Troubador A Soldier and a Gentleman

Released: 28/11/2021

ISBN: 9781803130095

Format: Paperback

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A Soldier and a Gentleman

Brigadier General Sir Bertram Portal, 1866-1949.


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.

The book is written in a clear readable style and is amply illustrated with photographs and maps. Sufficient background detail is given to set particular events in context. It is an attractive and carefully researched account of a man who deserves to be more widely known.

The author has had the enthusiastic support of Sir Bertram’s extended family, whose archives have provided a rich source of letters, diaries, photographs and reminiscences. Regimental war diaries and newspaper accounts have added to the story.

Alison Deveson

by Alison Deveson

Richard Waldram


Richard has lived for 46 years in Overton, Hampshire, close to Southington House which was Bertram Portal’s home. One of his grandchildren is a family friend.

Richard studied medicine at Pembroke College, Cambridge and St Thomas’s Hospital London, qualifying in 1966. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

As a consultant he had no time to pursue his life-long interest in history but on retirement he published a number of monographs about Overton. This led to a major project in which he led a team of researchers to produce 'A History of Overton from 1500' which was published in 2019. Though more academic in style, it proved to be very popular.

Richard knew from this research that Hampshire Archives holds a very large collection of Bertram Portal’s letters and papers deposited there by the family. Having perused them, he was convinced that his story deserved to be better known. He then discovered Bertram’s war diaries, an album of photographs at the National Army Museum and more of his letters at the British Library. When Bertram’s grandchildren shared his enthusiasm and showed him many more letters and photographs, Richard knew that the project was viable.

Richard is too old now for climbing mountains and offshore sailing but he still restores antique furniture which he finds much easier than restoring people.

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