Despite a somewhat cynical title I rate this high on the ‘richter’ scale of Great War memoirs, it is very good, full of incident with some wonderfully descriptive writing. The author, a Glaswegian, was in Nigeria when war broke out and joined a local volunteer force called the Nigerian Land Contingent, but he returned to the UK in early 1915, enlisted in the Scots Guards and after fourteen weeks recruit training at the Guards Depot at Caterham he was posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Wellington Barracks. The opening few chapters give a lively account of life in the Guards – guard mounting, royal duties and one occasion on Christmas Eve, 1915, when the sergeant of the guard became paralytic and had to be put to bed, but “not before he had staggered out into the middle of Birdcage Walk and challenged anybody in the world to fight!” In January 1916 Cuddeford was commissioned into the HLI and after a spell with the 13th (Reserve) Battalion joined the 12th Battalion in France (46th Brigade, 15th Scottish Division) in August 1916.
His descriptions of life in and out of the trenches make wonderful reading, but two incidents in particular stand out in my mind. The first was in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September 1916 at Martinpuich. A sunken road leads from the village to Courcelette, still very visible and probably changed little since 1916. Here Cuddeford, bringing up the ammunition describes seeing what I expect was a record collection of dead and nearly dead Boches. The lane …….was covered with dead and wounded Germans; not just scattered here and there, but literally in heaps…..It stays in my mind because I have been along that road many times and tried to conjure up the scene. And the other occasion was at Monchy le Preux where, following that disastrous cavalry charge by 8th Cavalry Brigade on 11 April 1917 during the Arras offensive, he describes the death of Brig-Gen Bulkeley-Johnson, brigade commanmder, shot in the face by a sniper. Cuddeford’s service on the Western Front lasted just a year; at the end of July 1917, before Third Ypres, he was posted to the King’s African Rifles and spent the final year of the war in E Africa. Highly commended
AND ALL FOR WHAT?
Memoir of an officer who, after a few months service in the ranks of the Scots Guards at home, was commissioned into the HLI and served with the 12th Battalion on the Western Front from Aug 1916 to July 1917. He was then posted to the KAR in E Africa where he saw out the war.