Elliott does not appear to have had any relatives called Michael, but was there in fact a Mike Seabrooke who was married by 1913, or did Will call Elliott Mike?
Q.12 WHO LIVED AT 18a BELSIZE LANE, LONDON NW3 IN 1939, AND WHAT WAS HIS/HER CONNECTION WITH WILL?
Will wrote several letters from this address in October and November 1939. The most recent Electoral Register was drawn up in 1938. In that year, four people are listed as living there: Margaret Dynely Baynes, Rosalind Chambers, and Arthur and Mary Hulme. However, it’s possible that the none of them still lived there by late 1939. So far, I have not been able to find a link between any of them and Will, or his first wife, Ka[tharine], who dies in 1938, or his second wife, Ruth, whom he married in July 1939, and who was the widow of the mountaineer George Mallory.
Q.13 DID YOU BUY OR SELL SIX OF WILL’S SKETCH BOOKS IN 2012 ON EBAY?
If so, please contact me via my contact page.
If you have the answers to any of these questions, or know where I might find them, or have any other information about Will and Ka, I should be glad to hear from you via my contact page. Grateful thanks to the many people who have helped me via the website already.
Thankyou so much for your help!