Old Bill’s Book Review:

Meet At Dawn, Unarmed

 

 

From 5 August 1914, the day he received a telegram requesting he rejoin his regiment, Robert Hamilton kept a personal diary—a record of his experiences as an officer in the 1st Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, serving in France and Belgium during the first six months of the First World War.

Sixty-six years after Robert began his diary, it was discovered by his grandson, Andrew Hamilton. But it was another two decades before Andrew showed the diary to battlefield tour guide Alan Reed, who immediately saw the importance of its content. It was evident from his diary that Robert had known famous fellow officers  Bruce Bairnsfather and Bernard Law Montgomery personally, and, most importantly, had recorded his own involvement in the famous Christmas Truce of 1914.

Andrew Hamilton and Alan Reed decided Robert’s diary must be published, and Meet at Dawn, Unarmed is the result. The book is a  credit to their determination to put Robert’s diary into print, and deserves a place on the bookshelves of any First World War enthusiast.

To complement the diary entries, Andrew and Alan have included an informative commentary, with contemporary maps, photographs and other illustrative material, including many BB cartoons. They have undertaken almost a year’s research, both here in the UK and France and Belgium, gathering additional material, and background on many of the men Robert fought alongside, from the Warwicks and other regiments.

The result of their thoroughness is an excellently researched and put together book, which does much more than give just one man’s account of his war service—it also documents an important period in our history, and will prove a valuable resource to anyone interested in the First World War.

Extracts from a diary kept by Robert Hamilton’s wife Renie while he was in France are also included, giving an insight into life on the ‘Home Front’ during this period.

The Christmas Truce is the key event mentioned in Robert’s diary—reflected by the comment “A day unique in the world’s history” at the start of his original entry for 25 December 1914. Andrew Hamilton and Alan Reed have scoured the archives and have been able to include details from the accounts of other participants in that memorable day—including BB and other soldiers from the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as well as a German soldier, Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch, of the 134th Saxon Regiment. Using all the first hand accounts available to him, Andrew Hamilton has written an excellent reconstruction of the Christmas Truce between the men of the two regiments, and this is very deservedly given a whole chapter to itself.

Meet At Dawn, Unarmed contains no fewer than 19 BB cartoons, each specially selected  for its association to a specific entry in Robert Hamilton’s diary. The front cover illustration is also a BB drawing, which originally accompanied an article on the Christmas Truce which he wrote for The American Magazine in 1929. As with all the illustrations in the book, the reproduction quality of BB’s drawings is superb.

Captain Robert Hamilton returned from the Western Front in January 1915, and three months later was appointed Commandant of the Military Detention Barracks in Hereford, where many Conscientious Objectors were sent.  He was still in this post when the war ended (his diary entry for 11 November 1918 notes “THE END”), and the last chapter of the book deals with his retirement and life after leaving the Army in 1919.

Meet at Dawn, Unarmed is “dedicated to all the soldiers mentioned in the text who died in the Great War.” There are 74 in all, and throughout the book, where each name appears in the text, it is in bold letters and has a small red poppy next to it. All 74 men are also listed alphabetically, at the very end of the book.

Meet at Dawn, Unarmed: Captain Robert Hamilton’s account of Trench Warfare and the Christmas Truce of 1914 with Commentary and historical reconstructions by Andrew Hamilton and Alan Reed is available from Dene House Publishing, Dene House, Walton, Warwick, CV35 9HX. Telephone: (01789) 842903/07743 696166 or e-mail: denehouse@btconnect.com and is priced at £16.99 plus postage (£1.95 within UK). Please make cheques payable to AC Hamilton Publishing or to pay by credit/debit card visit http://www.meetatdawnunarmed.co.uk . For postage rates for multiple copies or overseas orders please e-mail or telephone.

Published on 18 April 2009, Meet At Dawn, Unarmed tells the story of Capt. Robert Hamilton’s experience of trench warfare—through his personal diary, kept between 5 August 1915 and 12 February 1915, when he returned from the trenches of the Western Front, to a new posting back home. Capt. Hamilton served in the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and knew BB well. With commentary and historical reconstruction by his grandson Andrew Hamilton and Great War enthusiast Alan Reed, Meet At Dawn, Unarmed makes fascinating reading, and includes no less than 19 BB cartoons.

A review of the book appears below. For more information or To purchase a copy, visit

http://www.meetatdawnunarmed.co.uk

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