WESTROPP, Lionel H.M. "Monty", Colonel.
The Memoirs of …
being his experiences in World Wars I and II, together with some other matters. For the Westropp family records.
First and only edition, limited to 50 signed and numbered copies, 10 in full calf, the rest, as here, case-bound in cloth, This copy number 31. Inevitably uncommon, Copac has BL, King’s and IWM only, OCLC adds copies at the universities of Calgary, Kansas and Nebraska. Extraordinary life-story of a genuinely extraordinary man. “The bearing of Monty Westropp in situations of extreme peril when the spirits of many around him were downcast is graphically epitomised in the recollections of the Canadian historian Walter Lord in his book The Miracle of Dunkirk: ”The long shadow of tradition was now very much in evidence. When Colonel Lionel H. M. Westropp ordered the 8th King’s Own Royal Regiment to head down the beach towards the mole he first assembled his officers. He reminded them that they wore the badge of one of the oldest regiments of the line. ‘We therefore will represent the regiment as we march down the beach this afternoon. We must not let it down …’ As Lord recalls, the battalion set off in perfect step, arms swinging in unison, rifles correctly slung and in immaculate marching order. It was a sight which put fresh heart into the many fearfully battered and demoralised units who witnessed it” (obituary, The Times 5 February, 1991). Commissioned into the Devonshire Regiment in April 1915, within a year he was commanding a company at the Battle of the Somme, all of his senior officers having been killed; “Many brave men cracked but Westropp never flinched from even the most appalling decisions. On one occasion a major in an adjacent unit was fleeing, terrified, to the rear and causing general panic among the soldiers around him. Without hesitation Westropp, then a mere 2nd lieutenant, drew his pistol and brought the officer down. Westropp then called his sergeant major to him, and together they reformed their shaken company and turned their faces towards the enemy in front”. In the rear rest areas he became notorious for “performing energetic Cossack dances on restaurant tables, accompanied by his Russian girlfriend, Olga”. Between the wars a spell in India allowed him to indulge his passion for polo and tiger and boar hunting, he also distinguished himself as an army fencer. From 1933 to 1936 he commanded the army’s anti-gas unit, and compiled the relevant manuals, and in 1939 he raised a new battalion of the 8th King’s Own, leading it as part of the BEF during the Blitzkrieg and through Dunkirk. He was later on Malta, where during the siege his battalion became known as “Westropp’s Own”, “So complete was his identification with it”. He survived a torpedo attack off the coast of Tunisia, subsequently serving on the staff for the invasion of Sicily, but “turned down a later offer of staff training, quite correctly believing his métier to be that of regimental soldiering. Indeed, in spite of a sometimes alarming demeanour, he inspired intense loyalty among all ranks under him … Above all his attitudes to life were influenced by his having survived the First World War when virtually all his school friends and regimental colleagues perished”.
Octavo. Original green boards, title gilt to the spine, black endpapers. Westropp armorial bookplate mounted on the front pastedown. A little rubbed, spine lightly sunned and mildly creased, but overall very good.
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