R. C. Sherriff

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R. C. Sherriff
R. C. Sherriff.jpg
BornRobert Cedric Sherriff
(1896-06-06)6 June 1896
Hampton Wick, Middlesex, England
Died13 November 1975(1975-11-13) (aged 79)
Kingston upon Thames, England
OccupationPlaywright and screenwriter
Period1920s to 1960s

Robert Cedric Sherriff, FSA, FRSL (6 June 1896 – 13 November 1975)[1] was an English writer best known for his play Journey's End,[2] which was based on his experiences as an army officer in the First World War.[3] He wrote several plays, many novels, and multiple screenplays, and was nominated for an Academy Award and two BAFTA awards.[4]

Early life[edit]

Sherriff was born in Hampton Wick, Middlesex, to insurance clerk Herbert Hankin Sherriff and Constance Winder.[5] He was educated at Kingston Grammar School in Kingston upon Thames from 1905 to 1913.[n 1]

After he left school, Sherriff worked in an insurance office as a clerk (from 1914) and as an insurance adjuster (1918 to 1928) at Sun Insurance Company, London.[7] Sherriff served as an officer in the 9th battalion of the East Surrey Regiment in the First World War, taking part in the fighting at Vimy Ridge and Loos.[8] He was severely wounded at Passchendaele near Ypres in 1917.[9]

Sherriff studied history at New College, Oxford, from 1931 to 1934.[10][11] He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Society of Antiquaries of London.[12]



Sherriff wrote his first play to help Kingston Rowing Club raise money to buy a new boat.[13] His seventh play, Journey's End, was written in 1928 and published in 1929 and was based on his experiences in the war.[3] It was given a single Sunday performance, on 9 December 1928, by the Incorporated Stage Society at the Apollo Theatre, directed by James Whale and with the 21-year-old Laurence Olivier in the lead role.[14] In the audience was Maurice Browne who produced it at the Savoy Theatre where it was performed for two years from 1929.[15]


Sherriff also wrote prose. A novelised version of Journey's End, co-written with Vernon Bartlett, was published in 1930.[16] His 1939 novel, The Hopkins Manuscript is an H. G. Wells-influenced post-apocalyptic story about an earth devastated because of a collision with the Moon.[17] Its sober language and realistic depiction of an average man coming to terms with a ruined England is said[citation needed] to have been an influence on later science fiction authors such as John Wyndham and Brian Aldiss. The Fortnight in September, an earlier novel, published in 1931, is a rather more plausible story about a Bognor holiday enjoyed by a lower-middle-class family from Dulwich.[18] It was nominated by Kazuo Ishiguro as a book to 'inspire, uplift and offer escape' in a list compiled by The Guardian during the COVID-19 pandemic, describing it as "just about the most uplifting, life-affirming novel I can think of right now".[19]

His 1936 novel Green Gates is a realistic novel about a middle-aged couple, Tom and Edith Baldwin, moving from an established London suburb into the then-new suburbs of Metro-land.[20]

Award nominations[edit]

Sherriff was nominated along with Eric Maschwitz and Claudine West for an Academy award for writing an adapted screenplay for Goodbye, Mr. Chips which was released in 1939.[21] His 1955 screenplays, The Dam Busters and The Night My Number Came Up were nominated for best British screenplay BAFTA awards.[22]



Film scripts[edit]


  • Journey's End: A Novel (with Vernon Bartlett). London: Gollancz. 1930. OCLC 4072239.
  • The Fortnight in September. 1931. OCLC 246884057. (Reprinted in 2006 by Persephone Books)
  • Greengates. Victor Gollancz. 1936. OCLC 2228475. (Reprinted in 2015 by Persephone Books)
  • The Hopkins Manuscript. Victor Gollancz. 1939. OCLC 2212270. (Revised and reissued as a Pan Paperback in 1958 under the title The Cataclysm; Reprinted in 2005 by Persephone Books under its original title.)
  • Chedworth: A Novel. 1944. OCLC 761913.
  • Another Year: A Novel. 1948. OCLC 1455916.
  • King John's Treasure. 1954. OCLC 31122994.
  • The Wells of St. Mary's. 1962. OCLC 7185868.
  • The Siege of Swayne Castle. 1973. ISBN 0-575-01722-8.
  • No Leading Lady: An Autobiography. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. 1968. ISBN 0-575-00155-0.

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Sherriff maintained close links with the school for the rest of his life. He sent a copy of Journey's End to the headmaster after the play was first performed in 1928, and was a generous benefactor to the school until his death, paying particularly close attention to the school rowing club, whose supporters' club now bears his name. He financed a number of boats named after his plays (Journey's End, White Carnation, Home at Seven, Long Sunset and Badger's Green). He also purchased a piece of land at the end of Aragon Avenue in Thames Ditton for the purpose of building a school boathouse,[6] which was completed in 1980.


  1. ^ "R. C. Sherriff". Internet Broadway Database.
  2. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 264. ISBN 978-1-84854-195-5.
  3. ^ a b R.C. Sherriff at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ "R. C. Sherriff (1896-1975), Dramatist and Novelist: Correspondence and Papers". Jisc Archives Hub.
  5. ^ UK Public Records Office, BDM Certificates[page needed]
  6. ^ "Boathouse history". KGS Sherriff Club. Archived from the original on 27 February 2018.
  7. ^ "R. C. Sherriff". Twickenham Museum.
  8. ^ Clinton, Jane (17 July 2011). "Sadness that forever lies at Journey's End". Daily Express.
  9. ^ Sherriff, R. C. (1968). No Leading Lady: An Autobiography. London: Gollancz. pp. 14, 22. ISBN 0-575-00155-0.
  10. ^ Trewin, J. C. "Sherriff, Robert Cedric". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31678. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  11. ^ "RC Sherriff (1896 - 1975)". Exploring Surrey's Past.
  12. ^ "R. C. Sherriff". Hampton Wick Remembers.
  13. ^ "The road to Journey's End...A Hitch in the Proceedings and other early plays by R C Sherriff". Exploring Surrey's Past. 21 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Journey's End - Apollo Theatre 1928 Production". Theatricalia.
  15. ^ "Journey's End - Savoy Theatre 1928/9 Production". Theatricalia.
  16. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries. New Series: 1930. Copyright Office, Library of Congress. 1931. p. 1.
  17. ^ FitzHerbert, Claudia (5 September 2009). "Endpaper". Daily Telegraph.
  18. ^ "The Fortnight in September". Persephone Books.
  19. ^ "Novelists pick books to inspire, uplift, and offer escape". The Guardian. 5 May 2020. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  20. ^ "Greengates by R C Sherriff". Book Snob. 3 December 2016.
  21. ^ "R.C. Sherriff - Movie and Film Awards". AllMovie.
  22. ^ Glancy, H. M. (2008). "Writers and Production Artists: R. C. Sherriff". film reference.

Further reading[edit]

  • Wales, Roland. From Journey's End to the Dam Busters: The life of R.C. Sherriff, Playwright of the Trenches. Barnsley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 978-1473860698.

External links[edit]