14 September 1914; Monday

Frank back from his holidays. Not much to do. Read and played a bit.

Australian submarine lost AE1. 34 lives lost1.

  1. The AE1 took part with other Australian vessels in the capture of German New Guinea on 13 September. Patrolling in the area afterwards, she disappeared on the afternoon of 14 September, and despite searches, no trace of her (not even surface oil) was ever found. This diary entry was made subsequently – see 20 September for the news reaching ALL. 

13 September 1914; Sunday

Church and class as usual. A stranger preaching in the morning and Mr Roope at night. Mr Roope preached very well and Fred Waggott asked Joe to write out the sermon for him. Managed pretty well at Sunday School and my turn for the children’s class. Got on pretty well.

Invasion of British East Africa announced. Light cruiser Hela sunk by British submarine1.

  1. Hela was used as a supply tender for submarines in the Heligoland Bight (though classed as a light cruiser, she had only four 8.8cm guns.) She was torpedoed by the British submarine E9; see also 6 October 1914. 

12 September 1914; Saturday

Finished in decent time. Walked up town in the afternoon. Paid for * book which I received from Hills’s1. Went up town at night with Willie Whittaker. Wet night. Saw young lady Letty come out of the library as we came down Villette Road.

German retreat continued to the Aisne, where new battle.

  1. Hills’s: the main Sunderland bookshop, in Waterloo Place, where Ernie later worked as manager and eventually as a director. 

10 September 1914; Thursday

Business much slacker at the office. Had walk at town at night.

British Army defeat Germans at Soissons & capture men & guns1.

  1. Soissons: when the German advance was stopped by Galliéni’s flank attack, counter-­attacks by the main French and British armies were required to keep the Germans moving back. Soissons is some distance North of the Marne, not far on the Allied side of the eventual front line. 

8 September 1914; Tuesday

Not much to do at work. Finished in good time. Played a bit. Wrote up diary. Cold much better. Uncle Jack in at night and talked about the war. News from the front brighter. Report that Allies have checked German advance & threaten to turn their wings. A report from the Continent that there are 250000 Russians on French soil1. “Oceanic” wrecked off North of Scotland2. 70000 Indian troops dispatched to the front (9th)

  1. This was of course nonsense, no doubt related to the contemporary story that a reinforcing Russian army had been seen marching from the north of Scotland to the English Channel, identified as Russian because they “had snow on their boots.” See also The Truth at Last at Picture Postcards from the Great War. 

  2. Oceanic: White Star transatlantic liner, launched 1898, until 1901 the biggest ship afloat at 17,272 tons (the first ship to be longer than Brunel’s Great Eastern); thus well-­known and a matter of great prestige, she had carried 1,710 passengers and 349 crew. Converted to an armed merchant cruiser in 1914, she was sent to the North of Scotland to patrol the Shetland area, and ran aground on the Shaalds of Foula on the night of 7-­8 September, breaking up within two weeks. Curiously, the Wikipedia article says “The disaster was hushed up at the time”, but it clearly wasn’t. 

7 September 1914; Monday

Not much to do at work. Oliver back and Frank away. Finished early. I had a bad cold and went straight to Dr Blair’s at night. I asked him to sound me and he said I was pretty sound about the heart and had nothing much †to account for† my weakness. Went down to meeting at night and received a share of bills to deliver. Came up with Fred Waggott and talked of the war.

News from the front a little brighter. Dorothy’s 2nd birthday. 3rd casualty list 4796.

6 September 1914; Sunday

[In longhand above date] Germans fall back from Paris after two days fighting1.

At church and School as usual. Managed pretty well at School. Had rather shorter walks than usual. Charlie at work in morning and afternoon. Received news of the sinking of the “Pathfinder” & loss of about 240 lives caused through striking a mine. Also the Runo liner2 with loss of about 20 lives. Gen. French’s official report stating that 15000 men have been lost and that our men were in every way superior to the Germans. I had bad cold and sat out <of> the choir at night. Communion service. Charlie sang a bit of a solo in the anthem.

  1. “Germans fall back . .”: this was the First Battle of the Marne. The Germans’ rapid advance had been intended to finish the war in the West so as to free most of their troops for the war in Russia, and although their southward drive came East of Paris, instead of West as originally planned, it nearly succeeded. It failed however (leading to the 4 years of trench warfare), partly because their communications became too extended, but also because General Galliéni, who had been left with troops to defend Paris, on his own initiative took the opportunity to attack the German right (western) flank as they were moving South of Paris. 

  2. The New York Times reports the sinking of the Wilson passenger liner Runo on 5th September 1914.