Annual Booklist 2017-2018 : Andrew Lloyd MBE

Andrew Lloyd is Director of the Army Museums Ogilby Trust (AMOT) -

My choices for Christmas reading on the British Army essentially focus on the human experience of war and the strength of character that has underpinned so much of its success and faced its failures.

My first choice is To War with Whitaker, the wartime memoirs of Hermione, Countess Ranfurly recounting her experiences as the wife of a Yeomanry Officer captured in the Western Desert in WW2. Displaying extraordinary singularity of purpose, she not only followed her husband to Egypt but served various key military figures and SOE after his capture. It allowed her to be an eye witness to some of the great WW2 Conferences and meet close up amongst many figures such as Churchill, Eden, Tito, Eisenhower, Patton and Stalin. It has humour, wonderful pen pictures of wartime conditions and figures while celebrating this remarkable woman and the family retainer, Whittaker.

The ministry of two Army Chaplains are recounted in the military experiences of Padre Sam Davies and Fr Benedict Williamson OSB. The first, published as In Spite of Dungeons, was the Padre to the Glosters on the Imjin River in Korea and followed them into captivity. The latter was a notable Padre on the Western Front in the Great War and produced Happy Days in Flanders, which is not the worst named book of the 20th Century but actually takes the title from the nickname given to Williamson by the soldiers. Both books testify to the selfless service of Army Chaplains to the British Army and the suffering and courage of the men they served. Williamson wrote a memorable account of a military execution in which he supported the soldier under sentence right up to the firing squad.

Following the same theme of human endeavour, I recently read again Happy Odyssey by Adrian Carton de Wiart VC. The boys own nature of his life is only exceeded by the realisation that this was fact and not fiction. The man who by repute inspired Evelyn Waugh to create the literary military firebrand Brigadier Ritchie Hook is a hero in the proper sense of that word.

Every British soldier should never forget that we are an Island and so the sea is our lifeline and a line of defence. Battle of the Atlantic by Jonathan Dimbleby is a fresh view of this struggle in WW2 and a fitting tribute to over 30,000 Merchant seafarers who died literally keeping our people alive and our Army supplied across the globe.

If I could wish for one book that needs to exist, it is the life of Robert Ogilby who personally did so much to preserve and collect the military heritage of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army. From the Trust which bears his name to the founding of the National Army Museum he has never properly been given recognition for his efforts, influence and perseverance in ensuring as a nation that we can tell the vital stories of our military history.