It has a churchyard of surprises, with a fine old yew throwing its shadow over the graves of a remarkable group of men. Very attractive when we called was the nursery garden, with its splendid avenue of pines climbing towards the sky and stretching for more than a mile, and in the church we loved the beautiful Elizabethan chalice; but it is chiefly by its memories that Frimley comes into fame.
Yet it has also within its boundaries an institution which has made for it a great name among those who heal disease, for here the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis founded the first colony in England where boys in their teens are cured of this disease and educated as if they were at school. The Sanatorium Colony is on Burrow Hill^ and its record has been wonderfully encouraging.
In this part of Surrey, associated with the army, many of its memories arc of officers and colonial administrators sleeping in the churchyard; yet they are not the only sleepers here who have won renown and fame. Walking round among these graves we wonder if any village in Surrey has a more notable array of names.
We come upon the surprising name of Bret Harte, the American humorist who tried his hand at mining and teaching as well as writing, and there is William George Cubitt, who, in the Indian Mutiny, won the VC for saving three men's lives at the risk of his own during the retreat from Chinhut. There is John Frederick Lewis, an artist of last century who loved to draw animals and scenes of Spanish and Oriental life. His pictures won him much distinction, being highly praised by Ruskin, and some of his water-colours are at South Kensington. There is Charles Wellington Furse, who spent the last years of his short life, when he was dying, at his house near Camberley, making a beautiful garden of a sandy waste and painting the pictures by which he is best remembered. His Diana of the Uplands and the Return from the Ride are in the Tate Gallery. Diana is his wife. Daughter of one famous man and wife of another, Dame Katharine Furse is known to fame on her own account for her achievements as founder and director of the VAD in France during the war, and for her work among the Girl Guides. Furse was a masterly painter of horses and an excellent portrait-painter, and his early death was a tragic loss to English art.
And there is Sir Doveton Sturdee lying here, the gallant sailor who was a Llieutenant in the Egyptian Wars of Gordon's day and an admiral at Jutland in our day. He won his chief fame in the early months of the Great War by his victory at the Falkland Islands, and became popular in peace by securing the restoration of Nelson's Victory at Portsmouth. He died in 1925, and his memory is kept green here by a wooden cross set in an arch of stone, a cross made from a beam of Nelson's flagship.
It is fitting that Admiral Sturdee's grave should be marked by a cross of wood from the timbers of the Victory, for, quite apart from his share in restoring Nelson's ship, he had himself what we call the Nelson Touch. Nowhere was this better displayed than at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914, when he defeated a German squadron.
The admiral was never tired of telling the story of the three women who sent the news which gave him the chance of his great victory.
The British Fleet did not expect the German Fleet at the Falklands, and the Germans had no idea of finding our ships there. But Mrs Felton, the wife of a sheep farmer, hearing that strange ships were about, sent two of her maids to a headland overlooking Stanley Harbour and received news that a German cruiser and two supply steamers were in sight Our ships were coaling at the time, and the Germans were hidden from them. Mrs Felton telephoned to the naval authorities, and sent back her maids with a notebook and pencil. While one maid remained as observer and wrote notes of all she saw, the other ran with messages back to the house, where they were telephoned to Admiral Sturdee. A woman had seen what no look-out had discovered, and the result was that a German squadron soon lay at the bottom of the sea. The Admiralty recognised the great importance of Mrs Felton's conduct, and sent her a letter of thanks and a massive silver salver. Her lieutenants, the two nimble-.witted maids, were also remembered and the Admiralty presented each with a handsome start for her bottom drawer, a silver teapot. But for their presence of mind the German Fleet might have escaped.
FRANCIS BRET HARTE, whose name is so unexpected at Frimley, was the poet and story-writer of the Californian mining region, who became widely known and appreciated in England in the seventies of last century, and deserves lasting fame. He was born in 1839 at Albany, in the State of New York. His father was professor of Greek at the local college, dying when the boy was quite young. As was customary in the States at that time, Bret Harte went west to find a career, and at 17 began to sample a number of occupations in California; he became in turn messenger, miner, printer, teacher, secretary, and editor.
His stories described vividly the romance in the rude life of the mining camps, and the sketches were accompanied by equally original short poems, picturesque, humorous, pathetic, and idyllic. For a short time Bret Harte held a professorship in the University of California, but in 1871 be left the West and lived in New York. His poems had now been collected, and he was admired throughout the English-speaking world. His writing activity continued, and he also made repeated lecturing tours through the States. In 1878 he was appointed United States Consul in Germany, and on his journey there he lectured in London on the emigrant movement which linked the Eastern and Western shores of America across the central barren lands. After two years in Germany he served in Glasgow in the same capacity, and at last retired and made his home in or near London till his death.
Though he lived most of the last 17 years of his life in England, he remained to the end a 100-per-cent American. Almost to the last he continued writing, and wrote more than forty books. His distinctive work, however, was done in the first half of his writing-life. It depicts types of character much rarer now than then, rough in the extreme, though he interpreted it with a sensitive spirit, and with a literary flavour unrepresented elsewhere. The man who could produce such wares as The Luck of Roaring Camp, The Heathen Chinee, and the lovely verses on Dickens in Camp, will never be forgotten.