R. C. Sherriff

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R. C. Sherriff
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 began working at an insurance office as a clerk in 1914.

Military service[edit]

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.[7] He was severely wounded at Passchendaele near Ypres in 1917.[8]

Post war period[edit]

After recovering from his wounds, Sherriff worked as an insurance adjuster from 1918 to 1928 at Sun Insurance Company, London.[9]

Sherriff read 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] The play was hugely successful and there was wide press coverage which reveals how audience responses provoked by this play shaped understanding of the First World War in the interwar years. [16]


Sherriff also wrote prose. A novelised version of Journey's End, co-written with Vernon Bartlett, was published in 1930.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19] 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".[20]

His 1936 novel Greengates is a realistic novel about a middle-aged couple, Tom and Edith Baldwin, moving from an established London suburb into the new suburbs of Metro-land.[21]

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.[22] His 1955 screenplays, The Dam Busters and The Night My Number Came Up were nominated for best British screenplay BAFTA awards.[23]



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); 2021 pbk reprint. Scribner. 7 September 2021. ISBN 978-1-9821-8478-0.
  • 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. LCCN 44008653. OCLC 761913.
  • Another Year: A Novel. 1948. LCCN 48006451. OCLC 1455916.
  • King John's Treasure. 1954. OCLC 31122994.
  • Sherriff, Robert Cedric (1962). The Wells of St. Mary's. Hutchinson Library Services. ISBN 0091174406. OCLC 7185868.
  • Sherriff, Robert Cedric (1973). The Siege of Swayne Castle. Gollancz. 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. ^ Clinton, Jane (17 July 2011). "Sadness that forever lies at Journey's End". Daily Express.
  8. ^ Sherriff, R. C. (1968). No Leading Lady: An Autobiography. London: Gollancz. pp. 14, 22. ISBN 0-575-00155-0.
  9. ^ "R. C. Sherriff". Twickenham Museum.
  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. ^ Purkis, Charlotte (2016) 'The Mediation of Constructions of Pacifism in Journey's End and The Searcher, two Contrasting Dramatic Memorials from the Late 1920s' https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1461670X.2015.1135753
  17. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries. New Series: 1930. Copyright Office, Library of Congress. 1931. p. 1.
  18. ^ FitzHerbert, Claudia (5 September 2009). "Endpaper". The Daily Telegraph.
  19. ^ "The Fortnight in September". Persephone Books.
  20. ^ "Novelists pick books to inspire, uplift, and offer escape". The Guardian. 5 May 2020. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  21. ^ "Greengates by R. C. Sherriff". Book Snob. 3 December 2016.
  22. ^ "R.C. Sherriff - Movie and Film Awards". AllMovie.
  23. ^ Glancy, H. M. (2008). "Writers and Production Artists: R. C. Sherriff". film reference.

Further reading[edit]

  • Wales, Roland (2016). 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]