Aubrey Herbert was one of the most extraordinary characters to emerge from the First World War. When it began, he was a newly elected MP, aged thirty-four, and since he was at least half blind, military service was apparently out of the question. Undeterred, he joined the Irish Guards by the simple method of going to a military tailor, ordering a uniform, and falling in beside his battalion when they set off from barracks to embark for France on 12 August. In the amateurish confusion of the early days he was allowed to remain as an interpreter. In spite of very heavy casualties in the retreat from Mons, his diaries, on which this book is based, contain hilarious as well as tragic details.
They were in action almost at once. A few days later,
a really terrific fire opened. It was as if a scythe of bullets passed directly over our heads … it came in gusts, whistling and sighing … The turnips seemed to offer a sort of cover,