AS REMEMBRANCE day approaches a historian has shared the torment suffered by Nancy Peto the wife of former Devizes MP Sir Basil while two of their sons were serving on the Western Front.

The paperback version of a book by author Hugh Sebag-Montefiore gives an account of the Battle of the Somme during the First World War. In it he uses diaries of Lady Peto to show the agony suffered by loved ones of those serving on the front line.

The couple’s eldest son went to France with the pioneer battalion of the Grenadier Guards, while her second son Christopher was the cavalry regiment The Lancers.

Mr Sebag-Montefiore said: “Both survived the battle, but not before they witnessed some of the most gruesome of sights. Chris was wounded after the Somme fighting but was sent back to fight once he had recovered.

"Michael was brought home from the trenches after the Somme suffering with shell shock. He also had to go back to fight before the war terminated.”

In his book Somme: Into the Breach he draws on the words of their mother. He said: “An account of what they experienced on the Somme has been immortalised by the jottings their mother made in her diary nearly every day while they were on the Somme.

“These jottings include the content of some of her sons’ most lurid letters. Perhaps even more interesting are her own thoughts as she struggled to dampen down her natural anxieties concerning her beloved boys’ welfare.”

On July 14, 1916, three days after the biggest attack in history had resulted in over 57,000 British casualties, she wrote: “It is now 11 p.m. and as I pulled my bedroom curtains apart to open the window still wider, having turned off the electric light first of all – police precautions - I see five or six powerful searchlights throwing great beams of light across the sky.

“Not having thought about Zeppelins and their attendant horrors for some time, this reminder strikes a fresh chill upon one’s heart. How much it has to bear and suffer! How it jumps and throbs at every little unexpected sound, at some sudden association with those darling boys, and above all the strain that is put upon it when one hears the “rat-tat” on the front door which means nothing else but a telegram.”

Mr Sebag-Montefiore said: “Nancy Peto’s diary is not just notable for its descriptions of the battlefield and her fearful reactions. It is full of interesting details about how war time life on the home front.

“The diary is also full of gossip about the political dramas of the day, to which Nancy Peto was privy because she was an insider.

“Its entries have never been published before, and he has never seen another like it because it combines vivid accounts from the front with very frank descriptions of what it felt like to read about them at home. “

Somme: Into the Breach is published by Penguin priced at £9.99.