Bertram Portal was born into a wealthy family, famous for their mill at Laverstoke in North Hampshire which made banknote paper for the Bank of England.
The youngest of three sons, he was destined for an army career. Graduating from Sandhurst in 1885, he joined the 17th Lancers Cavalry Regiment at Lucknow in India. He was awarded a D.S.O. in the Boer War, which paved the way to promotion, and he commanded his regiment in Edinburgh and India until 1907.
Portal then left the army and lived as a country gentleman, devoting himself to his home village of Overton until 1914 when he was called up as a Reserve Officer to command a training brigade in Ireland. He commanded the mobile column in the readiness at the Curragh near Dublin when the Easter Rising broke out in 1916 and he played a major role in its suppression. Portal’s diary of events reveals important new information about the British response.
His exploits did not go unnoticed: he was promoted and served on the Western Front in command of the 7th Cavalry Brigade until March 1918. Retiring for a second time, Bertram devoted himself once more to Overton and Hampshire causes.
In 1899 he married Mittie, the eldest daughter of Lord Hatherton, who bore him a son and five daughters. Their story as a family is woven into the narrative of the book.
Bertram was a true gentleman – honourable, courteous, considerate and modest about his achievements. The welfare of his soldiers and their horses was always to the fore, both in peacetime and when in action. He was steady, capable and decisive with a strong sense of duty, guided by his Christian faith.
This well-researched biography sets his life and career in the context of the times and will be of interest to a wide readership.