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John Masefield (1878 – 1967)

Photograph of a head and shoulders length portrait of the Poet Laureate and holder of the Order of Merit, John Masefield. He faces three-quarters right and wears a dark jacket, white shirt and tie.

John Edward Masefield (1878-1967) © National Portrait Gallery, London

John Masefield was born in Herefordshire, and brought up by his uncle and aunt, who sent him to train for the merchant marine aboard HMS Conway in 1891. This first introduced him to the romance of tall ships, which feature in some of his best-loved early pieces, still read in British schools today, such as Sea Fever and Cargoes.

During the First World War he worked with the British Red Cross, and was sent twice to the United States to promote the Allied war effort. In 1930 he was appointed Poet Laureate, a position which he filled energetically. His compositions were in a traditional style, using simple language, written for all readers rather than for the literati.