Aubrey Herbert was a politician, poet, diplomat, Member of Parliament, an unlikely soldier, and an engaging diarist. These diaries were originally published in 1919 in a shorter, anonymous format, with most significant names disguised. This revised edition includes more detailed extracts from Herbert's unpublished diaries, and where possible the full names (with explanatory footnotes) of the people mentioned.
Herbert enlisted in a rather unusual way. His poor eyesight meant that he was turned down as a volunteer, so on the day that the Irish Guards left their barracks to begin the journey to France Herbert simply joined the column, reporting to the officer in charge only once he was safely on the boat to France! In the course of his unlikely military career he took part in the battle of and retreat from Mons, the Gallipoli landings and the unsuccessful attempt to rescue a British army being besieged by the Turks at Kut.
The three chapters have very different tones. The account of the battle of Mons is almost light-hearted, reflecting the enthusiasm that led Herbert to volunteer in such an unusual way. One gets the impression that Herbert saw the war as a great adventure at this stage.
By the time we reach Gallipoli his mood has changed. The mobility of the Mons period is gone, and Herbert found himself part of a force that was barely clinging on and held a narrow strip of land along the shore, under near constant bombardment and with even the landing beaches well within the range of Turkish snipers. Herbert's dissatisfaction with some of the higher authorise is now clear, especially with those based on nearby islands away from the actual fighting.
The section on Kut is the shortest. Herbert was with the relief force attempting to rescue the troops besieged at Kut, and after the failure of that effort was involved in the surrender negotiations.
These diaries are of great value for the factual accounts they provide of three key incidents in the First World War, but also for the insight they give into the way attitudes changed once it became clear that the war would not be the short exciting interlude that many had expected in 1914.
1 Mons, 1914
2 Anzac, 1915
3 Kut, 1916
Author: Lieutenant Colonel the Hon. Aubrey Herbert MP
Editor: Edward Melotte
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military