Friday, February 20, 2009

Obituary - Percy F Westerman

The launch of this blog coincides with the 50th anniversary of the death of Percy Westerman who passed away on February 22, 1959

The Times
Mr. Percy. F.Westerman

Adventure Tales for Boys

Mr. Percy. F. Westerman, a popular writer of books for boys, has died at the age of 82.

He was born in Portsmouth in 1876 and educated at Portsmouth Grammar School. The sea attracted him from his earliest days and by the age of 20 he had taken up a promising clerical appointment in Portsmouth Dockyard.

He married Florence Wager of Portsmouth in 1900 and though he had written briefly on nautical topics in his twenties his first book for boys entitled A Lad of Grit was not published until 1908. This was written under the stimulus of Scouting which Baden-Powell founded in the same year after an experimental camp at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour in 1907. Westerman was greatly attracted to the idea of Scouting on the water and became keenly interested in Sea Scouting.

His early books, which stressed adventure and the open-air life both on land and sea, were so successful that Westerman resigned his Admiralty appointment in 1911 to devote himself to full time writing for boys. For many years he lived on board a houseboat on the River Frome at Wareham in Dorset, but a fall when he was 70 made him reluctantly, take to dry land.

In the First World War he was for a time employed on coastal duties with the Royal Navy, but later held a commission, like Captain W. E. Johns in the Royal Flying Corps and found flying as full of adventure as boating and sailing.

In the Second World War he did valuable work for the Home Guard in Dorset, while his nautical figure and peaked yachting cap made him a well-known personality in his spare time among the boys of the county.

Of his service in the two wars he once wrote to Blackie "neither appointment seriously interfered with my literary output".

His last book will be published in May by Blackie & Son who have been his publisher since Lad o' Grit appeared in 1908. He wrote in all 170 books and his total sales at death were 1,599,000. He had one book published in each of the last three years, and before then his output varied from tree to five books a year.

In post war years Percy Westerman became something of a recluse and was rarely, if ever seen in London. But his work never faltered and remained of a high quality. He never ceased to give his readers real life heroes who revelled in danger and high adventure, usually in the Services or Sea Scouting. His books had been translated into over half a dozen European languages and also into Braille.

The Times
Wednesday 25 February, 1959.