Part I 'Early Life' paginated as pp1 - 24
Born and brought up in Inverness, it was thought that he would not pass the Army medical due to a heart murmur (pp1-10). Despite strong military connections with India and his success in the Officer Training Corps at Wellington College, he took the entrance exam for Cambridge University. Just after the war began he was asked to accept a commission with a battalion of the Devonshire Regiment in Kitchener's Army by the Wellington master who ran the OTC, but was found unfit for army service (p14).
In August he went up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge to train with the OTC and to start his degree alongside a number of other students nominated for a short war course and a regular commission, and was given a place at Sandhurst in December 1914 (pp15-19). Passing out (May 1915), he was gazetted a Second Lieutenant in his grandfather's regiment, the Cameron Highlanders, joining the 3rd Militia Battalion at Invergordon (pp19-23). In September 1915 he was posted to the Western Front (pp23-4).
Part II 'World War One' paginated as pp25-130
He joined (8 October) the 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders (1st Brigade, 1st Division) at Mazingarbe during the German counter attack in the Battle of Loos. The trenches were mere ditches, as a further offensive was expected (pp25-7). After only a week's active service he became the Machine Gun Officer and was sent on brief machine gun courses at the Machine Gun School at Wisques and the Divisional School at Ferfay Chateau. He describes the conditions of the trenches in the Loos sector during winter (pp31-47) where at first he was foolhardy, but became more afraid as he saw the effects of shell and gunfire on the human body (p32). During January 1916 1st Brigade Machine Gun Company, the Machine Gun Corps was formed by the amalgamation of the Battalion Machine Gun Sections (p37).
In June and July 1916 there were many exercises designed to disguise the coming attacks on the Somme (pp44-5). Though still under 20 he was appointed Second in Command, 2nd MG Company (2nd Brigade) in July 1916 and when the division moved to the Somme he personally saw little action since he was based at his unit's headquarters (pp46-54). In October he had an attack of trench fever but avoided evacuation, since that would have meant returning to the Machine Gun Training Centre at Grantham as a section officer (p54).
Although scornful of Grantham, he was nevertheless ordered there in October to take command of 232nd Machine Gun Company, but the appointment did not materialise until February 1917, as relations were poor between Machine Gun HQ at General Headquarters, France and the Machine Gun Training Centre. The latter liked to make its own appointments and objected to his nomination due to his youth (p55). After five and a half months training at Grantham his Machine Gun Company became a divisional unit of the 51st Highland Division (XVIII Corps, 5th Army) in July 1917 (p59).
Wimberley gives an interesting account of their preparation for and initial attack (20 September 1917) during the Third Battle of Ypres, and admits that the Salient was too hot even for the 'thrusters' of the Highland Division, one of the best formations in the Army, which was glad to return to the Somme (pp60-80). This sector being very quiet showed him how a good division could be spoiled for the offensive by months of peaceful trench warfare (p82).
In contrast to the heavy build up at Ypres, which could not be disguised, the preparations for the offensive at Cambrai on 20 November were kept secret and 'open warfare' was planned. Surprise was complete with tanks penetrating the Hindenburg Line, but the advance broke down and he is critical of the planning, especially by the Quartermaster's Department (pp84-97).
His two short periods as acting Divisional Machine Gun Officer (during December 1917 and February 1918) give an interesting insight into army administration at Divisional level (pp99-103, 106-8). He admired his Divisional Commander 'Uncle' Harper, comments on Brigadier Pelham Burn (152nd Brigade) treating his Battalion Commanders 'like a Company Commander dismissing his platoon commanders on parade' (p99) and is scathing about the Brigadier General Staff De Pree (p107).
In early 1918 the four Machine Gun Companies of each division were combined into the new Machine Gun Battalions and as a result his independent company became 'D' Company 51st Highland Battalion MGC (pp105, 109). With rumours at Divisional HQ of a great German offensive, its defences were organised in depth, but even so, helped by mist and gas, the Germans managed to penetrate the front line. On 21 March while firing a machine gun in the Corps line, Wimberley was wounded in the leg and subsequently evacuated to England (pp106-7, 110-21).
Having been passed fit for Home Service by a Medical Board in June 1918, he attended a Machine Gun refresher course at Grantham (July) and was posted as a company commander to 9th Reserve Battalion (Training), Machine Gun Corps at Grantham (August) where he had to deal with insubordination over pay by a draft of soldiers (pp123-6). Depressed and turned down for staff work, he went in October/November on a RAF co-operation course which trained infantry officers to be air observers. He did not enjoy his Canadian pilot's 'stunting' and, when the Armistice came, the Army officers refused to fly any more and returned to their regiments (pp126-8).
Appendices paginated as pp130A-130D
X Order of Battle of 51st Highland Division in 1917
Y 'Some Notes on Machine Guns in the Infantry of the British Army in World War I'
Z 'Notes on the Use of Gas by the Germans as they affected British Troops with whom I served in World War I'.
Part III 'Between the Two Great Wars' paginated as pp131-337
In January 1919 Wimberley was appointed a company commander in the 8th Machine Gun Battalion, composed mainly of volunteers and destined for Russia after training in Folkestone. After passage to Archangel in the transport Czaritza (May) he served on the Dvina and Railway fronts where the mosquitoes, horseflies and bed bugs were dreadful. He also claims that the Bolshevik forces were so feeble that, in his opinion, Moscow could have been taken with one British division (p135). The main problem in achieving this was a mutiny among some companies of Dyer's Battalion, ex Bolshevik prisoners who killed some of their British officers, and other units (pp137-9). As the White Russians were unreliable and the British press were agitating for a withdrawal, it was decided to hand over to the former and he returned home (6 October) on the SS Minomene.
Although urged to transfer to the Machine Gun Corps (which was disbanded within a few years), he returned to his regiment joining the 2nd Battalion at Aldershot where he found a great gulf between those who had not been on active service and those who had (p143). The Battalion was due to supervise the plebiscite at Memel, East Prussia, but instead in May 1920 was quickly embarked in the transport Czaritsa and sent to Queenstown, County Cork, where he found the work frustrating and unpleasant. Surrounded by Sinn Feiners, with the Civil and Police authorities breaking down, suspects being let off and Police co-operation affected by retaliatory murders, the troops of the Battalion vented their frustration on the windows of local shops (p147). The situation was made worse by the arrival of the 'Black and Tans' who, totally undisciplined, committed atrocities which were emulated by some in the Army. Wimberley admired some Sinn Feiners as brave and patriotic, if ruthless (p149) and realised that the British government was right to treat with them, since, although the Army could have crushed them, they would only have been driven underground (p155).
The Battalion returned to successful peacetime soldiering in Aldershot (1922-23, pp156-195) and Cologne (1923-24, pp196-213) with Wimberley heavily involved as Adjutant for 3½ years from October 1921, though he admits that 'a regiment is judged in peace time on its "Spit and Polish" and Athletics abilities, not on the Field Training' (p175). He also began his lifelong defence of Highland traditions against English interference and his great efforts on behalf of his battalion, as well as his endeavours to further his own career are reflected in his only diary (quoted in full) for the period January 1923-February 1924 (pp160-207).
After his period of service as Adjutant he returned (November 1924) at his own expense to Emmanuel College, Cambridge in order to complete his degree and to work for the Staff College exams which he passed. However, having married in the interim, he could no longer afford to complete his degree and he rejoined the 2nd Battalion in Cologne in July 1925 (pp 214-21).
In 1926 he started a two year course at the Staff College, Camberley where most of the future commanders and staff officers of the Second World War were fellow students or instructors. He gives very interesting criticisms and sketches of them and of the pressures and uncertainty when working with the finest officers of his generation (pp220-36). Having passed in the top twenty, he went to India in the troopship Devonshire to do his foreign tour (six years) with the 1st Battalion (p237).
After a year commanding the garrison (one company) at the Indian convict station on the Andaman Islands (pp 239-251) he was given one of the plum postings for his rank, Brigade Major of the 1st Indian (Gurkha) Infantry Brigade on the North West Frontier (1929), where there was widespread unrest in the Peshawar area. A mutiny of a Garwhal Rifle Battalion, incursions from Afghanistan and riots by Red Shirt Pathans at Haripur gaol all required his attention (pp252-94). During a three day visit to Kabul, Wimberley was arrested by the Afghan police following tension after a coup (pp287-90).
From the Gurkhas he returned to the 1st Battalion at Fyzabad as Machine Gun Officer for a year having taken a refresher course at the Machine Gun School at Netheravon (pp295-364). During this year he was granted the Bertrand Stewart Award by The Army Quarterly for an essay which he wrote on the subject of military training (p299) and it was at Netheravon that he came across his first example of a peace-time unit commander, Robin Money of the Cameronians, training for an actual war situation, by means of sand table exercises, discussions, essays and monthly exercises and demonstrating advanced ideas of tactics and the theory of a possible European war. Wimberley adds, however, that Money's efforts were not appreciated by the Indian Army generals (pp298-99).
Having finished his foreign tour Wimberley went to the War Office at a crucial time (1934-37), first as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General under the Director of Recruiting and Organisation, with responsibility for Infantry Officer postings (pp305-14), and more importantly, as General Staff Officer II in charge of infantry training under the Director of Military Training (Alan Brooke) with whom he worked very closely. The work was hard as war with Germany was coming to be seen as a real possibility: among other tasks the Infantry Training Manual had to be revised and ranges provided to train the infantry on the new anti-tank guns and mortars (pp315-25).
In 1939 he was given command of the 1st Battalion, Cameron Highlanders, at that time based at Aldershot where he was responsible for short training courses for conscripted 'Militia men', but he was obliged to take a month's leave (pp326-328) because of nervous strain and ill health brought on by his years at the War Office.
Indexes and Glossary paginated as pp338-384