Ian Serraillier

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Ian Serraillier (24 September 1912 – 28 November 1994) was an English novelist and poet. He retold legends from England, Greece and Rome and was best known for his children's books, especially The Silver Sword (1956), a wartime adventure story that the BBC adapted for television in 1957 and again in 1971.

Early life and education[edit]

Serraillier was born in London on 24 September 1912. He was the eldest of the four children of Lucien Serraillier (1886–1919) and Mary Kirkland Rodger (1883–1940). His father died in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

Serraillier was educated at Brighton College and at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. He then taught English at Wycliffe College, Gloucestershire, from 1936 to 1939, Dudley Grammar School, Worcestershire, from 1939 to 1946, and Midhurst Grammar School, West Sussex, from 1946 to 1961.


As a Quaker Serraillier was granted conscientious objector status in World War II. He was a member of the pacifist Peace Pledge Union.[1][2]

Writing and editing[edit]

In 1946, Serraillier published his first two children's books: They Raced for Treasure, a story of sailing, treasure and spies, and Thomas and the Sparrow.[3] These were followed by several more adventure stories, including his best-known The Silver Sword (1956), which follows the story of four refugee children, three of them siblings: Ruth, Edek, and Bronia. The fourth, Jan, is another of the many Warsaw war orphans who has somehow met their father. He then fainted near the bombed-out basement that serves as the siblings' home. The four join together in their search for the siblings' parents in the chaos of Europe immediately after the Second World War. The book was published in the United States under the title Escape from Warsaw.[4]

Beginning in 1961, Serraillier devoted most of his time to writing fiction and non-fiction, poems, and educational programmes for television. He also produced retellings of classic and ancient legends for children, in prose and verse, including Beowulf, works by Chaucer, English folklore, and Greek and Roman myths. In 1948, together with his wife, Anne Margaret Rogers, he founded the New Windmill Series. Published by Heinemann Educational Books, the series set out to provide inexpensive editions of good stories, including fiction, travel and biography for older readers. He continued as co-editor of the series until the onset of Alzheimer's disease in the early 1990s.

The Ivory Horn (1960), a retelling of the Roland legend, was a runner-up for the Carnegie Medal[when?], as had been The Silver Sword.[5] As a popular children's author, Serraillier was invited to Children's Literature Summer Camps for members of the Puffin Book Club, run by Colony Holidays (predecessor to ATE Superweeks), along with other popular children's authors such as Joan Aiken and Clive King.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Ian Serraillier lived and worked in an old flint cottage near Chichester, in West Sussex. He and his wife, Anne Margaret Rogers, had three daughters and a son. Ian Serraillier died on 28 November 1994.


The Papers of Ian Serraillier held at the University of Reading largely comprise manuscripts, typescripts, and galley proofs, including Fight for Freedom, The Clashing Rocks, The Cave of Death, Havelock the Dane, They Raced for Treasure, Flight to Adventure, and The Silver Sword. They also contain correspondence with publishers, other business and literary correspondence, notebooks with poems, ideas and story outlines, rejection letters, publishers' agreements, press cuttings, research material, lecture notes and typescripts, obituaries, etc.[7]


  1. ^ Cloves, Jeff (July – August 2009). "Review of 'The Silver Sword'". Peace News. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  2. ^ Prichard, Mari (22 July 2013). "Ian Serraillier". ODNB.
  3. ^ British Library catalogue Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  4. ^ Serraillier, Ian. Escape from Warsaw.
  5. ^ Author's biography in the Puffin edition, reprinted in 1987.
  6. ^ "How Summer Camps Could Change Britain" (PDF). Campaign for Summer Camps.
  7. ^ University of Reading site Retrieved 19 July 2018.

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