Private Lord Crawford’s Great War Diaries

Private Lord Crawford’s Great War Diaries

From Medical Orderly to Cabinet Minister


Edited by:    Christopher Arnander
Imprint:        Pen & Sword Military
Found in:     World War One Books
Hardback     240 pages
ISBN:           9781781593677
Published:   30 October 2013 

This publication, contains a comprehensive introduction by the Editor, our Society Member Christopher Arnander.

Pen and Sword, 47, Church Street , Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2BR

It is also available on the web through Amazon, Waterstones and The Times Bookshop at competitive prices.

Description:  This extraordinary diary is written by the 27th Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, who was an eminent MP for 18 years until the death of his father in 1913 when he was ennobled.  His sense of duty drove him to join the RAMC as a Private and he served in a humble capacity in field hospitals in France without revealing his identity.  His diaries and letters reflect the stark contrast between his privileged home life and the one he volunteered for in France and Flanders.  Remarkably he is never heard to complain or regret his decision although he is often critical of his ‘seniors’.  Lord Crawford’s pre- and post-war diaries “The Crawford Papers” (edited by Prof Vincent) describe his peacetime experiences and this book fills in a needy gap.  His self-control must have been incredible as he found himself under the direction of far less intelligent and knowledgeable men holding more senior rank.  This is a unique document which throws fascinating new light on what it meant to be a junior rank.

Click on these links to read more about the book on the Celebrate Scotland and the Daily Record websites.

About the Author:  The 27th Earl of Crawford and Balcarres was born in 1871 and attended Oxford University. In 1895 he became an MP but resigned when he inherited his title in 1913, having been Conservative Chief Whip. After his military Service he returned to the Cabinet. He later held many important political, business and artistic appointments. He was invested as a Knight of the Order of the Thistle in 1921. He was author of two books on British Art and involved with the British Museum, V & A Museum and National Gallery. He died in March 1940 at the age of 68.

About the Editor:  Christopher Arnander pursued, after Oxford University, a banking career before becoming a Middle Eastern consultant.  He has written a number of books including two bi-lingual proverb books “Pavilions in the Air” and “You Can’t Get Blood Out of a Turnip“. Christopher is the son of Lady Cynthia Anne Lindsay, is a grandson of the 27th Earl and a cousin of the present Earl of Crawford.

This publication forms a companion document to “The Crawford Papers” containing a comprehensive background, by the Editor, to events taking place at that time.  There is also an informed family history of the 27th Earl and the Lindsays of Balcarres. Considerable research by the Editor is included in the text along with copious drawings and photographs providing an insight into the atmosphere of the period.


The Times, 14 December 2013

From Books which impressed historians and others with a military interest.

Baroness Mannigham-Buller, former Director General of MI5Private Lord Crawford was my grandfather but died before I was born. In April 1915 he enlisted as a private in the RAMC. He served as a medical orderly in a casualty clearing station in France, helping thousands of wounded and dying as they left the front line. It was with great reluctance that he agreed to return to London 14 months later to join the Cabinet as President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. Afterwards he said that France “was a grim experience upon which I look back with infinite tenderness.”

From Books of the Year.

Ben Macintyre ‘Sixty-five million men served in the First World War, nine million of them died and 20 million were wounded. Somehow the scale of those statistics often seems to obscure the individuals involved. Of the personal stories to emerge for this centenary, my favourite so far is Private Lord Crawford’s. The 27th Earl of Crawford (and 10th Earl of Balcarres) was married with seven children in 1914 and too old to sign up, so he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as a private and spent 14 months on the Western Front as an orderly, before returning to join Asquith’s Cabinet. His diaries are remarkable for their candour, good humour and quite staggering absence of complaint.’

Literary Review, November 2013

From Rank upon a Serried Rank; a review of 14 Great War books.

Nigel Jones ‘In what must be a unique pairing, Christopher Arnander and his wife, Primrose, are grandchildren of two members of Asquith’s coalition government, the Liberal Reginald McKenna and the Tory Earl of Crawford. Although officially too old to join up, Crawford enlisted as a private soldier, yet ended up running a war hospital near the French town of Hazebrouck. His previously unpublished war diaries, meticulously edited by his grandson, offer a fascinating glimpse into life at the front and in the upper reaches of politics at home – and contain some frank comments on his former Cabinet colleagues.’