Mr Henry Andrews

Henry Andrews.png
Henry Andrews with Rebecca West on the SS Normandie, 1937[1]
Henry Maxwell Andrews, 38, (1894-1968), banker, was married to Rebecca West and was a guardian to Vera Brittain’s children – he had been a school friend at Uppingham of Vera’s late fiancé Roland and her brother Edward, and of her husband George Caitlin whilst at Oxford. Interned during WW1 in the civil detention camp at Ruhleben in Germany, with his mother, at the time of the dinner he was working for Schroder’s Bank in Berlin. But, in the words of his wife Rebecca, with the advent of Hitler he was beginning what she called his “death dance” with the Bank as a result of his political views. “He risked his life again and again to get people and their money out of Germany, never giving way to fear“.[2]  [More to come on Henry from those writing about Rebecca, including Rebecca herself]


Perhaps with his wife Rebecca, and perhaps with one of the businessmen at the table. His knowledge and experience in Germany will doubtless have been of interest to many of his fellow guests.


Henry’s views on the unfolding events in the US banking system may have been sought, with the banks having reopened after Roosevelt’s famous March 3rd Bank Holiday closure and, we know now from hindsight, the depression era beginning to turn. But his increasing concern over the rise of Hitler may well have been uppermost in his mind.


Henry Maxwell Andrews was born on 26th September 1894 in Rangoon, Burma, the son of Henrietta M Schabert and Louis H John.[3] He was interned in Ruhleben civil detention camp in Germany, with his mother, throughout World War One, having been caught up in events when visiting Hamburg in 1914, engaged in selling some family property.  His Oxford studies rudely interrupted, he created the equivalent of a university inside the camp of 4000 – a discussion circle where participants presented each other with academic papers.  He resumed his Oxford studies after the war, but failed to get his BA.  He worked briefly and rather unsuccessfully for Barclays, before his fluent German  and French landed him a position as a correspondence clerk with Schroder’s – he had befriended Henry Schroder at Oxford. Having lost a considerable sum during the 1929 crash he was supported in part by his uncle Ernest, who had taken him in hand after Henry’s father had died when Henry was 14.  Ernest had agreed to help Henry after he married Rebecca, though Rebecca’s earnings from writing was an increasingly important part of their income over the years.[4]

Rebecca’s biographer Carl Rollyson has described their first meeting, at Vera Brittain‘s home, in the autumn of 1929.  “Thoroughly versed in Rebecca‘s work, he had seen the dramatisation of The Return of the Soldier six times. He has been wanting to meet her. …. Vera gave Henry her warmest endorsement. … For two hours sat on the floor cushion at the feet of the usually restless Rebecca.  He was one of those gallant men who had a ‘wonderful knack of making you feel the only woman in the world’.  … She later pointed him out at a party: “You see that man with sides but no back to his head. That’s Henry”. Initially christened the Elk, his tall and robust mother was referred to as the Elk Dame.”[5]

At the time of their marriage just over a year later, on 12th November 1930[6], Henry was still working in Berlin for Schroders and travelling a great deal between Germany and the UK. At their church wedding (though neither were churchgoers) Rebecca omitted the vow to obey whilst he vowed to endow, rather than share, his worldly goods. Whilst they did have an extensive estate in the Chilterns (recently on the market), Rebecca later didn’t enjoy it a great deal – and the estate had its own financial challenges.[7] [8] [9]

Henry had been a friend of Vera Brittain’s fiancé Roland Leighton and of her brother Edward at school in Uppingham, as well as being an Oxford contemporary of Vera’s husband George Caplin. He was appointed a guardian of Vera’s children (along with Storm Jameson).[10]  


On 31st May 1933, appalled by the turn of events in Germany, Henry wrote a memorandum accurately assessing the menace of the new regime.  “Hitler is essentially an orator, swayed by his movement as much as he sways them,  the danger of a situation in which victories are required is very great indeed“.[11] Following his attendance at a board meeting of the Berlin Power and Light Company, he protested at the dismissals of Jews from management positions. , writing that “all the foreign interest would take a serious view if the management were interfered with for motives which had nothing to do with the commercial interest of the Company“.  “Men of sober judgement in important positions, who I had come to know and like and trust in the course of difficult negotiations” spoke the language of Hitler’s anti-Semitism. A year later he lost his job at Schroders when a Jew he had chosen to run a hydro-electric power station, part of his re-organisation plan for the Berlin Power and Light Company, was replaced by a Nazi. “I can’t serve with a man like that” he said. “In that case, you cannot work for Schroders” was the response.[12]

Carl Rollyson writes that Rebecca did not learn the full story of Henry’s background until several years into their marriage “Oh, it’s such a story”. “I have never known anybody so isolated as Henry… I have never known anybody who struck me as so uncared for”.[13] He clearly was affected by his time at Ruhleben and his struggle to succeed. It would seemed that whilst their 38 year-long alliance was not particularly successful, [14] nonetheless “together they assembled a coalition of contradictory qualities that made for a trying yet enduring match”.[15]

Towards the end of his life he became ill with cerebral arteriosclerosis, and he died in November 1968, pre-deceasing Rebecca. His obituary in The Times, contributed by a friend, noted that he still had a few irons in the fire in the City and was a keen membership of his rural district council.[16]


[1] The Tatler – Wednesday 17.1.1937, Image © Illustrated London News Group. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board.

[2] Carl Rollyson, Rebecca West: a Saga of the Century, Hodder and Stoughton, 1995, p131

[3] Carl Rollyson, Rebecca West: a Saga of the Century, Hodder and Stoughton, 1995, pp118-119

[4] Carl Rollyson, Rebecca West: a Saga of the Century, Hodder and Stoughton, 1995, pp113-114

[5] US Social Security Records, February 1964, Ancestry accessed 8.5.2018

[6] The Literary Lounger, L.P. Hartley, The Sketch, 12.11.1930, p42

[7] Ruhleben

[8] Rebecca West, Family Memories Edited and Introduced by Faith Evans, Virago, 1987

[9] Carl Rollyson, Rebecca West: a Saga of the Century, iUniverse, 2000

[10] Paul Berry, Mark Bostridge, Vera Brittain: A Life, Hachette UK, 2016

[11] Carl Rollyson, Rebecca West: a Saga of the Century, Hodder and Stoughton, 1995, pp130-131

[12] Carl Rollyson, Rebecca West: a Saga of the Century, Hodder and Stoughton, 1995, p131

[13] Carl Rollyson, Rebecca West: a Saga of the Century, Hodder and Stoughton, 1995, p117

[14] Gibb, Lorna, The Extraordinary Life of Rebecca West, Catapult, 21.4.2014, p8

[15] Carl Rollyson, Rebecca West: a Saga of the Century, Hodder and Stoughton, 1995, p117

[16] The Times, Mr Henry Andrews, Banker and Patron, 12.11.1968

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