Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Pen & Sword diaries

A newly published diary from Pen & Sword Books tells the story of Anthony Barne, a young soldier who started the Second World War as a captain in the Royal Dragoons and ended it as a confidant of Winston Churchill and a commanding officer of the 4th Hussars. According to the publisher, the diary is witty, outrageous but also poignant and philosophical. First World War diaries from Pen & Sword Books include Herbert Suzbach’s With the German Guns and Mabel Goode’s The Lengthening War.
Barne was born in 1906 at the family home, Sotterley Hall, one of four children. Aged 13, he had hoped to join the Navy but instead studied at Marlborough College before joining the army. He thrived at Sandhurst, excelling in horsemanship. On leaving, he joined the Royal Dragoons, a cavalry regiment, which departed for Egypt in 1927 then relocated to India for several years. There, at a polo match, he met Cara Holmes-Hunt who came from Melbourne and was spending a ‘season’ in India. The regiment was finally returning to England when, with the Italians mobilising in Africa, it was suddenly ordered to Egypt again. 
Barne, on leave, married Cara in England in 1937, and she joined him in Cairo, until moving to Rhodesia during the war years. Barne had an active war, being present at the battle of El Alamein, and eventually joining Churchill’s regiment, the 4th Hussars. During his two periods of command, the Royal Dragoons won two battle honours, and the 4th Hussars won eight. He was awarded the OBE. He remained in the army until 1953, stationed at various bases around England. His final posting was in Dorset, and this led him to buy a farm in the county at Culeaze, where he lived happily with Cara and their one son, Christopher. Barne died in 1996  
Charles Barne - Christopher’s son and Anthony Barne’s grandson - found his grandfathers diaries when clearing out their house. He transcribed and edited them for publication, in 2019, by Pen & Sword Books as Churchill’s Colonel: The War Diaries of Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Barne. Some pages may be previewed at Amazon
From the publisher’s blurb: ‘He wrote an entry for every day of the war, often with great difficulty, sometimes when dog-tired or under fire, and sometimes when things looked black and desperate, but more often in sunshine and optimism, surrounded by good fellows who kept one cheerful and helped one through the sad and difficult times. His diary ends in July 1945, by which time he was commanding officer of the 4th Hussars, having recently visited Downing Street for lunch alone with the Churchills. The diaries have an enormous scope covering time in Palestine and Egypt before he joins the Eighth Army, describing the retreat back to El Alamein, the battle and its aftermath. He ends the campaign commanding his regiment. He often graphically details the physical realities of war: the appalling conditions in the desert, the bombardments of the regiment from the air, the deaths and serious injuries of fellow soldiers. In 1943, he flies down to Rhodesia to see his wife and infant son before returning to Cairo to join Churchill’s regiment, the 4th Hussars. Arriving in Italy in 1944, he recounts the campaign as the Allies push north. The tone of the diaries varies wildly: often witty, sometimes outrageous but also poignant and philosophical. The voice and attitudes are entertainingly dated, but are delivered with warmth, a charming turn of phrase and a keen eye for the absurd.’ Here are two extracts from Barne’s diary.
28 September 1944
‘It rained heavily again in the night giving Kesselring a chance to recover himself. It means our tanks will be bogged down where they stand for several days I fear. I may even find them where I left them when I escape from here.
Jack White appears in the afternoon. He has worms and feels it is a good chance to be cured. It is gratifying to know I’m missing nothing but this vile weather.
Perhaps jaundice is getting me down but I truly believe we are unlikely to get the war finished this autumn and if that is so then it may well drag into next summer. What a dreary prospect. I must review my plans for the future.
8 April 1945
‘A cold, windy morning. I talk to each squadron in turn during the course of the day regarding the forthcoming battle. Each talk takes over an hour and there’s half an hour of driving between three of them. One talk is in a schoolroom, one behind a haystack and others in farmyards out of the wind.
We also have to move RHQ and have two conferences. My bus moves up while I am out so the moment I come in I can sit straight down and get the paperwork dealt with. With no increased staff I am directly working with three divisions and my own tank strength is about that of a brigade. Thank goodness the office staff are most capable, helpful and friendly.’
Among its many other war titles, Pen & Sword Books offers several diaries. Mabel Goode was born in 1872 in Derby to a well-off family, the youngest of three. Her father was a doctor and a mayor of Derby. Her mother died when Mabel was but six months, and her father married Emma in 1874. When her father died in 1879, it was Emma that was left to bring up her step-children, which she did in a suburb of Heidleberg, Germany, The family returned to England in 1887 when Mabel’s elder brother Stuart wanted to join the army. They lived in Kensington, London. The family took on a new servant, Price, who would go on to serve Mabel for forty years (and be one of her closest relationships - since she never married). In 1895, Mabel entered The Slade School of Fine Art. In the mid-1900s, the family moved to York, where Mabel’s other brother, Henry, had bought a practice. After the war, Henry married, and Mabel bought two properties in the Lake District, one where she lived for the rest of her life (with Price), and the other for renting out to provide an income. She spent much time painting (selling her work), and travelled often to Italy in the winter. She died in 1954.
The Lengthening War: The Great War Diaries of Mabel Goode (2016) was compiled by Henry’s great grandson (having found the diary in the bottom of a ‘dusty trunk). Mabel’s actual diary takes up some 70 of the 200 pages, with other chapters providing much historical and biographical context as well as photographs. According to Pen & Sword: ‘The diary shows us how the war came to the Home Front, from enrolment, rationing, the collapse of domestic service and growth of war work, to Zeppelin attacks over Yorkshire, and the ever mounting casualty lists. Above all else, Mabel’s diary captures a growing disillusionment with a lengthening war, as the costs and the sacrifices mount. Starting with great excitement and expecting a short struggle, the entries gradually give way to a more critical tone, and eventually to total disengagement.’ In fact, although there are glimpses of her home life and the people around her, most of the entries, and the bulk of most entries, are reports of news about the war. The book can be previewed at Googlebooks. Here is one example.
6 June 1915
‘The news from the Eastern side of the theatre of war has been very bad this week. Przemysl has been recaptured by the Germans & Austrians & they are pressing on towards Lemberg. This setback of the brave Russians is entirely due to the superior artillery, especially big guns & great supplies of ammunition of the Germans. They fired 200,000 shells in 2 hours! The Russians admit that they will for the present be obliged to act on the defensive until England can supply them with munitions & it is feared that the Germans will move large numbers of their victorious troops from the East to the West & the great guns & try to break through the English & French lines, leaving only sufficient troops to hold the Russians in check. It seems most probable & a serious outlook for us, as our supply of high explosive shells is admittedly insufficient. I fear it will very much prolong the war & cause terrible loss of valuable lives, all alas! our best. Conscription has not been brought in even now, & all the slackers & shirkers are allowed to stay at home. Lloyd George says they have sufficient men at present for the equipment which is ready for them. He has been speaking in Manchester to rouse up masters & men to do their best possible work in making shells & munitions.
Stuart is still at Dovercourt.
I heard from Henry last on Wednesday.’
Finally, Pen & Sword Books has also re-issued With the German Guns: Four years on the western front by Herbert Sulzbach. ‘At once harrowing and light-hearted,’ the publisher says, ‘Sulzbach’s exceptional diary has been highly praised since its original publication in Germany in 1935. With the reprint of this classic account of trench warfare it records the pride and exhilaration of what to him was the fight for a just cause. It is one of the very few available records of an ordinary German soldier during the First World War.’ The edition contains a short memoir of Sulzbach by Terence Prittie, and a note from the translator (Richard Thonger), but no index nor annotations. The book can be previewed at Googlebooks. Here are two extracts
29 December 1914 
‘I am given orders to ride to St Morel with Lance-Sergeant Debler. I take Lance-Sergeant Lauer’s horse and we ride off on the two little Arabs, across fields to Granddeuil. Nothing but mud. Lance-Sergeant Debler had business with the Captain, while I waited outside. We made our way back as night was falling, and it was very hard indeed to find one’s way.
In the evening I was on guard duty.
We receive our first mail in this position - that is, we have to fetch it ourselves from the rear by limber, which is a dreadfully difficult operation, with the vehicle and horses practically sunk in the mud. After these few days we really look like pigs. The fire gets heavier, it’s developing into an artillery battle, what they call a ‘gunners’ duel’.’
21 January 1915
‘I receive another special order, pick one of the little Arab horses and ride to the Battery. It’s 6 a.m., still pitch dark, and you can only just find your way about. From the Battery I get an order to proceed to the Battalion Staff, lying this side of some high ground only 100 metres behind the front trenches. Since this high ground lies in front of the enemy trenches, I can ride towards the front without being seen by the French; but a hellish burst of fire starts up, and small-arms and artillery fire compete with each other in making things hot for me. I’m as hoarse as a crow and can’t speak a word. I get my orders and ride back to the Battery, which is now commanded by Captain Henn, while 2/Lt Reinhardt is what you might call his right-hand man, and acts as a liaison officer with the infantry.’
With thanks to Pen & Sword Books.

No comments: