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Sir James Neville

A Norfolk Soldier Abroad and At Home

Sara Barton-Wood Published: 01 October 2023

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Sir James Neville cover

I first came across the diary of Sir James Neville, MC, in the Norfolk Record Office where I worked in 2010. I was looking for subjects for a history column in the Eastern Daily Press to which I contributed and this diary grabbed my attention at once.

Sara Barton-Wood at Sloley Hall

Neville was an educated man - Eton and Sandhurst - and grew up at Sloley Hall near North Walsham in Norfolk. His writing is so vivid and personal I immediately felt myself transported to the front line in northern France with all its horrors of trench warfare, disease, cold, lack of proper food and constant terror. He survived, though injured, and was awarded the MC, and was then sent off to Russia with the North Russia Expeditionary Force to try to kick out the Bolsheviks and restore the Russian Imperial family. Then it was Limerick in the run-up to independence in Ireland, after which he left the army and became an inspector for the Gezira Cotton Picking Scheme in The Sudan.

Sir James Neville at his wedding

It's a rattling good read as Neville spares us no details about his army duties, his family life and his love affairs in his diary and letters home, and he also took his Box Brownie camera with him to war. Poppylands of Lowestoft have produced a high-quality product with this book with many original photos, maps and diagrams and the author has set the whole thing in context with ample descriptions of how the war was progressing, so the reader can grasp the whole picture. A must-read for every child studying history! Now available at Kett’s Books.

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