|Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly
|William Heinemann; Mandarin
|1994 (hardback); 1995 (paperback)
To War with Whitaker: The Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly 1939–1945 is a memoir of World War II written, in diary form, by Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly. It was first published by William Heinemann in 1994. The following year, Mandarin Publishing issued it in paperback, describing the memoir as "A love story that knows no bounds":
When World War II broke out, Dan Ranfurly was dispatched to the Middle East with his faithful valet, Whitaker. These are the diaries of his young wife, Hermione, who, defying the War Office, raced off in hot pursuit of her husband. When Dan was taken prisoner, Hermione vowed never to return home until they were reunited. For six years, travelling alone from Cape Town to Palestine, and meeting such charismatic characters as Churchill, Eisenhower, and a parrot called Coco on the way, she kept her promise.
The Countess's lively prose style is characterised by frankness, a sharp eye for character – not least that of the short, chubby, phlegmatic valet Whitaker – and an acute ear for dialogue. For example, when the Earl received a telegram at the outbreak of war in 1939 ordering him to report to his regiment, she writes: "After reading this Dan asked Whitaker if he would like to go with him. The old fatty looked over the top of his spectacles and said, 'To the War, my Lord? Very good, my Lord.'"
Her husband, The 6th Earl of Ranfurly, a nobleman of Ulster-Scots descent, was a lieutenant in the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry. Lord Ranfurly, often known simply as Dan Ranfurly, was captured by soldiers of Rommel's Afrika Korps, along with General Sir Richard O'Connor and other officers, in Libya in April 1941 when their driver became lost in the dark. A military historian later described it as "the most valuable car-load of booty to fall to the Afrika Korps during its entire existence".Dan spent the next two years as a prisoner-of-war in Italy.
Dan and other British officers escaped following the Italian surrender in 1943 and, after several months on the run behind German lines, he was finally reunited with his wife in Algiers in May 1944. After the war, Lord Ranfurly served as Governor of the Bahamas, where his wife established a lending library service in Nassau that she later extended to other parts of the world in need of English language books. That service later became Book Aid International.
When the Countess died in 2001, her obituarist for the Daily Telegraph wrote: "Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly, who has died aged 87, was the author of one of the most delightful memoirs of recent times, To War with Whitaker (1994), and the kind of woman for whom words such as pluck and spirit might have been invented."
The film rights to Lady Ranfurly's diary were optioned by the Los Angeles-based production company Grandiosity Films in 2016.
Brigadier General Bonner Frank Fellers was a United States Army officer who served during World War II as a military attaché and director of psychological warfare. He is notable as the military attaché in Egypt whose extensive transmissions of detailed British tactical information were unknowingly intercepted by Axis agents and passed to Nazi German Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel for over six months, which contributed to disastrous British defeats at Gazala and Tobruk in June 1942.
Earl of Ranfurly, of Dungannon in the County of Tyrone, a title in the Peerage of Ireland, was created in 1831 for Thomas Knox, 2nd Viscount Northland. He had earlier represented County Tyrone in the House of Commons, and had already been created Baron Ranfurly, of Ramphorlie in the County of Renfrew, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1826. Knox was the eldest son of Thomas Knox, who represented Dungannon in the Irish House of Commons. He was created Baron Welles, of Dungannon in the County of Tyrone, in 1781, and Viscount Northland, of Dungannon in the County of Tyrone, in 1791. Both titles were in the Peerage of Ireland. Lord Northland also sat in the British House of Lords as one of the 28 original Irish Representative Peers.
Thomas Daniel Knox, 6th Earl of Ranfurly,, known as Dan Ranfurly, was a British Army officer and farmer, who served as Governor of the Bahamas. His exploits in the Second World War, along with those of his wife, Hermione, and his valet, Whitaker, were chronicled in his wife's memoirs from the time, To War With Whitaker: The Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly, 1939–1945.
Lieutenant General Sir Philip Neame, was a senior British Army officer and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, and the winner of an Olympic Games gold medal; he is the only person to achieve both distinctions.
George Alexander Eugene Douglas Haig, 2nd Earl Haig, was a British artist and peer who succeeded to the earldom of Haig on 29 January 1928, at the age of nine upon the death of his father, Field Marshal the 1st Earl Haig. Until then he was styled Viscount Dawick. Throughout his life, he was usually known to his family and friends as Dawyck Haig.
Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart, was a British Army officer born of Belgian and Irish parents. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" in various Commonwealth countries. He served in the Boer War, First World War, and Second World War. He was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear; was blinded in his left eye; survived two plane crashes; tunnelled out of a prisoner-of-war camp; and tore off his own fingers when a doctor declined to amputate them. Describing his experiences in the First World War, he wrote, "Frankly, I had enjoyed the war."
Brigadier Sir Fitzroy Hew Royle Maclean, 1st Baronet, was a British Army officer, writer and politician. He was a Unionist Member of Parliament (MP) from 1941 to 1974 and was one of only two men who during the Second World War enlisted in the British Army as a private and rose to the rank of brigadier, the other being future fellow Conservative MP Enoch Powell.
Uchter John Mark Knox, 5th Earl of Ranfurly, was a British politician and colonial governor. He was Governor of New Zealand from 1897 to 1904.
Anne Clarissa Eden, Countess of Avon was an English memoirist and the second wife of Anthony Eden, who served as British prime minister from 1955 to 1957. She married Eden in 1952, becoming Lady Eden in 1954 when he was made a Knight of the Garter, before becoming Countess of Avon in 1961 when her husband was created Earl of Avon. She was also Winston Churchill's niece. In 2007, at 87, she released her memoir subtitled From Churchill to Eden.
Mary Borden was an American-British novelist and poet whose work drew on her experiences as a war nurse. She was the second of the three children of William Borden, who had made a fortune in Colorado silver mining in the late 1870s.
The Happy Valley set was a group of mostly British and Anglo-Irish aristocrats and adventurers who settled in the "Happy Valley" region of the Wanjohi Valley, near the Aberdare mountain range, in colonial Kenya between the 1920s and the 1940s. During the 1930s, the group became infamous for its hedonistic, decadent lifestyles and exploits amid reports of drug use and sexual promiscuity.
Major-General John Frederick Boyce Combe was a British Army officer before and during the Second World War. He was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his service in the Western Desert campaign before being captured in April 1941 and spending nearly two and a half years as a prisoner of war in Italy. Released in September 1943 when Italy withdrew from the Axis, he made his way back to Allied territory and from October 1944 until the end of the war commanded an armoured brigade.
General Sir David William Fraser, was a senior British Army officer who served as Commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies from 1978 until his retirement from military service in 1980. He was also a prolific author, publishing over 20 books mostly focused on the history of the Second World War.
Hermione Knox, Countess of Ranfurly, was a British author and aristocrat who is best known for her war memoir To War With Whitaker: The Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly, 1939–1945.
Lady Myra Idina Sackville was an English aristocrat and member of the Happy Valley set. Her behaviour and lifestyle scandalised upper class society.
Southover Manor School was a private boarding school for girls at Lewes, East Sussex, with a preparatory department.
Captain Guy Edward Ruggles-Brise was a British Second World War officer and High Sheriff of Essex
Brigadier Edward Joseph Todhunter (1900–1976) was a British soldier and High Sheriff of Essex.
Jack Reiter was a United States Air Force colonel, lawyer and businessman.
Frances Anna Maria Russell, Countess Russell, was the second wife of two-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom John Russell, 1st Earl Russell. Between 1841 and 1861 she was known as Lady John Russell.