[Brigadier Sir Edward Beddington.] Typescript of his autobiography 'My Life', dedicated and inscribed to his sons,

Brigadier Sir Edward Henry Lionel Beddington (1884-1966), CMG, DSO, MC, of Anstey Hall, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, recipient of the Military Cross in the First World War
Publication details: 
Place not stated. 1960.
SKU: 14036

Beddington's entry in Who Was Who describes his career thus: 'Served European War, 1914-19 (despatches six times, CMG, DSO, MC, Legion of Honour, Commander of Order of Aviz, Order of Sacred Treasure, Bt Major and Lt-Col); served again, 1940-45. DL and JP Hertfordshire; Chairman Herts CC, 1952-58; High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, 1948-49'. And his obituary in The Times, 26 April 1966, reads as follows: 'Brigadier Sir Edward Beddington, C.M.G., D.S.O., M.C., late 16th Lancers, died yesterday at the age of 82. | The son of H. E. Beddington, he was educated at Eton and R.M.C. Sandhurst, and saw service in the First World War, winning the D.S.O. and M.C. and being six times mentioned in dispatches. He was a Deputy Lieutenant and a Justice of the Peace for Hertfordshire, a former High Sheriff, and from 1952 to 1958 was chairman of the county council. He was knighted in 1956. | He married in 1907 Elsie, daughter of Raoul Foa. They had three sons, of whom two survive.' [2] + 356pp., 4to, with two pages giving 'a complete record of my war activities' between pp.60 and 61, and fold-out map of 'N.E. France & West Belgium' at rear. In sturdy red cloth binding, with the title 'My Life | Edward Beddington' in gilt on the spine. A final draft, professionally and neatly presented with very few autograph emendations. In very good condition, in tight binding showing only minor signs of wear. Inscribed by Beddington 'To: - Tim | From: - Edward | December 1960'. He dedicates the books to his sons Richard and Hubert, stating that it is 'as accurate as I can make it considering that I possess no records other than my engagement books for the last ten years'. He expresses the hope that the book will 'enable you to appreciate a little of what has occurred to an ordinary person during the disturbed period of history that coincided with your affectionate father's active years'. The dedication concludes: 'As this story can be of no interest except to my family, I have written it on the understanding that none of it is published in any form.' The main interest is the description of Beddington's service in the Great War, covered over pp.59-177, but the rest of the volume is filled with incident and detail. Beddington was Jewish on his mother's side, her father and his grandfather being the Tory Member of Parliament for South Paddington Lionel Louis Cohen (1832-1887), although the fact is only lightly referred to in the narrative (he reports that in 1903 his 'nickname in the Regiment was not inappropriately "Moses"'). Beddington begins with a brief description of his childhood years, and time at Eton and Sandhurst, and is then, from p.11, presented in yearly sections, beginning with one for 1902, with his final term at Sandhurst and posting to South Africa, where he is inspected by Baden-Powell ('the first time I had seen a real Major General, but he made no great impression on me or on the Regiment'). In 1906 he is sent to Aldershot, and has a sharp exchange with the future General Sir Hubert Gough (1870-1963): 'As soon as tea was over he asked me to come into his study. He began telling me that my troop was a disgrace to the Regiment and what was I going to do about it. That rather stung me and I answered that not having seen it I could not say whether I agreed or not but that having left a perfectly good and efficient troop six months ago to go to the Cavalry School, if things were as he said it was shocking reflection on whoever had been in charge of things (himself of course) to allow such a thing to happen. In any case I should put it right myself and the time it would take would depend on the state in which I found it. We then passed on to discuss a minor tactical exercise in which my troop was to take part next day. Of course my troop was in quite good order, and so some months later, when I had got to know him better, I asked the Colonel why he had made that charge. He said "I wanted to try you out quickly and see what sort of chap you were, and when you spoke up at once putting the blame quite correctly on me I knew you were all right."' He gives an assessment of 'Goughy', adding that 'those three years at Aldershot under him were just about the happiest and most enjoyable time of my life'. He continues the description of his peacetime career, filled with 'hunting, polo, point-to points'. In 1914 he takes part in the Curragh Mutiny, after his butler brings him a telegram reading 'All officers of regiment have resigned rather than take part in operations against Ulster stop we were given our choice - wire your decision'. Beddington replies with a telegram of his own: 'Will do the same as the others stop what is it all about'. Later he calls 'at Barracks on my way home and found that on the Friday, General Paget, G.O.C. Irish Command, had sent for Goughy and others and told them that they and their officers had the choice of resigning their Commissions (in fact being dismissed) or of most probably engaging in active operations against Ulster. Any officers with an Ulster domicile would be allowed to "disappear". Paget required an answer that evening. Goughy saw the 5th Lancers in Dublin that morning, and the other officers of the Brigade in our mess that afternoon, and the vast majority (all in 16th Lancers) decided for resignation or dismissal, and reported to Dublin that evening that of the officers on duty 59 out of 71 preferred dismissal. [...] The affair was a political sensation of the first rank and caused great but very frequently ill-informed controversy both in the Press and Parliament'. The account of the Great War begins on p.59 with mobilisation (3 August 1914), and 'a good row with MacEwan, the Colonel' over promotion, which Beddington wins. Between pp.60 and 61 Beddington has inserted 'a complete record of my war activities', with 'Details' of his progress from Lieutenant-Captain to Lieutenant-Colonel, 'Mentions' and 'Promotions and Awards'. The following two extracts are not particularly unusual, but will give an indication of the level of detail in Beddington's account. During a description of the 2nd Battle of Ypres (1915), he writes: 'The A.D.C. asked me if he could go sniping: I said he must do two trips round the line with me to make sure he knew it first and he duly did so as it was desirable that he should snipe at Germans. The third day he went sniping and promptly hit an Oxford Yeoman in the bottom - of course the hell of a row and rightly so. During the first tour in the line I discovered that the Oxfords, contrary to orders, had taken their blankets into the line. I arranged quickly with the Oxford Yeomen that they could evacuate a proportion of blankets every night to where our rations came, and the vehicle that brought the rations could take them back. All went well till the last night when the Brigadier escaped my notice, got out of the dug-out and spotted stretcher loads of blankets coming out and asked me why I had not told him of these casualties. I told him that the loads were blankets and not casualties and we had found a dump of them in the trenches and were clearing them. I got away with it greatly to the relief of the Oxford Yeomen. On our second trip to the line there had been a gas attack that evening and I knew there was probably no one to take over from.' (Earlier Beddington expresses his admiration for the Oxford Yeomen, whom he describes as 'a grand lot, and the men being great Yeomen had a good few unmilitary habits which my Brigadier disapproved of, and he had rather a down on them in consequence. I tried and often succeeded in protecting them by keeping him away from them. I had a lot of friends in the Regiment like Charlie Nichol (Second in Command), Arthur Villiers, and Gerald Wellesley who were at Eton with me, Val and Phil Fleming, and I could get them to do anything I wanted through Charlie Nichol.') The second extract, from 1918, is more of an overview: 'By this time Army H.Q. had moved to Flixecourt, some eleven miles from Amiens on the main Abbeville road, as Bury was far too small for an Army H.Q. and in addition was too far forward. III Corps H.Q. was in the Western outskirts of Amiens. | Villers-Bretonneux was of considerable military importance in that it lay on a plateau from whose western edge direct observation was available over Amiens, which was a railway and road centre of great value to our communications, which would be in peril if the enemy could get that observation and direct accurately their guns. There had already been some long range heavy gun firing at Amiens and Longeau (the railway centre), but owing to lack of observation it had done little military harm. | 24 April. A tremendous bombardment of mixed gas and H.E. shells opened at 3.30 a.m. from Moreuil on the South to the right of the Australian Corps just North of Villers-Bretonneux: this was supplemented by trench mortars and the bombardment was exceptionally heavy but lifted from our front line about 5.45 but remained on our reserve trenches in varying intensity all day. About 5.45 the attack opened in thick fog on a front of 8,000 yards from Hangard Wood to just North of 8th Division boundary with the Australians just South of Vaire Wood, and was carried out with five Divisions in front line supported by 14 tanks on 8th Division front which could not be seen until they were within 30 yards owing to the fog and the smoke shells. Both 58th and 8th Divisions gave ground to this attack and fell back to the second line just West of Villers-Bretonneux on the North and just to the East of Gentelles and Cachy in the 58th Division area: and by 8.30 a.m. Villers-Bretonneux was in German hands, but 8th Division reported that its Commander was confident of holding its present line throughout the day as the fog was now clearing. | At 9.0 a.m. Rawly sent for me and asked me what ought to be done. I said it was no good counter attacking by day in that open country, and we must do it that night. Rawly agreed but said it must be as early that night as possible so as to give the Germans the shortest time to improve the defences of their newly won positions. We then sat down and worked out a plan which was roughly as follows [...] I dictated the plan with copies for ourselves, III Corps, and Heneker. Rawly read my version of the plan very carefully and approved it and then gave me a paper he had written whilst I dictated which was addressed to III Corps and 8th Division and contained the following: - "I wish this plan carried out without any alterations other than details. Colonel Beddington will take this to III Corps, show it to General Butler and then take it on to General Heneker and show it to him. Colonel Beddington will be my representative with General Heneker during the operation and has my full authority. He will return and report to me as soon as he is fully informed as to the success of the operation. H. Rawlinson." Having asked me if all was clear, he said "Off you go to Butler; I will arrange with Birdwood (Commanding Australian Corps) for their troops". I said "All is clear, but please warn Brigadiers and C.O.s of Australian Brigades that Heneker will probably want them for reconnaissance early in afternoon". He agreed, and having already told a G.3 to telephone III Corps and 8th Division that I was coming to see them from the Army Commander, and would their respective Commanders remain at their H.Q. till I came, I went on my way.' On 31 March 1919 Beddington left the Fifth Army, 'which ceased to exist as such that night, and motored to Brussels, spending the night with the Wierners, and next day motored on to Cologne to take up my appointment with the Army of the Rhine, regretfully sending my car back to the late Fifth Army H.Q. He describes a long interview with Field Marshal Herbert Plumer (1857-1932), to whom he is responsible for 'Intelligence matters', going on: 'There were several strange privileges attached to my job, such as being the only British Officer allowed in the "neutral zone" - a zone of, if I remember rightly, ten miles wide on the German side of the British occupied area. Similarly one German officer was allowed in. If I wanted a quite day I used to have him in the zone and we would go round it together - neither side ever attempted to infringe it - and then lunch together at some nice country hotel or inn. He was a nice German Colonel, who spoke English, and such visits were a pleasant interlude. [...] For some abstruse reason all the restaurants were also under me and I had the power of closing any of them, should I so wish. I rarely did so, and then only on account of misconduct or extortion. The German restauranteurs, however, had a not unwise knack of saying that their best wines had been finished: what they wanted to avoid was having them all drunk by subalterns who did not know really good wine from ordinary stuff. So whenever I was going to a restaurant I send one of my green-tabbed Intelligence officers round to say I should be coming there for lunch or dinner, that I was a great connoisseur of wine and that I should be angry if they did not produce their very best, which they always did.' The rest of the volume is also of great interest: it includes an account of Beddington's efforts 'towards rehabilitating Goughy's reputation', and a section (pp.259-296) on his service in the Second World War; and (pp.280-291) a mission in 1944 to Chungking 'to find out in my own way, without letting the object of mission be known, whether the Chinese intended taking any serious part in the war or not, and if they were going to, when they were likely to begin'. The account ends in 1960, and is followed by a brief assessment of his life. Note: See his entry in "The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History" and Rubin's "140 Jewish marshals, generals & admirals".