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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

A Month at the Front


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I thought that I would draw attention to the above book which is published by the Bodleian Library and available from Amazon for £7.99. It is a nicely produced hardback edition but, as you might expect from the title, a slim volume. Subtitled The Diary of an Unknown Soldier it recounts the interest and nervousness of going into a trench for the first time; seeing 'real' shell holes; and feeling the blast from a heavy calibre gun being fired. This soldier was a private in D Company of the 12th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment and was wounded in the leg during his initial battle in the opening phase of 3rd Ypres.

The diary was obviously written shortly after the events (perhaps when he was recuperating) and contains repetitions and slight confusions which any half-decent editor would have sorted but herein lies much of its charm. Although the writer may be untutored, his prose is descriptive and has immediacy and truth. He complains about the size (or lack of it) of the rum ration; he is sometimes scathing of officers with 'the wind up'; he sees the East Surreys as always getting the short rations, always doing the dirty jobs, always sticking it out when other battalions go back to rest. He was captured during the chaotic fighting around Hollebeke but rescued when his captors lost their way and blundered back towards the British lines.

For those (and there are many of them on this forum) who like a good mystery to solve you could do worse than trying to find the identity of the writer. There is a record of East Surrey soldiers wounded on the 5th August and there are only 14 possibilities. Tantalising......

You may think it is expensive for what it is (I certainly read it in less than an hour) but I am glad to have it. A very personal account of someone's war from the bottom rung of the ladder.


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