An extensively researched account of an exceptional battalion at war.
“Perhaps you can try and imagine being faced with the prospect, on a cold Sunday evening in November, of rising from your sleeping bag at two-thirty the following morning to lead your men through hedges and over fields in an attack down to a canal bank two miles away, leaping into the icy water and paddling across the length of a cricket pitch on a flattened jerrycan, and then sitting on the far bank in your soaking uniform to help your soldiers across with ropes. To do this when subject to continuous machine-gun fire but with the possibility that if you are successful and survive, you may never need to fight another battle. And to do all of this, some three months into your fiftieth year.”
Many of us had a relation who served in the Great War, the majority of those men defending trench lines or attacking from them. They undertook wiring parties and raids on enemy trenches, but well over half their time was in reserve, in training and repairing trenches, tracks and roadways. They endured bitter cold, terrible rains, deep mud and moments of terror. Some suffered from trench foot or shell shock. They were ordinary men doing extraordinary things, all for their fellow soldiers, their country and their King.
The ‘1/8th Worcesters’ rose to the challenges to become one of the most effective infantry battalions of the War. This is their story, written with the help of letters, diaries, memoirs and newspaper articles, as well as conversations with the surviving sons of two of the most bemedalled young officers.
‘This is an extraordinary and moving story of bravery and comradeship in World War I.’
Major General Patrick Cordingley DSO OBE DSc FRGS
Nicholas Lambert spent seven years in the Army, thirty-one years in the City and then four years at university, including a Master’s in the History of War at King’s College, London. More importantly, in 2004, his mother handed him a leather-bound case embossed with the royal cipher; inside lay a Military Cross with a silver Bar. It had belonged to her grandfather. So began a search for the history of John Osborn Walford – the ‘Old Gent’. Nicholas tracked down his grave in Worcestershire, visited his school and found the citations for his medals, won in his fiftieth year. Nicholas was inspired to discover not only the Old Gent’s story, but also that of his fellow Worcestershire volunteers.
Three sons of the Old Gent’s fellow company commanders in their last battle on 4th November 1918 were still alive. Kindly they lent Nicholas the letters and papers of their fathers, and he grew determined to gain the skills properly to tell their stories. He uncovered the lives and contributions to county and country of many other ordinary and extraordinary officers and soldiers of the Battalion. To War with the Old Gent is his first book.