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[Illustration: Route taken by Fifth Division ]

Adventures of a Despatch Rider

Adventures of A Despatch Rider




William Blackwood and Sons

Edinburgh and London





To 2nd Lieut. R.B. WHYTE, 1st Black Watch, B.E.F.


Do you remember how in the old days we used to talk about my first book? Of course it was to be an Oxford novel full of clever little character sketches witty but not unkind: of subtle and pleasurable hints at our own adventures, for no one had enjoyed Balliol and the city of Oxford so hugely: of catch words that repeated would bring back the thrills and the laughter Psych. Anal. and Steady, Steady! of names crammed with delectable memories the Paviers', Cloda's Lane, and the notorious Square and famous Wynd: of acid phrases, beautifully put, that would show up once and for all those dear abuses and shams that go to make Oxford. It was to surpass all Oxford Novels and bring us all eternal fame.

You remember, too, the room? It was stuffy and dingy and the pictures were of doubtful taste, but there were things to drink and smoke. The imperturbable Ikla would be sitting in his chair pulling at one of his impossibly luxurious pipes. You would be snorting in another and I would be holding forth ... but I am starting an Oxford novelette already and there is no need. For two slightly senior contemporaries of ours have already achieved fame. The hydrangeas have blossomed. "The Home" has been destroyed by a Balliol tongue. The flower girl has died her death. The Balliol novels have been written and my first book is this.

We have not even had time to talk it over properly. I saw you on my week's leave in December, but then I had not thought of making a book. Finally, after three months in the trenches you came home in August. I was in Ireland and you in Scotland, so we met at Warrington just after midnight and proceeded to staggering adventures. Shall we ever forget that six hours' talk, the mad ride and madder breakfast with old Peter M'Ginn, the solitary hotel at Manchester and the rare dash to London? But I didn't tell you much about my book.

It is made up principally of letters to my mother and to you. My mother showed these letters to Mr Townsend Warner, my old tutor at Harrow, and he, who was always my godfather in letters, passed them on until they have appeared in the pages of 'Maga.' I have filled in the gaps these letters leave with narrative, worked the whole into some sort of connected account, and added maps and an index.

This book is not a history, a military treatise, an essay, or a scrap of autobiography. It has no more accuracy or literary merit than letters usually possess. So I hope you will not judge it too harshly. My only object is to try and show as truthfully as I can the part played in this monstrous war by a despatch rider during the months from August 1914 to February 1915. If that object is gained I am content.

Because it is composed of letters, this book has many faults.

Firstly, I have written a great deal about myself. That is inevitable in letters. My mother wanted to hear about me and not about those whom she had never met. So do not think my adventures are unique. I assure you that if any of the other despatch riders were to publish their letters you would find mine by comparison mild indeed. If George now could be persuaded ...!

Secondly, I have dwelt at length upon little personal matters. It may not interest you to know when I had a pork chop though, as you now realise, on active service a pork chop is extremely important but it interested my mother. She liked to know whether I was having good and sufficient food, and warm things on my chest and feet, because, after all, there was a time when I wanted nothing else... Continue reading book >>

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