" … and in 1920 Hartley was committed to Bryden Moor Hospital for the Insane," said Terry.
My hand was cramped from rapid scribbling. It seemed a good time to take a break.
"Terry, you’ve been outstanding mate," I said. "One more favour please. I’ve been jotting this down but I would really appreciate it if you could send me your stuff via e-mail? Any chance?"
Being an all round decent bloke, Terry assured me that the material was as good as sent.
He was as good as his word.
I settled down at the kitchen table fully supplied with coffee and an ample ration of Ginger Nuts. An hour later I was in danger of caffeine poisioning and the biscuits had been exchanged for Rennies.
Terry’s research revealed that Hartley was 24 when war broke out. Turned out that the Hartley clan had stemmed from the landed gentry. But, unlike many other such families who looked upon the industrial revolution with disdain, the Hartleys were not slow to jump on the capitalist bandwagon.
Seems the family made their real dough in the first half of the 19th century through astute investment in the rapidly expanding rail network.
By the turn of the century, Hartley’s father had acquired an investment portfolio embracing the wheat fields of Canada, South African gold and Cattle Ranches in Argentina.
The Hartleys were seriously rich.
After an undistinguished stint as a pupil at Charter House Public School, young Hartley had gone up to Oxford where it seems he showed more interest in sporting pursuits than achieving his Classics Degree.
By August 1914, Hartley was just another rich boy with time on his hands. Indulged by his father, he had travelled widely in Europe, secured himself an excellent golf handicap and was thoroughly bored with the social merry-go-round.
Hartley Senior, being an Imperial type of guy, had poured a substantial sum into the coffers of the newly formed 7th Btn. of the Royal Mudshire Rifles. It meant the Muddies had proper uniforms while their comrades in other units of Kitchener’s Army were strolling around in their civilian clothes.
And young John fitted the job specification for subaltern in the battalion perfectly. He’d been to the right school, he was fit, he could play a mean hand of bridge, his mess bill would always be paid on time and he was a damn good shot.
"Gentlemen, I intend to make the 7th Mudshires as good if not better than our regular friends in the 1st and 2nd battalions," announced Lt. Col.Enoch Beard, slapping his thigh enthusiastically with a riding crop.
"I fully realise that we have a lot to learn, but we must do so quickly and efficiently. You, gentlemen, will be expected to live up to the high standards of the British Army officer.
"You will not rest until your men are billeted. You will not eat until the other ranks are fed. You will display at all times the demeanour of an officer and a gentleman.
"You are all of good families but I realise that few of you have the traditional military ancestry upon which to draw inspiration. Therefore, I will work you hard and show no favours. Gentlemen, our code is simple .. we will be ‘faithful unto death’ in keeping with our Regimental motto."
The Muddies were fortunate in their commanding officer. He was no ‘dug-out’, recalled from the gin and tonic fuelled slumbers of retirement.
Beard had been a smooth chinned subaltern in the 1st Mudshires when the battalion had faced the Mausers of the Boers at Colenso. By the end of the embarassing South African war, he had risen to the rank of captain and was as competent as any officer of his grade in the small, but highly professional, British Army.
Only a bout of appendicitis had prevented the, by then Major Beard from fighting with ‘the regiment’ at Mons and le Cateau.
On his discharge from hospital he had completely expected to return to the battalion which he knew had suffered quite serious losses in the opening weeks of what people were already calling a ‘World War’.
But Kitchener of Khartoum, unlike many other military men and politicians, had perceived that Britain would need a whole new army of fighting men for this war. And K of K needed men to command these new formations.
Like any regimental officer, Beard was disappointed to be deprived of service with his beloved regular battalion, but his promotion to a Lt. Colonelcy cushioned the blow and now he was determined to make these amateurs into soldiers who would not disgrace the old cap badge.
It was his intention to ‘take coffee’ on an individual basis with each officer and Hartley, John was as good a place to start as any.