Alice and Claude Askew

Alice Askew (18 June 1874  6 October 1917)[1][2][3] along with her husband, Claude Askew (27 November 1865  6 October 1917)[1][2][3][4] were British authors, who together wrote "over ninety novels, many published in sixpenny and sevenpenny series, between 1904 and 1918".[5][6]


Claude was born on 27 November 1865 at No. 4 Holland Park, Kensington in London and christened Claude Arthur Cary. He was the second son and youngest of five children of Fanny Georgiana Charlotte Askew (née Browne 1830–1900) and Rev. John Askew, M.A. (1804–1881).[4][7] Claude's older sisters and brother were: Amy Ellen Cary Askew (10 June 1857 – 29 April 1945), Isabel Emily Florence Askew (16 November 1858 – 30 October 1928), Mabel Fanny Mary Askew (23 February 1861 – 21 August 1941), and Hugh Henry John Percy Cary Askew (18 September 1862 – 14 April 1949).

Claude was educated at Eton College (1879–1883), "... and there wrote a play in blank verse...." [6] It was probably during this period — certainly after 1877 and before 1883 — when Claude was taken on a holiday to Vevey (between Montreux and Lausanne) on Lake Geneva, where he met the future King Peter I of Serbia – then in exile in Geneva. "I was a small boy, spending my holidays with my people at Vevy on the Lake of Geneva, and at the hotel we struck up an acquaintance with Prince Peter Karageorgevitch. He was then in the prime of life, tall, dark, handsome—not yet married." He wrote this many years later recalling this childhood encounter when he met up with him once more – this time with his wife Alice and during the much darker circumstances of the 'Great Serbian Retreat' during World War I (see below). "At Koshumlja to-day we saw the King. Curiously enough, this was the first time that I have come across him since I have been in Serbia, though Alice has seen him at Topola. He is a fine old man, and neither trouble, sickness, nor age has bowed him."[8][9]


Alice was born on 18 June 1874 at No. 3 Westbourne Street, near Hyde Park in London, England; and christened Alice Jane de Courcy on 5 August 1874 at the church of St. Michael and All Angels in Paddington, London. She was the eldest daughter of Jane Leake (née Dashwood 1844–1912) and Henry Leake (1829–1899), who following his retirement from the British army, was granted the honorary rank of Lt-Colonel.[10][11] At the time of her birth he was a Captain, on half pay, late of the 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot. She had two younger siblings: Henry Dashwood Stucley Leake (17 Feb 1876 – 2 June 1970),[12][13] and Frances Beatrice Levine Leake (27 May 1878 – 29 Aug 1884).[14][15]

She began writing "for her own amusement" before her marriage, did have one short story published under her own name alone (or rather initials), "A. J. de C. L." = Alice Jane de Courcy Leake: 'A Modern-Day Saint', which appeared in 1894 in Belgravia of London.[6][16]

Marriage and partnership

Alice and Claude were married on 10 July 1900, at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, London.[17][18]

A PICTURESQUE WEDDING: “There was a large and fashionable congregation on Tuesday afternoon at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, to witness the marriage of Mr. Claude Arthur Cary Askew, second son of the late Rev. John Askew, M.A., to Miss Alice Jane de Courcey Leake, only surviving daughter of the late Lieut.-Colonel Henry Leake, late 44th and 70th Regiments, and of Mrs. Leake, 3, Westbourne Street, Hyde Park. The bridegroom, who is the proprietor of the Anglo-American Exchange, of London, New York, and Paris, has a host of friends and acquaintances among American visitors now in London, many of whom were present at the ceremony. ....” [19]

Shortly after their marriage, Alice and Claude Askew began writing together and the first novel under their joint names, The Shulamite, was published in 1904.[20] Afterwards Claude, together with Edward Knoblock, wrote a stage adaptation of it, which was first produced in 1906 at the Savoy Theatre, London starring Lena Ashwell, and a little later with Miss Ashwell in the same role in New York City.[21][22] In 1921 Paramount Pictures produced a silent film version with the title Under the Lash starring Gloria Swanson, and directed by Sam Wood.[23] The couple went on to publish "a large number of novels and serial stories".[1]

In 1915, during the First World War, both Alice and Claude Askew traveled to Serbia as part of a relief effort with a British field hospital that would be attached to the Second Serbian Army. They were also Special Correspondents for the British newspaper Daily Express. As Claude himself describes their role: "As for Alice and myself, we went out essentially as writers, though we were prepared to turn our hands to odd jobs if called upon to do so. We had assisted Dr. Hartnell Beavis in London with the formation of the unit, the raising of funds, and the collection of stores. It was the reports in the English Press of the terrible state into which Serbia had fallen during the winter of 1914–1915 that first inspired us to work for that gallant little country." He wrote this in their personal account of their experiences and impressions accompanying the Serbian army on its famous 'Great Retreat' across the mountains from Prishtina to Alessio, during the winter of 1915–16, which was published in 1916 under the title: The Stricken Land: Serbia As We Saw It.[24] The authors had spent some six months in Serbia before the retreat and wrote with sympathy and real knowledge of Serbia and the Serbian character.[1] Claude Askew was given the honorary commission of a major in the Serbian army.[25]

Following the 'Great Serbian Retreat' (see: Serbian Campaign), when the bulk of the Serbian army had been evacuated to the Greek island of Corfu, Alice and Claude both returned to England, which they reached by April 1916. By sometime in May, after finishing and arranging the publication of The Stricken Land, Claude was back with the Serbian army – now at Salonika (as Thessaloniki was then called in English), where he was working out of its Press Bureau. But Alice remained in London to give birth to her third child, who was born towards the end of July 1916. She was also spending the time in England soliciting support for the relief work with Serbia. But in October she also returned to the theatre of war and was with her husband Claude in Salonika until about the end of April of the following year, when she went to Corfu to work with the Serbian Red Cross there, under Colonel Borissavljevitch.[26]


Sometime between at least September and October 1917, Alice and Claude were on leave in Italy – perhaps in Rome to meet up with their two older children.[27] Then they set out to return to Corfu. During the night of 5–6 October 1917 (or possibly the 4th) when they were traveling on the Italian steamer Città di Bari from Taranto to Corfu, it suffered a torpedo attack by the German submarine, SM UB-48 "about 37 miles from Paxo" (or Paxoi) and was sunk.[2][28][29][30] Both drowned in the incident.[1][3] Claude's body was never recovered, but on 29 October the body of a woman was "found on the seashore at Porto Karboni on the island of Korčula" by a local fisherman. The next day it was examined by the authorities and, from various letters and telegrams that were found about her person, identified as that of the "well-known English lady writer Alice Askew of London."[31] Alice Askew was then buried that same day 30 October 1917 at Porto Karboni. And a stone cross was erected there, bearing the following inscription: ALICE ASKEW / englezka spisateljica / donesena morem 29 / a pokopana / komissionalno / 30 oktobra 1917 - (roughly translated from the original Croatian: "ALICE ASKEW / English writer / delivered up from the sea 29 / and buried / by commission / 30 October 1917").[32]

Previously – on 21 October 1917, a memorial service for Alice and Claude Askew was held at the Serbian Church in Corfu, attended by a large number of both Serbian and British officials. It was conducted by the Archbishop of Serbia, "who paid an eloquent and touching tribute to the benevolent work of Major and Mrs. Askew, to whom, he said, the Serbian people owed eternal gratitude".[33]

The Windsor Magazine issue 279 (March 1918) carried a final article, From Salonica to the Albanian Coast by "the late Major Claude Askew", introduced as "the following article has a pathetic interest as one of the last few manuscripts sent to England by the author before he and his gifted wife and collaborator met their tragic death, through the torpedoing of a vessel on which they were returning to their War duties at Salonica and in Corfu, after a brief absence in Italy in connection with the work of the Serbian Red Cross. By a sad coincidence, this theme is introduced with a reference to the submarine peril, to which Major and Mrs. Askew fell victims within a few weeks of the dispatch of this article."

Alice and Claude Askew were survived by one son and two daughters.

Selected works

  • The Shulamite (1904)
  • The Plains of Silence (1907)
  • Lucy Gort: A Study in Temperament (1907)
  • The Rod of Justice (1910)
  • Two Apaches of Paris (1911)
  • The Stricken Land: Serbia As We Saw It (1916)
  • Not Proven
  • The Stolen Lady
  • The Etonian
  • The Sporting Chance


  1. Death notice in The Times, 15 October 1917, p. 11
  2. Two news clippings from the Daily Express, Tuesday, 16 October 1917, and Thursday, 18 October 1917 (page numbers unknown) – the first reporting Alice Askew and her husband Claude "drowned in a torpedoed vessel in the Mediterranean on October 5"; while the second that "the Italian steamer Bari, (...) was torpedoed by a German submarine off the Ionian Islands at 4 a.m. on October 6". "These clippings are among the family artifacts now in my possession – previously in that of my aunt, Alice Askew's youngest child, G.M.A." —R.C.A.
  3. Probate notice in The Times, 19 October 1917, p. 4
  4. GRO Birth certificate – registered 1 January 1866
  5. Edwardian Fiction – an Oxford Companion, Oxford University Press, 1997 by Sandra Kemp, Charlotte Mitchell and David Trotter, p.10
  6. Jack Adrian's 'Introduction' to: Alice and Claude Askew’s Aylmer Vance: Ghost-Seer, edited by Jack Adrian, Ash-Tree Press, Ashcroft, British Columbia, 1998, pp. ix–xv
  7. The Times, 2 December 1865, p. 1
  8. Askew, Alice; Askew, Claude (1916). The Stricken Land: Serbia As We Saw It. New York: Dodd, Mead. pp. 186–187.
  9. The Stricken Land: Serbia As We Saw It. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  10. The Times, 20 June 1874, p. 1
  11. The Times, 11 January 1882, p. 8
  12. GRO Birth certificate – registered 25 April 1876
  13. Certified Copy of an Entry of Death – General Register Office (GRO) – registered 2 June 1970
  14. GRO Birth certificate – registered 22 June 1874
  15. GRO Death certificate – registered 30 August 1884
  16. Belgravia: A London Magazine, Volume 85 (September to December 1894), London: F.V. White & Co., 14, Bedford Street, Strand, W.C.,1894, pp. 279–287.
  17. The Times, 13 July 1900, p. 1
  18. Certified Copy of an Entry of Marriage – General Register Office (GRO)
  19. Newspaper clipping with neither the name of the newspaper nor the date it was published, under the heading: A PICTURESQUE WEDDING. "This clipping is among the family artifacts now in my possession – previously in that of my aunt, Alice Askew's youngest child, G.M.A." —R.C.A.
  20. Alice & Claude Askew, The Shulamite, Chapman & Hall, London, 1904
  21. The New York Times, 3 June 1906 'The Stage Abroad'
  22. Wilson, A.E.: Edwardian Theatre, Arthur Barker Ltd., London, 1951, pp. 119, 154
  23. "Under the Lash at IMDb". Archived from the original on 23 January 2005. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  24. Askew, 1916, p. 17
  25. Askew, 1916, p. 54
  26. Letter, dated 22 March 1917, which Claude Askew wrote to his niece in London, with the return address: "Press Bureau, Headquarters, Serbian army, Salonica", in which he wrote: "Alice left this part of the world about three weeks ago. She has gone to Corfu where she is busy working for Colonel Borissavljevitch, President of the Serbian Red Cross – her address is care of him. I was anxious for her, in those days of submarines, until I heard she had safely arrived – that was by telegram – I have no letter from her yet, but it takes as long for a letter to get here from Corfu as from England. If I can get leave, which is very doubtful, I may join her later on for a month, but one cannot see into the future and all sorts of things may happen out here." "This letter is among the family artifacts now in my possession – previously in that of G.M.A." —R.C.A.
  27. Letter, dated 19 July 1917, which Alice Askew wrote to her friend, Miss Mildred Watson in London, with the return address (in French):"Care of Colonel Borissavljevitch, President Serbian Red Cross, Corfu", in which she wrote: "I am hoping to see Geoffrey & Joan, last October makes it nearly nine months since I saw the children & I am longing to have them with me for a month. I have been given a month’s leave to go to Rome in the hope of meeting them there." "This letter is among the family artifacts now in my possession – previously in that of G.M.A." —R.C.A.)
  28. Affondamenti navi Grande Guerra 1917-1918 Web site on Italian ships sunk during the First World War - this page covering the period 1917-18
  29. '4.10.1917, il triste epilogo del piroscafo Città di Bari' Web site in Italian containing the story by Prof. Giovanni Vernì – LA VERA STORIA del triste epilogo del piroscafo “Città di Bari”, silurato dal SMG tedesco UB48 - "The True Story" of the sinking of the Città di Bari including the recollections of a survivor.
  30. Ships hit during WWI - Citta Di Bari Web site on "all the German U-boats of both World Wars" - this page showing the Città di Bari as one of the ships hit during WWI.
  31. Translation of an original document sent "To the Imperial Royal District Authorities (Bezirkshauptmannschaft), Korčula (Curzola), Velaluka, 6 November 1917 ... (signed) Gracin, Sergeant". "This English translation and what appears to be the original document, hand-written (in Croatian), signed and sealed – or possibly an equally hand-written, signed and sealed copy of it – are among the family artifacts now in my possession – previously in that of G.M.A." —R.C.A.
  32. Fazinić, Neven ing., Korčula, Croatia: Kameni Križevi Na Otoku Korčuli (Stone crosses on the island of Korčula) – article with photographs, dated 06.10.2006, that was originally accessed on
  33. "Imperial and Foreign News Items" in The Times, 23 October 1917, p. 7.
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