Journalist, Novelist, Memoirist
Lifetime: 1877 - 1962 Passed: ≈ 60 years ago
Sir Philip Armand Hamilton Gibbs was an English journalist and prolific author of books who served as one of five official British reporters during the First World War. Four of his siblings were also writers, A. Hamilton Gibbs, Francis Hamilton Gibbs, Helen Hamilton Gibbs, and Cosmo Hamilton, as was his father Henry James Gibbs, and his own son, Anthony.
The son of a civil servant, Gibbs was born in Kensington, London, his name then being registered as Philip Amande Thomas. He received a home education and determined at an early age to develop a career as a writer. Gibbs was a Roman Catholic.
His debut article was published in 1894 in the Daily Chronicle; five years later he published the first of many books, Founders of the Empire. He was given the post of literary editor at Alfred Harmsworth's leading (and growing) tabloid format newspaper the Daily Mail. He subsequently worked on other prominent newspapers including the Daily Express.
The Times, in 1940 referring to 1909, credited Gibbs for "bursting the bubble with one cable to the London newspaper he was representing". The bubble in question was the September 1909 claim by American explorer Frederick Cook to have reached the North Pole in April 1908. Gibbs didn't trust Cook's "romantic" impressions of his journey into the ice.
His first attempt at semi-fiction was published in 1909 as The Street of Adventure, which recounted the story of the official Liberal Party newspaper Tribune, founded in 1906 and failing spectacularly in 1908. The paper was founded at vast expense by Franklin Thomasson, MP for Leicester from 1906-10. A man of decidedly liberal views, Gibbs took an interest in popular movements of the time, including the suffragettes, publishing a book on the British women's suffrage movement in 1910. With tensions growing in Europe in the years immediately preceding 1914, Gibbs repeatedly expressed a belief that war could be avoided between the Entente and Central Powers. In the event, war broke out in August 1914 and Gibbs secured an early journalistic posting to the Western Front.
He wrote about the Mines in the Battle of Messines (1917):
Suddenly at dawn, as a signal for all of our guns to open fire, there rose out of the dark ridge of Messines and 'Whitesheet' and that ill-famed Hill 60, enormous volumes of scarlet flame..throwing up high towers of earth and smoke all lighted by the flame, spilling over into fountains of fierce colour, so that many of our soldiers waiting for the assault were thrown to the ground. The German troops were stunned, dazed and horror-stricken if they were not killed outright. Many of them lay dead in the great craters opened by the mines.
— Philip Gibbs
It was not long before the War Office in London resolved to "manage" popular information about the war, partly by censorship of war reporting. Gibbs was denied permission to remain on the Western Front; he stubbornly refused to return but was duly arrested and sent home.
Gibbs was not long out of official favour, however. Along with four other men he was officially accredited as a war correspondent, his work appearing in the Daily Telegraph and Daily Chronicle. The price he had to pay for accreditation was to submit to effective censorship: all of his work was to be vetted by C. E. Montague, formerly of the Manchester Guardian. He agreed, although unhappy with the arrangement. Gibbs' wartime output was prodigious. He produced a stream of newspaper articles and a series of books: The Soul of the War (1915), The Battle of the Somme (1917), From Bapaume to Passchendaele (1918) and The Realities of War (UK title, 1920; "Now it Can Be Told", United States title, 1920). Gibbs' work in the immediate post-war period was focused on a fear of societal unrest created by brutalised ‘ape-men’ and wartime-employed women who 'were clinging onto their jobs, would not let go of the pocket-money which they had spent on frocks’. He was awarded KBE in the 1920 civilian war honours.
In The Realities of War Gibbs exacted a form of revenge for the frustration he suffered in submitting to wartime censorship; published after the armistice, the book gave an account of his personal experiences in war-torn Europe, painting a most unflattering portrait of Sir Douglas Haig, British Commander-in-Chief in France and Flanders, and his General Headquarters.
Gibbs' post-war career continued to be as varied as ever. Embarking shortly after the war upon a lecture tour of the U.S. he also secured the first journalistic interview with a Pope.
Working as a freelance journalist, having resigned from the Daily Chronicle over its support for the Lloyd George government's Irish policy, he published a series of books and articles, including an autobiography, Adventures in Journalism (1923).
Gibbs' 1937 book Ordeal In England was a study of poverty and also an anti-socialist critique of English Journey by J. B. Priestley and The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell. Ordeal In England was later republished by the conservative Right Book Club.
The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 brought Gibbs a renewed appointment as a war correspondent, this time for the Daily Sketch. This proved a brief stint however and he spent part of the war employed by the Ministry of Information, the department responsible for publicity and propaganda, which the British government re-established in September 1939. In 1946 he published a second volume of memoirs, The Pageant of the Years. Two further volumes followed in 1949 and 1957, Crowded Company and Life's Adventure.
Gibbs died at Godalming, in the county of Surrey on 10 March 1962.Wikipedia More info about author