From the Gales of War to a Life of Peace: H.A.L.H. Wade, Soldier and Interpreter


Provenance marks are history in shorthand, brief clues that coax us to decode a full biography.  An otherwise unimpressive nineteenth-century edition of Sir Walter Scott’s Rokeby (Edinburgh: A. and C. Black, 1874) in the Penn Libraries English Culture Class Collection, for example, draws the eye with its lovely prize binding. The front cover sports a gilt supralibros, the crest of England’s Harrow School, alma mater of notable men from Lord Byron to Winston Churchill to Benedict Cumberbatch. Henrico A.L.H. Wade HARROVIENSI DILIGENTIAE PRAEMIVM ADIVDICAVIT E.E. Bowen PRAECEPTOR a. d. xvi. Kal. Jan. A.S. MDCCCLXXXVIII.A Latin bookplate dated the sixteenth of the Kalends of January [16 December] 1888 on the front pastedown is inscribed to “Henrico A.L.H. Wade” by his housemaster E. E. Bowen (author of Harrow’s school song “Forty Years On“) as “diligentiae praemium” [the reward of industry]. One hopes young Henricus (or Harry, as he was generally known) enjoyed reading Scott’s verse novel of Royalists and Loyalists over the Christmas holiday, although the sound state of the binding perhaps indicates more time spent on the shelf than in the hand. The industry lauded during his school days, however, would support Lieutenant-Colonel H.A.L.H. Wade in a career of both warfighting and peacemaking that spanned two World Wars and the rise and fall of the League of Nations.

Harry Amyas Leigh Herschel Wade was born in Peking (now Beijing), China, on 12 November 1873. WadePortsHe was the fourth son of Sir Thomas Francis Wade (1818-1895)—diplomat, Sinologist, and “Wade” of the Wade-Giles system of romanization—and his wife Amelia Herschel (1841-1926), daughter of the astronomer John Herschel. Harry spent most of his childhood in England; his mother had brought the family home by 1877 for the birth of his youngest brother Hugh¹ (d. 1883) in Kensington, while Sir Thomas remained abroad until his retirement from diplomatic service in 1883. In 1888 Harry entered Harrow alongside classmate Winston Churchill, spending two years in Grove House under Edward Ernest Bowen’s tutelage. Bowen “was the dominant figure at Harrow for thirty years, an eminent Victorian who refused to conform to anything other than his own idiosyncratic ‘love of institutions and idealisation of custom which in him was not pedantry but poetry’, a faith at the heart of which lay his devotion to educating boys by entering their world and becoming their companion” (Tyerman 334). He led the development of the “Modern Side” of education at Harrow, a curriculum “exclud[ing] Greek but compris[ing] maths, modern languages, history, Latin, science and English” taught to the highest standards “[t]o avoid the Modern Side becoming a sump for idle, stupid, or poor classicists” (Tyerman 332). (Churchill, no Latinist, was shunted into the Army Class, which did not require any classical language study.) Harry Wade’s subsequent fluency in French was undoubtedly nurtured here, as perhaps also was his interest in a military career. After Harrow he attended Bourne Hill School, aiming for a place at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, training ground of “good officers of Artillery and perfect Engineers,” according to its charter. Wade became one of the former in 1893, rising to the rank of major in the Royal Artillery by 1910, and earning decorations for his service in the Nile Expedition of 1898 and the Second Boer War

In 1908 Wade married Kathleen Adelaide Wade (1884-1959), his first cousin once removed, and the following year the couple welcomed daughter Rosalind Herschel Wade (later Seymour; 1909-1989) into the family.³ Wade left the army in 1911, taking up residence in London with his wife and child and signing on as editor of the Army Review. He also wrote articles on military subjects, such as these two pieces for The Britannica Year-Book 1913. When the Great War broke out, however, Wade returned to the army, serving on the staff of I Corps in France before being transferred to Queenstown, Ireland, as an intelligence officer from 1915 to 1917. WadeMedalsIn 1918 he was brevetted lieutenant-colonel, possibly in support of his appointment as military attaché to the British legation in Denmark. In December of that year he headed a three-member commission charged with establishing relations with a nascent Polish government. Wade accompanied Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the pianist, composer, and advocate for Polish independence, on his return to his homeland, arriving in Posen (or Poznań) on the eve of an uprising against German rule. “[U]pon their arrival in Posen they were greeted with great enthusiasm by the populace,” Wade reported to his superiors in a despatch subsequently shared with the American chargé d’affaires in Denmark. “Their carriage was escorted by Polish soldiers from the railway station to the hotel; the soldiers finally ended by carrying the mission into the hotel” which was subsequently “besieged by … German troops and defended by Polish soldiery” (United States, Papers 422-423). To his wife Kathleen, Wade wrote more vividly: “[F]ield-guns had been drawn up in front of the hotel, which was being fired on by machine-guns from neighboring buildings. Bullets had entered Mr. Paderewski’s room” (United States, Papers 424). But the Poles were victorious and by mid-January 1919 had taken control of most of the province of Posen/Wielkopolska. Wade then became “one of the few ardent [British] polonophiles who argued Warsaw’s value to the Entente as an anti-Soviet bastion” (Fink 138). When Paderewski called upon the Allies to send “50,000 American troops and … a French and English division to protect Poland against a Soviet invasion,” for example, Wade “bombarded London with reports of German-Soviet-Ukrainian collusion and of Poland’s ‘desperate’ situation” (Fink 124). Unfortunately Wade’s advocacy had little, if any, effect on British policy toward Poland, which forged its own destiny under Chief of State Józef Piłsudski and Prime Minister Paderewski.

Wade resigned from the army for the last time in 1921, accepting an appointment to the Permanent Secretariat of the League of Nations in Geneva, “in which position,” his obituary in The Times of London tells us, “he became notable as one of the League’s chief spontaneous translators” [i.e. interpreters] (“Lt.-Col. H.A.L.H. Wade”). Although he was raised Anglican, at some point before or during his work with the League he became a Christian Scientist, and while resident in Geneva attended services at a church which counted Erwin Canham, long-time editor of The Christian Science Monitor, among its members. Canham later paid tribute to Wade’s interpretive facility:

A regular member [of the congregation] was Col. H.H. Wade, the League [of Nations]’s chief interpreter. He had the task of turning the French speeches into English and he handled M. [Aristide] Briand‘s organ-toned oratory with circumspection. Often, during the Wednesday-evening testimony meetings at church, Colonel Wade would rise and convert into either English or French some particularly helpful testimony of healing. (213)

Though his career prospered in Switzerland, Wade’s marriage did not, and on 29 April 1924 he and Kathleen were divorced. Why is perhaps suggested by the fact that three months later, on 25 July, Wade married Dorothy Alice Cazalet (1888-1977). Her French surname belies her origins; she was born in that most English of settings, a country vicarage in Bentworth, Hampshire, to the Reverend William George Cazalet (1859-1926) and his wife Constance (née Wingrove; 1863-1941). They were present in Geneva to witness their daughter’s nuptials, as was Harry’s eldest brother, Brigadier General T.S.H. (Thomas Stewart Herschel) Wade (1869-1933), late of the Lancashire Fusiliers, himself “an interpreter in French and German” as well as “[a]n artist, when he crosses the path of a subject deserving to be caricatured” (“Briagdier-General T.S.H. Wade” 23). By the end of the following summer Harry Wade was once again a father: little Amy Constance Jean Wade (1925-1988) hopefully delighted the grandmothers after whom she was named. Her sister Margaret Dorothy Wade (later Truell; 1927-1984) arrived in early autumn two years later, completing the family unit.


Wade continued to work for the Secretariat throughout the twenties and was joined in Geneva in 1925 by his bachelor brother Edward (1872-1945) on his retirement from army service.⁴ In the early 1930s, however, Harry left Geneva for The Hague and a position with the Permanent Court of International Justice, where he served until his retirement in 1937. Still hale at sixty-four, he “continued to do free-lance work at The Hague and in Geneva and other European conference centres” in the last peaceful days of the interwar period (“Lt.-Col. H.A.L.H. Wade”). The onset of European hostilities brought him and his family back to England: in September 1939, when the National Register was compiled, Harry, Dorothy, Amy and Margaret (and their cook Frances) were residing on Glenferness Avenue in the seaside town of Bournemouth and Harry was employed by the Ministry of Information.⁵ WadeUNApptFurther data about his wartime career are not readily available, at least not until May 1944, when he was appointed research officer of the United Nations War Crimes Commission (U.N.W.C.C.):

The Chairman [i.e. Sir Cecil Hurst] reported that to meet the need for additional staff resulting from the Commission’s decision to collaborate actively with the National Offices in seeking certain kinds of evidence against leading war criminals … and to give general assistance to the Secretary General, he had secured the services of Lieut.-Colonel Wade at a salary approved by the Finance Committee. (United Nations War Crimes Commission, “Minutes of Eighteenth Meeting”)

Hurst had been a judge at the Permanent International Court of Justice since 1929 and its president from 1934 to 1936; he must have known Wade and his capacities well. For the next five years Wade’s Research Office was to collect and summarize documentary evidence of war crimes—”deportations for labour and forced labour; the removal of foodstuffs; concentration camp and Gestapo atrocities; extermination of the Jews; crimes against prisoners of war; Germanisation of conquered territories; crimes against foreign workers; the looting of art treasures; medical experiments on prisoners and ‘mercy-killing’” (United Nations War Crimes Commission, History 166)—and provide it to the prosecutors of the Allied war crimes trials. The office also liaised with national tribunals, acquiring and providing information to aid the course of justice wherever it was being pursued. As we might expect, given the sheer numbers of offenses as well as the volume of evidence, the office’s work did not always proceed smoothly. When Wade attended the Nuremberg trials in the spring of 1946, for example, he noted that “[t]he War Crimes Branch of the Third Army had not, at the time of my visit, received any material concerning Mauthausen [the concentration camp whose staff was under indictment] from the National Offices of the UNWCC” and that “the UNWCC lists [identifying war criminals] do not always penetrate to the officials who should be acquainted with them and act upon them” (Wade, “Notes” 5, 6). Wade was also conscious of the limits of his and his colleagues’ expertise. It was he who opined to the commission in July 1946 that the evidence concerning malfeasance by German medical professionals “was very technical” and suggested that a report on such matters would not “serve any useful purpose unless it were undertaken by a medical expert … [T]he material was far too technical for a layman to handle” (United Nations War Crimes Commission, “Minutes of Meeting Held on July 31st, 1946” 4). The commission adopted his suggestion—and left it to him to find such an expert.

By the time the U.N.W.C.C. was dissolved in 1949, Wade was its “oldest remaining member” and among its longest tenured; he was also one of the chief contributors to its official history, “[writing] chapters VI, VII, and a great portion of the items in the Appendices, including particularly the portion relating to Noteworthy War Criminals” (United Nations War Crimes Commission, History v). His formal career in public service having run its course, Wade retired with his family to one of the Fold villages of Surrey, Runfold. Informally, however, he continued to lend his skills where they were needed. Historian Maurice Stewart Collis, for example, thanked Wade “for his help in deciphering some old Portuguese documents” in the acknowledgments to The Grand Peregrination (London: Faber & Faber, 1949), a biography of sixteenth-century author Fernão Mendes Pinto. Wade’s obituary notes that he “was often working abroad up to his eightieth year [i.e. 1953]” (“Lt.-Col. H.A.L.H. Wade”). His death on 18 November 1959 marked the end of an exceedingly full life—one which, sadly, I have found publicly memorialized only in the bits and snatches quoted here. Perhaps a future biographer will unfold Harry Wade’s career in the detail it deserves and demonstrate “that well his venturous life had proved / The lessons that his childhood loved” (Rokeby canto 3, stanza 2).


¹Joseph Foster’s Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage of the British Empire for 1881 (Westminster: Nichols and Sons) gives his name as “Patrick Grahame Herschel” (739), but his baptismal record at St. Jude’s, South Kensington, and his headstone in St. Martin’s Churchyard, Overstrand, both read “Hugh Grahame Herschell” [sic].

²See his entry in The Harrow School Register, 1800-1911, 3rd ed., ed. M.G. Dauglish and P.K. Stephenson (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1911). Harry’s eldest brother, Alexander, a lieutenant in the Second Royal Lancaster Regiment, did not survive the latter conflict; he was killed in action at Spion Kop on 24 January 1900.

³Kathleen Wade’s parents were Cecil Lowry Wade (1856-1908; son of Sir Thomas Francis Wade’s brother Richard Blaney Wade) and Fanny Mackay Wade (née Frew; 1863-1908). Rosalind Wade grew up to be a published author of some note, writing under both her own name and the pseudonym Catharine Carr; she also served for many years as editor of The Contemporary Review and as president of the Society of Society of Women Writers and Journalists. For her contributions to literature Queen Elizabeth II appointed Rosalind an O.B.E. in 1985.

⁴A graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, Edward Bruce Herschel Wade spent his military career in Egypt in various surveying posts; he was also an astronomer and a keen musician. “[O]ne of the recollections the writer has of him,” noted his friend John Henry Reynolds in Wade’s obituary, “is of a tent near the Observatory in Helwan, which contained an upright piano with a wooden frame, split by the dry hot climate, on which he played and composed ‘Songs of the Desert,’ a copy of which the writer still has” (“Edward Bruce Herschel Wade”).

⁵Edward also returned to England; the 1939 Register places him in Westminster. He became profoundly deaf in old age and died in a nursing home in London in September 1945. Thomas Wade predeceased both his remaining brothers in January 1933 “after a long illness bravely borne” (“Wade”).

Works Cited

“Briagdier-General T.S.H. Wade.” The Lancashire Fusiliers’ Annual 1918. B. Smyth, compiler and editor. Dublin: Sackville Press, 1919. No. 29, pp. 23-24.

Canham, E.D. “A Christian Scientist’s Life.” The Christian Science Way of Life. DeWitt John, editor. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962.

Edward Bruce Herschel Wade.” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 106, no. 1, 1946, p. 39.

Fink, Carole. Defending the Rights of Others: The Great Powers, the Jews, and International Minority Protection, 1878-1938. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Tyerman, Christopher. A History of Harrow School 1324-1991. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

United Nations War Crimes Commission. History of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and the Development of the Laws of War. London: H.M. Stationery Office, 1948.

—. “Minutes of Eighteenth Meeting Held on May 16, 1944.” ICC Legal Tools Database, International Criminal Court,

—. “Minutes of Meeting Held on July 31st, 1946.” ICC Legal Tools Database, International Criminal Court,

United States, Congress, House, 77th Congress, 2nd session. Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States 1919: The Paris Peace Conference. Vol. 2. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1942.

“Wade.” The Times (London), 5 January 1933, p. 1.

Wade, H. “Notes on Visits to Trials at Nuremberg and Dachau (March 26th-April 3rd, 1946).” ICC Legal Tools Database, International Criminal Court,

Portrait of Amelia (née  Herschel), Lady Wade, reproduced by kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery under a Creative Commons license.

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