Birth27 Nov 1910, Rectory Farm, Streatley
Baptism27 Jan 1911, St Mary's Church, Streatley
Death13 Jan 1997, St Raphael's Nursing Home, Danehill, Sussex
GeneralOnly dau. dsp. Photographer, author, magazine editor, hospital almoner.
EducationSacred Heart School, Brighton, Sussex [15]
Birth20 Aug 1896, Undercliffe, New South Head Road, Double Bay,Woollahra, NSW, Australia
Death21 Oct 1963, Hornsby Hospital, Hornsby, NSW, Australia
Burial28 Oct 1963, Northern Suburbs Crematorium, NSW, Australia
GeneralMining engineer. Of Illaboo, Warrimoo, NSW, Australia.
FatherThomas Buckland (-<1946)
Marriage16 Aug 1946, St Marylebone register office, London [6, Their marriage cert no 28, St Marylebone reg off, Westminster, London]
No Children
Notes for Ursula Margot Powys-Lybbe
Received into the Church at the Church of Our Lady & St John, Goring in Thames, Oxon on 2 Nov 1914.

TFPL, March 2003: I have seen her entry in the record books of the College of Arms.

Her death certificate states she died of I(a) Bronchopneumonia and II Chronic Lymphatic Leukaemia and Senile Dementia. Martin registered it on the 15 Jan 1997.

Her birth certificate shows she was born at “Thurle Grange” (aka Rectory Farm) and the informant on 18 Jan 1911 was RCLPL, also of “Thurle Grange” and of independent means.

Her birth appears in the index twice, first as Lybbe and second as Powys Lybbe (no hyphen):

Surname First name(s) District Vol Page
Births Mar 1911 (>99%)
Lybbe Ursula M Bradfield 2c 325
Powys Lybbe Ursula M Bradfield 2c 325

Unfortunately neither of these index sheets are available via FreeBMD so it is unclear what they were transcribing from. But The Genealogist does link to the index sheets and indeed she is there entered as ‘Powys Lybbe’ and ‘Lybbe’ respectively. At marriage the hyphen was correctly included.

From The Independent, 26th February 1997

In 1947, the English photographer Ursula Powys-Lybbe set off for the Australian outback. Fresh from a career as a portraitist of London high society, she offered the services of her aptly titled "Touring Camera" to the isolated homesteaders of the bush country. Uninhibited by her surroundings, she provided home portraiture with panache for those who had long since abandoned urbanity.

Travelling and living in her unwieldy but rugged ex-army Dodge command car, Powys-Lybbe enjoyed an idyll of freedom. With her partner, the Australian broadcaster Clare Mitchell, she delighted in the unconventionality of her life, and exulted in her independence. In the bush, she discovered an eerie world. The mysterious landscape of the outback contrasted fantastically with the stolidness of the draped drawing-rooms which, decades out of date, and forever English, presented themselves daily to her camera.

Out and about with her Rolleiflex when the portrait sessions were over, Powys-Lybbe made an Australian documentary which was cogent and assured. The skeletal forms of dead gum trees, robust farmers seen in silhouette across the sheep range, the tawdry facades of small towns - all were objects of her curiosity. Looking through the pages of her family photograph album in 1986, Ursula Powys-Lybbe remembered her girlhood as a glowing time of vitality and comradeship. From the yellowing snapshots emerged a seductive portrait of a secure and gracious world. It was a childhood utopia, and one to which her photographs continuously referred, throughout her long and successful career. During a life which involved much roaming - to Egypt in the Thirties, to Australia after the Second World War - she clung tenaciously to the structure and order of family photography. Eschewing the chic of a nattily decorated studio in Bond Street or Berkeley Square, by the mid-Thirties, she had become itinerant. As the "Touring Camera", she became adept at photographing Society at Home. To the satisfaction of both portrayer and portrayed, her visits to country estates and town mansions produced pictures of lives untrammelled by exigency, untroubled by modernity. Strong chins, aquiline noses, and a profusion of handsome pets dominate this early work. Heady with an ominous partnering of glamour and power, her characters inhabit a secret and exclusive world. Powys-Lybbe was unknown within the constellation of British avant-garde photography in the Thirties. While Beaton persuaded Cunards and Sitwells to gyrate to his commands, and Dorothy Wilding turned starlets into madonnas of desire, Powys-Lybbe was content to allow her sitters to position themselves among favourite objects, in their everyday clothes. When she walked into the offices of the Tatler in 1937, with a composite portrait of Lady Mary Lygon which showed not only womanly beauty but also some of the most appealing aspects of being rich, the magazine promptly commissioned her to produce a series. To her great delight, it ran until the outbreak of war. Modish and stylish (though highly traditional in outlook), the photographs presented an image of High Society which was exactly suited to the times. Modern, but without challenge to the status quo, sitters gazed from their portraits invulnerable in their own fashionability. During the war she joined the WAAF and took part in photographic interpretation at Medmenham, identifying 96 - virtually all - of the V-1 flying-bomb launching sites, an experience she later described in The Eye of Intelligence, published in 1983. After the war, Powys-Lybbe returned to portraiture with undiminished enthusiasm. Impatient with post-war cultural angst, she eagerly seized new opportunities. As plain Ursula Powys, she happily abandoned Mayfair salons for the bushland of New South Wales, where she had originally travelled to join her recently wed husband. When the marriage swiftly fell apart, she embarked on new photographic projects, along with Clare Mitchell, who had interviewed her on the radio. It was unfortunate that her eventual return to England in the late 1950s coincided with the collapse of studio portraiture in Britain. It was not until she was in her seventies that her work was again seen in public. Showing in the National Museum of Photography's Women Photographers exhibition in 1986, the style and subject-matter of her work became the subject of energetic debate. A buoyant, confident and irascible woman, she furiously opposed all attempts to place her work within a feminist context. In her Thirties photography, Ursula Powys-Lybbe created a compelling picture of an English Dream. Mirage-like now, the young men and ladies of her portraits are without ambivalence. Through the lens of her camera, their aspirations, their vanities, their pleasures and their achievements are eternally celebrated. With her admiring and innocent gaze, she created an elegy for elegance. Val Williams Ursula Margot Powys-Lybbe, photographer: born Streatley, Berkshire 27 November 1910; married 1947 Druce Buckland; died Danehill, Sussex 13 January 1997.

Copyright 1997 Newspaper Publishing PLC

FreeBMD has her surname at birth solely as Lybbe.

She travelled to Australia in 1952 as Ursula Margot Buckland:

22 May 1952: She departed London on the Strathaird, bound for Sydney Australia. She gave her age as 41 and unaccompanied by a husband. She said she had been living at 61 Baker Street, London W1 and was a photographer and was intending to reside in Australia. This journey was made about six months after the death of her mother; in fairness she was her executor and would have had to sort out her mother’s possessions, though I wonder if she had trouble making up her mind to return.

There is no record of any earlier journey to Australia either as P-L or as Buckland.


23 Feb 1933: She departed on the Strathaird (again, so to speak) bound for Port Said, Egypt (the boat was going on to Australia). She had last been living at 69 Cambridge Terrace, London W2 and she was a photographer aged 22. She said she was going to come back to England. Her travel class was ‘T’. Interestingly there was with her another resident of 69 Cambridge Terrace: Rita Maxwell also going to Port Said but with no occupation, and also aged 22.

From the London Gazette:

12 Jan 1945: Promoted from Sec Off to Flt Off (temp).

She was an author and wrote a book of her wartime photographic intelligence experiences, “The Eye of Intelligence”. This lead to an infamous row in the family. Her twelfth chapter opens with:

“Britain was woefully behind the Germans, at the beginning of the war, in radar experimentation and development, and it is to be regretted that the scientists of the moment rejected the information handed to them by the unknown author of a remarkable document known as the ‘Oslo Report’.”

Shortly after the publication she visited her brother, my father, and he, with his long reputation for tact, broached the subject of this chapter, almost certainly pointing out the role of Watson-Watt as the father of radar globally. Fury erupted and an hour later Ursula was found striding the garden and in high dudgeon, by her niece, my sister, Olivia who had only then arrived. Olivia managed to calm things down somewhat but a bit of a breach had been opened between the brother and the sister.

My father’s assertion is confirmed by a paragraph written in 1946 but not published until 2012 in “Defeating Hitler” by Paul Winter. On p. 373 on submarine warfare, the intelligence writers said:

“49. At the end of 1943 Doenitz set up a Department of Scientific Research for the Navy; “to wrest from the enemy his lead in the filed of physical science (particularly radar) is a matter of decisive importance”. By this date the lead of the Allies in radar was so great that Doenitz’s purpose remained unaccomplished.”

The remarkable thing is of course that the Germans knew we were good at radar but the British didn’t.

On the 1939 Register, she was living at France radford & Co ltd, Melton Court, [London] SW7, was born on 27 Nov 1910, single and a Photographic Operator and calassified as ‘W.A.F.S.’.
Notes for Druce Hervey & Ursula Margot (Family)
On their marriage certificate, No 26 of St Marylebone, Westminster, London,
dated sixteenth of August 1946,
He was Druce Henry Buckland, aged 49, bachelor, a mining engineer of 18 Lancaster gate, London W2, with father Thomas Buckland deceased, a general merchant,
She was Ursula Margot Powys-Lybbe, aged 35 years, spinster, a photographer and journalist, of 61 Baker Street, London W1, father Reginald Cecil Powys-Lybbe deceased, of independent means.
They were married in the Registry Office by licence with Frank Bethell as the Registrar and P. H. Seymour as the Deputy Supr Registrar.
He signed "Druce H Buckland", she "Ursula Powys-Lybbe".
The witnesses were Lilian Powys-Lybbe and L.A. Blackett.

The FreeBMD entry from the indices is:

Surname First name(s) Mother/Spouse/Age District Vol Page
Marriages Sep 1946 (>99%)
Buckland Druce H Powys-Lybbe Marylebone 5d 838
Lybbe Ursula M P Buckland Marylebone 5d 838
Powys-Lybbe Ursula M Buckland Marylebone 5d 838
Last Modified 10 Aug 2016Created 25 May 2017 by Tim Powys-Lybbe