Although using the nom de plume of ‘the Latrobes’, the Sark guide was written by two young brothers, Geoffrey and Leslie La Trobe Foster. They were the children of a barrister from Eccles in Lancashire, Arthur La Trobe Foster and his wife Amy Constance Carter. The family had moved from Lancashire to Dover on Arthur’s retirement. The boys spent three successive holidays on the Island of Sark between 1911 and 1913 with their mother. They would have been 15 and 19 respectively on their first visit and were clearly keen explorers of the Sark coastline.
In the late Victorian era, hiking and scrambling in the countryside became very popular. The boys would almost certainly have had access to a previous publication on the outdoor exploration of Sark, ‘Scrambles in Sark’ which was published in 1861 by W.B.Woolnough. When they published their own guide in 1914, Leslie would have been 23 and Geoffrey 18, and this comes across in the freshness and charm of the prose. The book was printed just as the world was about to change forever, with the outbreak of the Great War. Both brothers signed up for the military service, Leslie in November 1914. He served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Marines. Geoffrey signed up in 1916, became a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers, was wounded in February 1917 and demobilized in 1920. Both brothers survived the war. Lesley served for a second time in the Royal Marines in the Second World War, and died in 1952. Geoffrey became a teacher, later becoming headmaster of the Bow School, Durham, and lived to the ripe old age of 88, dying in 1984 in Claro, north Yorkshire.
The fact that both boys would have gone straight from publishing this account of their carefree exploration of their own idyllic island paradise, to the horrors of the First World War in the space of a few short months, lends this text an intense poignancy that still resonates today, a hundred years later.