Noble Sacrifice

Brave Lives: The Members and Staff of The Travellers Club Who Fell in The Great War. £20.00, Pen & Sword Military, 162pp, hardback, illustrations, notes and index, ISBN 978 1 47389 584 3

In this period of the centenary of The Great War, many books have been published to commemorate the sacrifice of those who fought in the armies of the British Empire. None, however, can be as touching as that which drew inspiration from the memorial at The Travellers Club dedicated to those members and staff who died in the war. By encouraging current club members and descendants of the fallen to ‘adopt a warrior’ and research the lives of those fifty men, the club has produced a unique testament to the service of their predecessors.

In compiling biographies of both members and staff who died during the war, the club’s Editorial Board has not only recorded the lives of those featuring on the memorial board but also accentuated the social levelling which occurred during the war. Whether a peer of the realm or a humble waiter, no distinction was made by bullets, disease or high explosives in the conflict, which disproportionately decimated the ranks of the British aristocracy. The brief biographical notes preceding the profiles of members and staff give a good structure to the book, making it very readable either occasionally or in one sitting.

After a foreword by Field Marshall The Lord Bramall, the book begins with a comprehensive preface and overview of The Travellers Club in 1914. Reflecting the traditions of the time, the club included members drawn from some of the most distinguished families in the land, as well as a high proportion of explorers, diplomats and landowners. Located in a grand building in St James’s, the club was supported by a stable and long-serving staff who were looked after paternalistically, an indication of the social responsibility felt by the members. The book moves on to consider details of the memorial itself, before setting out an alphabetical list of biographical notes of those whose names are recorded on the memorial. The main part of the book contains the profiles of the members and staff who fell in the war. They include fascinating biographies such as those of Lord John Spencer Cavendish DSO, killed near Messines in October 1914, Major Valentine Fleming DSO, MP (father of Ian Fleming) and Rear Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, who died when his flagship, HMS Defence, was sunk with all hands during the Battle of Jutland. Ernest Chittenden and Frederick Corley, the two members of staff commemorated on the memorial, receive equally good tributes and complete a remarkably poignant volume which certainly does justice to the bravery and sacrifice of the fifty. A set of beautiful photographs features in this wonderful team effort which can be recommended to anyone with an interest in the human experience of the First World War.