The diary of Frederic Maxted
Frederic Sanders Maxted was born in 1878 at Ramsgate and was educated at Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School, leaving in 1894. Being of an old yeoman family, he became a farmer but he also (somewhat against his father’s wishes) volunteered for the Royal East Kent Yeomanry, a predecessor of the modern Territorial Army. On the outbreak of the Great War, he transferred to the 3rd Reserve Regiment of Cavalry, being subsequently made a 2nd Lieutenant. In 1916 he transferred to the 6th King Edward’s Own Cavalry, a regiment in the Indian Army, which was mainly recruited from India, though many of its officers were British. Maxted, who himself spoke Hindustani, was now made a full Lieutenant.
Maxted’s diary that he kept from leaving school to the end of his life uses a curt, telegraphic style, making it read more like notes than a narrative. During the War he maintained an additional, separate diary, which is much more detailed, filling two volumes, the first of which covers events right up to the end of 1917. The second volume concentrates on Maxted’s adventures at the end of the War. He had been on service in France and was still there in January 1918, when his time (if his diary entries are any indication) was taken up much more with wining and dining in fashionable Parisian establishments than with fighting. The reality of his situation does flash through with the report on the last day of January that an American doctor named Carl attached to the ambulance section had been exposed as a German spy and shot.
Later that year, the regiment was sent to the Middle East to assist General Sir Edmund Allenby’s campaign. Jerusalem had been captured shortly before Christmas but the Turks still controlled central Palestine north of the city and in the early months of 1918 many of Allenby’s seasoned troops were transferred to France (regarded by the Government as the more important theatre).
Maxted arrived at Alexandria on 2 April but by July he had still been involved in no fighting, so he took advantage of a posting to a court of inquiry at Ramallah to visit Jerusalem for several days. He “was not particularly struck with the place.” Apart from a few skirmishes and bombardments, Maxted saw relatively little action in Palestine, instead following in the trail of Allenby’s forces as they swept the Turkish line to extinction in the Battle of Megiddo (19–25 September). On 3 October, Maxted entered Damascus, where General Allenby, Colonel Thomas Lawrence (“of Arabia”) and Prince Faisal were negotiating at the Victoria Hotel. Maxted caught a glimpse of the Emir as he emerged from the hotel surrounded by an adoring crowd who kissed his boots and robe. Coincidentally, Maxted would actually meet Faisal two months later at Baalbek, when the Emir gave him a lift back to Damascus.
Maxted only finally returned to Britain on 21 June 1920, arriving at Southampton, where “The green fields on shore were quite a change from the sand and stone we had come from.” To his disgust, an adjutant ordered him to escort some soldiers to a demobilisation camp but he managed to wriggle out of it by claiming that, as an officer of the Indian Army, he had to report to the India Office, so he was relieved of the onus. In 1921, he was promoted to captain, which he should have been as early as June 1919 (to which the promotion was antedated) but his unusual status as an officer of the Indian Army created bureaucratic complications which had frustrated the procedure.
Although he was demobilised in 1920, Maxted retained his connection with the military. In 1921 he joined the 3rd Buffs Defence Force for four months but then reverted to farming. In June of that year, he received a personally signed letter of thanks from the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. He was a Metropolitan Special Constable in the 1920s and served as a Company Sergeant in the East Surrey Home Guard during the Second World War. He died in 1966.
Written by James Lloyd, also using research by Alex Colville
Published 23rd May 2014