War Diaries Talk

100 Years On from the Armistice

  • cyngast by cyngast moderator

    Despite all the commemorations and observances, I find it hard to comprehend it has been 100 years since the Armistice. I used to think of the First World War as something that happened long ago in the past.

    Then I started working on this project and now it sometimes feels as if it wasn't so long ago after all. I think of the things I've learned about those men. There was Major Tom Bridges of the 4th Dragoon Guards. He was involved in the first action of the war but is perhaps better remembered for rousing exhausted infantry men in the square in St. Quentin during the long hot march south in the first days of the war. They weren't his men, but he knew they had to get up and move on or be at the mercy of the enemy. So he found a tin whistle and a drum in a toy store and used them to encourage the men to keep going.

    There was Capt. Chance, also of the 4th Dragoons, who kept that unit's diary day in and day out for months. And Major Murphy of a Divisional Train, whose passion for his motor vehicles came through his words, as well as his annoyance with one of his lieutenants. The very first diary I tagged was kept by a man with a good sense of humor and irony; he was killed on November 10, 1918. I have read eloquent accounts of attacks and jumbled stories of heroes and ordinary men. Some authors are long-winded and some record the bare minimum. I read one diary that was so terse as to be incomprehensible.

    In some diaries we learn very little about the men of the unit or what they did other than move from place to place. In others, we get long casualty lists and rolls of medal recipients. We've found some fascinating and detailed accounts of the preparations for a day of aquatic sports and programs from concert parties. Occasionally, we see artwork as well. I remember a detailed drawing of the view from the the front line across No Man's Land that included a downed airplane. There was a diary from a Royal Engineers unit that included marvelous detailed colored drawings of the bridges being rebuilt. Even the rocks piled around the piers were carefully shaded. I suppose those drawings helped that man cope with his situation.

    I'm grateful for the opportunity Operation War Diary has given me to meet all these men and learn about their lives in such difficult circumstances.


  • deehar by deehar in response to cyngast's comment.

    Nicely put. I totally agree


  • marie.eklidvirginmedia.com by marie.eklidvirginmedia.com

    I think everyone working on this WW1 project, is actually commemorating WW1 in their own way, by giving their time to transcribe these diaries. The diaries giving such in-depth information of what was happening to all men and what they went through while suffering in this war.

    Also some of the dairies gave interesting information regarding occupation, to prevent civil unrest until the final Peace Treaty was signed.

    To the people who devised this WW1 project, well done!


  • cyngast by cyngast moderator in response to deehar's comment.

    Thank you, deehar.

    There are moments when I am really focused on tagging a page, struggling to get that line for the date in a place where the information above and below it can be tagged on the correct date, and I think, "Can't somebody tell these guys to leave more space between dates?" And then I realize that, of course, that the answer is, "Well, no, they can't."


  • ral104 by ral104 moderator, scientist

    I'm always struck by the different tones used by authors - some sound very stilted, but others could have been written yesterday. But whatever the style, one hundred years really doesn't feel that long ago anymore. They were people just like us, and in doing projects like this I hope we play some part in ensuring that nobody else has to go through what they did.


  • erik.schaubroeckscarlet.be by erik.schaubroeckscarlet.be

    Today I visited the communal cemetery of Mignault who contains one grave of the first world war and on that grave there were flowers and a bouquet with a ribbon with the Belgian colours. And next to that grave of private W. Sorlie (Essex rgt) there was a low heap of sand covered with some gravel with a little round plate on it with the following text : ici repose un ancien combattant passant souvenez vous. The contrast with the grave of the British soldier couldn't be greater.


  • marie.eklidvirginmedia.com by marie.eklidvirginmedia.com

    Erik, thank you for posting that information. Interesting to read.

    I brought up a photo of the Cemetery and it shows the grave you mentioned for Private W. Sorlie of the Essex Regiment. Link:


    PS I had to translate the following “ici repose un ancien combattant passant souvenez vous”.

    Translation into English came up as “Here rests a veteran passing remember”.


  • marie.eklidvirginmedia.com by marie.eklidvirginmedia.com

    Erik, A follow up to your comment.

    I read that the The Village of Mignault is located north-west of the town of Mons.

    I wonder if you have visited the following graves in the cemetery of St Symphorien, a plot covered by pine trees, Japanese maples and red roses, on the outskirts of the Belgian city of Mons. i.e.

    “The graves of the first and last British soldiers to die in the first world war face each other in a Belgian cemetery on the outskirts of the Belgian city of Mons. Parr and Ellison were the first and the last Commonwealth soldiers to die in battle during the first world war”.

    I posted this 3 days ago under the Historian’s Arms, which relates their story.


  • erik.schaubroeckscarlet.be by erik.schaubroeckscarlet.be in response to marie.eklidvirginmedia.com's comment.

    Marie, I visited St Symphorien in 2014 and I knew (know) the story of the first and last soldier to die in Mons. It's sad and tragic that it all ended where it started. Last sunday the Belgian television dedicated almost the whole day to the remembrance of the armistice. see https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2018/11/10/liveblog-herdenking-eerste-wereldoorlog/ Most of the interviews are in Dutch but there are some in English (Luka Bloom).