Servant of Empire (inc UK p&p)
Meticulously researched and quarried from numerous unpublished sources, ‘Servant of Empire’ is not only a fascinating, vivid account of the life of an eminent engineer and World War I Captain, but a keyhole through which the achievements and upheavals of the British Empire are illuminated. From the hills of Westmorland, to the swamps of Nigeria and the trenches of the Western Front, Martin Gibson follows his subject on a journey that will inform and enthral anyone with an interest in the development of, and fight for, modern Britain.
Dr John Leigh, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge
SERVANT OF EMPIRE is the story of Thomas Wilson Bracken (1865-1932). Born and raised in the high Pennines on a farm next to what was then the highest railway station in England, he was inspired by the adjacent marvels of engineering to qualify as a civil engineer. After training in the town that had cradled the railways, Darlington, he was involved in the final phase of Victorian railway building in England, Scotland and Ireland during the 1880s and 1890s.
By his own admission, his boyhood imagination was captured by Disraeli’s imperial adventures, so fixing his political allegiance and loyalty to the British Empire for the remainder of his life. In that context he seized the opportunity to participate in the building of the first railway on the west coast of Africa. Soon after his arrival in Lagos in 1897 he inadvertently became wrapped up in the scramble for Africa, in the form of a potentially explosive Anglo-French struggle over what are now Nigeria’s borders.
In 1901 following completion of the Lagos Government Railway he returned to England and practised in the thriving world of Edwardian Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Endowed with both money and leisure he became a regular newspaper correspondent, providing us a fascinating commentary on the great Liberal/Tory struggles of 1905-1914.
In 1915 when the War Office appealed for experienced civil engineers to volunteer and help to break the Western Front’s appallingly costly stalemate he became, aged 50, Lieutenant and then Captain Bracken R.E. and while in France and Belgium, experienced the full heat of battle at Arras and the awful horrors of Passchendaele.
When he eventually returned to civilian life in 1920 he took up his pen once more and in a series of nostalgic newspaper letters and articles commented on the post-War transformation of so much that had gone before.