The personal diaries kept by three of six Giffard brothers who fought in the Great War provide a unique and vivid record of service on the Western Front in World War I and stand witness to a lost generation through which the war cut its huge and deadly swathe.
Jack Giffard served in the Royal Horse Artillery throughout the retreat from Mons. He was
wounded and briefly captured after L Battery's fight at Nery.
Eddie Giffard was a Field Gunner supporting the Guards Division, rose to be Battery Commander and was killed shortly before the Armistice. Walter Giffard served in balloons in the Royal Flying Corps — a dangerous and often under-valued aspect of the war.
Guns, Kites and Horses conveys a striking and immediate sense of what it was really like — from
everyday details, to boredom, intense danger, wounds and even death. There is a matter-of factness about the entries but still a tender concern for suffering — comrades and their horses.
The comments of the balloonist brother, Walter, combine a lightness of touch with a sense of history, as when he watches the great German the offensive in the spring of 1918: '. . . . The most colossal battle, both in magnitude and importance, the world has ever seen'.
These diaries, with their tone that is at once eloquent and yet restrained, offer a vision of life on the Western Front that, in its understated way, is more immediate, more memorable and more affecting than any formal memoir or history could be. But this is also a family story and a cultural and social history.
The text has been introduced and edited by Sir Sydney Giffard, who was HM Ambassador in Switzerland and Japan, and author of Japan Among the Paras 1890-1990. He is the son of Walter Giffard.