Charles Carrington (British Army officer)

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Charles Edmund Carrington (21 April 1897 — 21 June 1990) was a British Army officer, who fought during the Great War. In 1929 he published A Subaltern's War under the pseudonym Charles Edmonds.[1]


Carrington was born in West Bromwich, then part of Staffordshire, England. He moved to New Zealand with his family where his father became Dean of Christchurch. When the First World War (also known as the Great War or The War to End All Wars) broke out in August 1914 Carrington was in England preparing for university entrance examinations and enlisted in the British Army's Royal Warwickshire Regiment, although he was under age. In February 1915 an uncle obtained for him a commission as a second lieutenant into the 9th (Service) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, a Kitchener's Army unit, part of the 70th Brigade of the 23rd Division, where his job was to train his platoon. In August 1915 he was deemed too young to join the battalion in France. Carrington desperately wanted to fight after spending more than a year training in England. He managed to obtain a transfer to the 1/5th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, a Territorial Force battalion assigned to the 143rd (1/1st Warwickshire) Brigade of the 48th (South Midland) Division, and sailed to France in December. He spent six months in the trenches in a relatively quiet sector of the Western Front at Gommecourt before being transferred to the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.[2] In 1964 he recounted his experiences of the Great War to the BBC in a series of interviews for their project The Great War. These were broadcast in 2014 and again in 2016 as part of the commemorations for the centenary of the war.[3]

After being demobilised in 1919, he finished his education at Christ Church, Oxford, studying history. He became assistant master of a minor public school, Haileybury. In 1929 he was appointed educational secretary to Cambridge University Press, a post he held until 1954. Afterwards he was Professor of Commonwealth Relations at the Royal Institute of International Affairs until 1962.

In 1929 he published his memoirs of his time as an officer on the Western Front, A Subaltern's War which he had written ten years previously. Carrington sought to counter the widespread view that there were no other types of men who served in the war than "Prussian militarists" and "disillusioned pessimists": "No corrupt sergeant majors stole my rations or accepted my bribes. No incompetent colonels failed to give me food or lodging. No casual staff officers ordered me to certain death, indifferent to my fate".[4]

He rejoined the British Army in the Second World War, serving as a liaison officer with the Royal Air Force, experiences which he described in the book Soldier at Bomber Command, published in 1987.

In 1965 he provided a wider picture of the First World War and his role in it in Soldier from the Wars Returning. Carrington argued that Britain's involvement in the First World War was just and that there was no alternative to persevering until victory was won. Britain had reason to be proud of the Army's achievement.[5] He wrote of the effect of Army training on recruits:

The skinny, sallow, shambling, frightened victims of our industrial system, suffering from the effect of wartime shortages, who were given into our hands, were unrecognisable after six months of good, fresh air, and physical training. They looked twice the size and, as we weighed and measured them, I am able to say that they put on an average of one inch in height and one stone in weight during their time with us. One boy's mother wrote to me complaining that her Johnny was half-starved in the Army and what was I going to do about it. I was able to convince her that Johnny had put on two stone of weight and two inches of height, and had never had so good an appetite before. Beyond statistical measurements was their change in character, to ruddy, handsome, clear-eyed young men with square shoulders who stood up straight and were afraid of no one, not even the sergeant-major. 'The effect on me,' I wrote in a letter, 'is to make me a violent socialist when I see how underdeveloped capitalism has kept them, and a Prussian militarist when I see what soldiering makes of them.' Then I added, rather inconsequently, in a phrase that dates: 'I shall never think of the lower classes again in the same way after the war.' An odd forecast but true; I never have.[6]

However the 1960s saw a more critical attitude of the War, being expressed in Alan Clark's book The Donkeys and Joan Littlewood's play Oh, What a Lovely War! Carrington praised the historian John Terraine's defence of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front, and the record of the British Army.[7]

In 1955 Macmillan published Carrington's biography of Rudyard Kipling. Graham Greene praised it as "A very good biography - we are not left, as we so often are when we have closed an official life, with the thought “here is a quarry where other men in the future may dig more profitably”. Mr Carrington has dug with effect. The quarry is closed".[8] Peter Quennell claimed the book was "sound, scholarly, yet never for a moment dull".[9]


  • A Subaltern's War (1929).
  • Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work (1955).
  • Soldier from the Wars Returning (1962).
  • The British Overseas: Exploits of a Nation of Shopkeepers (1968).
  • Soldier at Bomber Command (1987).


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Brian Bond, Survivors of a Kind: Memoirs of the Western Front (London: Continuum, 2008), p. 14.
  3. ^ The Great War Interviews BBC
  4. ^ Bond, p. 13.
  5. ^ Bond, p. 13.
  6. ^ Charles Carrington, Soldier from the Wars Returning (London: Hutchinson, 1965), p. 230.
  7. ^ Bond, p. 13.
  8. ^ Charles Carrington, Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work (London: Pelican, 1970), backcover.
  9. ^ Carrington, Kipling, backcover.


  • Brian Bond, Survivors of a Kind: Memoirs of the Western Front (London: Continuum, 2008).

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