There are three reasons for reviewing this publication in a magazine which would
not usually be expected to notice a memoir of a senior military officer in the Indian
Army who served - with however much distinction - on the North West Frontier
before World War I.
One is that the topic of military matters within imperial control is, of course, a
subject which has an intrinsic appeal to virtually every one who served in any capacity
in the old British Empire. Secondly, it is possible that some of our readers will themselves have
seen wartime service (not, bien entendu, under the legendary Brigadier-General V. D.
Villiers-Stuart in the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles
(Frontier Force)), and so have a personal interest in reading about "The Desperate
Encounters" - to use the title of a predecessor volume by the same military historian -
of one of the famous Gurkha regiments. Though a former Punjabi rather than an ex-Gurkha, I was myself
interested to read anecdotes about the father of one of my own commanding officers,
the Hon. C. G. Bruce; and then there is G. H. Boisragon, who must have served in
Africa to have been awarded the Order of the Nile, 4th Class, and equally must have
been related to the Captain Alan Boisragon who commanded the Niger Coast
Protectorate Constabulary in the assault on Benin in January, 1897.
Thirdly, and in this instance convincing me to agree to notice the book here, it is
published by the Pentland Press at Kippielaw, Haddington, East Lothian. Now this
small, enterprising publisher carried an impressive list of what, in shorthand, I might
call 'our kind' of books; that is to say, personal memoirs of men and women who have
served in the Empire. To pick a handful out of the current Pentland Press catalogue,
there is John Butter's I.C.S. memoir. Uncivil Servant: Gren Wedderburn's account of
his years as a medical missionary in China and Japan, No Lotus Garden; A. E. G.
Haig's Gentleman Cadet to Headmaster; and John Goodall's reminiscences of his life
in the Colonial Medical Service, Goodbye to Empire. Sadly, this company ceased trading in 2007 but most of its books can still be found if you look hard enough.