Sunday 1 May 2016

A 270 Year-Old Book, With A 100 Year-Old WW1 Story...

Here's a very, very special book. It fairly reeks of history. It's a breviary, Breviarium Sanctae Ambianensis Ecclesiae to be precise, dated 1746.

A lovely book then, not in particularly good nick to be sure, but pretty good considering it's over a quarter of a millennium old. It's also very rare: no copies are currently for sale anywhere online (that I could find).

What really sets it part though is the inscription at the front...

The inscription reads (with thanks to the commenter below who corrected my initial transcription):

Picked up at Martinsorte on Somme Front in a ruined home, in 1916, by Captain H. J. Robson R.A.M.C (T.F)*

Just hope the advance of the tanks is before the fall of Theepvalle** and Beaumont Hamel.

* Royal Army Medical Corps (Territorial Force). The Territorial Force was a forerunner of the Territorial Army.
** Thiepval.

I'm afraid it will take someone with better knowledge of the events of The Battle of the Somme than me to work out when this apparently contemporary battlefield inscription was written, but if Captain Robson is talking about the potential fall of Beaumont Hamel, then I *think* that puts it towards the end, in mid-November 1916. (This has particular significance for me, as it was on November 14th 1916, during the Beaumont Hamel offensive, that my favourite writer, Hector Hugh Munro, aka Saki, was shot and killed.)

The book is now quite worn, and moulded as if it was stuck in a pocket, or perhaps a kitbag, for a goodly while.

According to this record in the London Gazette of 19th October, 1917, Captain Robson survived the Somme, but retired from The Royal Army Medical Corps due to ill-health...

All in all a fascinating object, especially in this centenary year. I don't own this book, and though I can put interested parties in touch with the dealer who does own it, I'm not sure he'd ever be able to bring himself to part with it...


  1. I read the inscription as:
    "Picked up at Martinsorte on Somme Front in a ruined house, in 1916, by Captain H. J. Robson R.A.M.C (T.F.)" TF=Territorial Force, forerunner of TA.

    "Just before the advance of the tanks is before the fall of Theepvalle (Thiepval) and Beaumont Hamel."

    1. Thank you very much indeed for that clarification. I will adjust the entry accordingly!