Britten boy has died, aged 96

Britten boy has died, aged 96


norman lebrecht

August 18, 2016 reports the death of Wulff Scherchen, son of the the German conductor, Hermann Scherchen.

Wulff was 14 when he formed an attachment in 1937 to Benjamin Britten, then 23.

During the Second World War, Britten lived in the US and Scherchen was interned in Britain as an enemy alien.

When they met again, they no longer interested one another.

Scherchen married Pauline Woolford in October 1943 and took her surname, becoming John Woolford. Much of what is known about his relationship with Britten is known from an interview he gave to John Bridcut for his 2006 book, Britten’s Children.


wulff scherchen



  • Clifford Owen says:

    Britten was born on 22 November 1913 and was therefore 23–24, not 21, in 1937.

  • David Osborne says:

    How very strange this all is. A great composer who developed intense unfulfilled romantic attachments to adolescent boys, and was able to use the experience as inspiration for some of his greatest work.

  • Wild About Oscar says:

    Elementary, my dear Watson: If WS was born in 1920, he would have been 16 or 17 in 1937. But reading the obit you link to above and comments online about Paul Kildea’s biography “Britten’s Children”, it seems their intimate relationship began in 1938, when WS was already 18. The two apparently first met in 1934, when WS was still 13, and connected again in 1937, but it seems the affair began during summer of the following year. At the time the age of consent in the UK was 16 although homosexuality was illegal.

    • Una says:

      Whatever their ages, 21, 22, 23, 17, 16 … think we’ve got the essence of all … this has been going on for years with Britten involved …

  • Les Marsden says:

    The dates for Wulff are incorrect as well. According to, “young” Wulff wasn’t 14 in 1937 – being born in 1920, Wulff was 17 in 1937. And the attachment began the FOLLOWING year, when Wulff was 18. Quite a difference between a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    He worked in “bomb disposal”!

    I wonder if that was volunteered or assigned.

  • Raouf Zaidan says:

    Can we just celebrate love without cross examination and let freedom be truly free ?

  • herrera says:

    What is an “attachment”? Were they joined at the hips? Never mind, on second thought, they probably were joined at the hips.

  • Humphrey Burton says:

    What needs celebrating is the remarkable music Britten composed while under Wulff’s spell, notably Young Apollo.

    Also his admirable candour in John Bridcut’s revelatory film

    Their friendship was betwween two young men and perhaps helped Britten to an understanding if his sexuality since his next love affair was his last, with Peter Pears.