Alan Patrick Herbert was born in Elstead, Surrey. He studied law at Oxford University before serveing in the Royal Navy during the First World War. After the war he published the novel The Secret Battle (1919). In 1924, Herbert joined Punch magazine and two years later had his first theatrical success with the production of Riverside Nights. He also wrote the lyrics for Tantivy Towers (1930) and Helen (1932), and published the novels The Water Gipsies (1930) set on the Thames and the Grand Union Canal. In 1935, he published Holy Deadlock and What a Word.
Herbert became the independent MP for Oxford University in 1935. A campaigner for reform of the marriage and divorce laws, he played an important role in the passing of the Matrimonial Causes Act in 1938. He was also a strong supporter of Neville Chamberlain and his Appeasement Policy.
Herbert retired from the House of Commons in 1950. Other books by Herbert included two volumes of autobiography, Independent Member (1950) and My Life and Times (1970). He became the first President of The Inland Waterways Association early in 1947, and was noted for his inspiring speeaches at AGMs. His other waterways books are No Boats on the River (1932) and The Thames (1966).