Writing the War Memoirs 1931–36

  • Andrew Suttie


Few political memoirs of the Great War have been as influential or as controversial as Lloyd George’s War Memoirs. Over the years these volumes have made a significant contribution to shaping the historical and popular perceptions of the key events and especially the personalities of the 1914–18 conflict. When the Memoirs first appeared in 1933–36 the responses of critics and the reading public testify to the passionate reaction to his arguments and criticisms.1 In particular, many were outraged by the attacks on the generals, some praised the literary style and many the extensive documentation. It is no surprise that the Memoirs stirred controversy. The public and private memory of the war was still fresh in the minds of the adult population, and Lloyd George was an important figure in British politics even after his resignation in 1922.


Prime Minister Extensive Documentation Reading Public Daily Telegraph Literary Style 
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  1. 1.
    For a sample of reviews, see pp. 195–98; elsewhere, for a good survey of reviewer’s reception of the War Memoirs, see George W. Egerton, ‘The Lloyd George War Memoirs: A Study in the Politics of Memory’, Journal of Modern History, 60, 1, March 1988, pp. 78–86. For readers’ letters, see House of Lords Record Office (HLRO) Lloyd George MSS (hereafter LG MSS) G/236–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis, 6 vols (London: Thornton and Butterworth, 1923–31). Google Scholar
  3. Churchill’s The Second World War, 6 vols (London: Cassell, 1948–54), is, as Egerton suggests, a better comparison: ‘War Memoirs’, p. 86.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See, for example, A.J.P. Taylor (ed.), Lloyd George: A Diary by Frances Stevenson (London: Hutchinson, 1971), p. 264.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Colin Cross (ed.), Life with Lloyd George: The Diary of A.J. Sylvester (London: Macmillan, 1975), p. 109.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    For example, see Paul Johnson in the New Statesman, where he describes the War Memoirs as ‘unreadable’ and ‘unread’; 19 September 1969.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Quoted in Thomas Jones, Lloyd George (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), pp. 269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 18.
    Egerton, ‘War Memoirs’, pp. 58–61 and Peter Rowland, Lloyd George: A Biography (New York: Macmillan, 1975), pp. 572–73.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    See Swinton’s memoir Over My Shoulder (Oxford: George Ronald, 1951), p. 224.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    Although it was probably not the ‘National Government’ he would have wanted; on Lloyd George and the formation of the National Government, see Philip Williamson, National Crisis and National Government: British Politics, the Economy and Empire 1926–1932 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 275–76, 354–55.Google Scholar
  11. 34.
    Sir George Arthur, Life of Lord Kitchener, 3 vols (London: Macmillan, 1920).Google Scholar
  12. 35.
    C.E. Callwell (ed.), Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: His Life and Diaries, 2 vols (London: Cassell, 1927).Google Scholar
  13. 36.
    J.H. Boraston and G.A.B. Dewar, Sir Douglas Haig’s Command, December 19th 1915 to November 11th, 1918 (London: Constable, 1922); Google Scholar
  14. Brigadier-General John Charteris, Field Marshal Earl Haig (London: Cassell, 1929). Google Scholar
  15. Alfred Duff Cooper’s Haig, 2 vols (London: Faber & Faber, 1935–36), was still to come.Google Scholar
  16. 37.
    Nancy Maurice (ed.), The Maurice Case (London: Leo Cooper, 1972), pp. 181–207.Google Scholar
  17. 38.
    HLRO LG MSS G/212: Lloyd George to Hankey 10 April 1933. For a survey of the ‘battle of the memoirs’, see Ian Beckett, ‘Frocks and Brasshats’, in Brian Bond (ed.), The First World War and British Military History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), pp. 90–112.Google Scholar
  18. 41.
    A.J.P. Taylor (ed.), My Darling Pussy: The Letters of Lloyd George and Frances Stevenson 1913–41 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975), p. 161 Google Scholar
  19. Lloyd George to Frances Stevenson 3 December 1931. Cf. Churchill’s tribute to Lloyd George in The World Crisis 1916–18 (London: Thornton Butterworth, 1927), Part I, pp. 256–57.Google Scholar
  20. 42.
    Taylor (ed.), My Darling Pussy, 171, Lloyd George to Frances Stevenson, 31 December 1931.Google Scholar
  21. 53.
    On Sylvester, see his diaries edited by Colin Cross; on Frances Stevenson, apart from her diaries and letters edited by A.J.P. Taylor, see the biography by her grand daughter, Ruth Longford, Frances, Countess Lloyd-George: More than a Mistress (Leominster, Herefordshire: Gracewing, Fowler Wright Books, 1996).Google Scholar
  22. 59.
    On Hankey’s role in enforcing Cabinet secrecy and vetting ministerial memoirs, see John F. Naylor, A Man and an Institution: Sir Maurice Hankey, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Custody of Official Secrecy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); Egerton, ‘War Memoirs’, pp. 68–70; on Hankey and Lloyd George in particular, Naylor, A Man and an Institution, pp. 203–09; Peter Fraser, ‘Cabinet Secrecy and War Memoirs’, History, 70, 230, pp. 397–409 and Egerton, ‘War Memoirs’, pp. 69–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 75.
    HLRO LG MSS G/212: Hankey to Lloyd George, 11 April 1933. On Liddell Hart, see the biography by Alex Danchev, Alchemist of War: The Life of Basil Liddell Hart (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998), Google Scholar
  24. Brian Bond, Liddell Hart: A Study of his Military Thought (London: Cassell, 1977) Google Scholar
  25. And John J. Mearsheimer, Liddell Hart and the Weight of History (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1988).Google Scholar

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© Andrew Suttie 2005

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  • Andrew Suttie

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