Hanway Robert Cumming was commissioned into the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) in 1889 and saw active service during the South African War. He was in a staff appointment in India in August 1914 and did not arrive in France till June 1915 where he again held staff appointments until August 1916 when he took command of 2nd DLI. In November 1916 he was appointed to command of the 91st Brigade, 7th Division, a post he held till May 1917 when, during the Battle of Bullecourt he was summarily dismissed by the divisional commander (Shoubridge) and went home on leave, under protest as he describes in the book (less than a month later he was awarded the DSO in the 1917 Birthday Honours!). From August 1917 to the following February he commanded the MG Corps Training Centre at Grantham and then, in March 1918 he went back to France to command the 110th Brigade, 21st Division where he stayed to the end of the war. After the war, while commanding the Kerry Brigade in Ireland he was murdered, on 6th March 1921.
This book is concerned with his two periods as a brigade commander, and as battlefield reminiscences of officers at that level are not all that common, it is a record of special interest. The greater part of the book deals with his command of the 110th Brigade which he took over less than a week before the German Spring offensive, which is dealt with in detail, as is the May offensive in Champagne in which 21st Division was one of the five British divisions fighting under French command, and then the final allied counter-offensive. In all this is an interesting picture of the life of a brigade commander on the Western front. He tells his story in the third person, referring to himself throughout as the brigadier.
Keywords: military, history, historical, account, south african war, durham light infantry, hanway robert cumming