22 May 1915; Saturday

At work as usual. Finished about 2 o’clock. Called for papers in the afternoon. Walked round Grindon with Charlie and Willie Whittaker at night. Fine night. Played the piano a bit.

Terrible Railway Accident at Gretna Green1. Troop train, goods train and express all smashed up and an appalling death roll. Daily Mail2 burned at Stock Exchange.

  1. “Terrible Railway Accident at Gretna Green”: the Quintinshill rail disaster remains the worst ever UK rail accident – 246 injured, est. 230 killed (uncertain because regimental records being carried in the train were destroyed in fire caused by gas lighting in wooden carriages); troop train (carrying men bound for the Dardanelles) hit local passenger train (wrongly shunted onto main line), was then hit by express train; fire ignited two nearby goods trains. Two signalmen were convicted of culpable homicide (broadly equivalent to the English offence of manslaughter; the trial took place in Scotland). 

  2. The Daily Mail was burned (and its circulation fell by a quarter of a million) because of its personal attack on Field-­Marshal Lord Kitchener, who was still immensely popular with the public as Secretary of State for War. The proprietor, Lord Northcliffe, was running a campaign against the Government’s conduct of the War, mainly based on a shortage of shells to which the Generals in France claimed their lack of success was due. 

21 May 1915; Friday

At work as usual. Very busy all day. Frank back to work. Played the piano a bit. Submarine AE.2 1 lost about this time in the Dardanelles. Daily Mail attack on Kitchener2.

  1. The AE2 was an Australian Navy vessel; she sailed to Australia from Vickers Armstrong on delivery in 1914, then the longest voyage by a submarine, but was then towed back to the Mediterranean. She operated for five days in the Dardanelles before surfacing due to mechanical trouble, was damaged by a Turkish torpedo boat and was scuttled, all her crew being captured; the only Australian Navy vessel lost due to enemy action in WW1. 

  2. The Daily Mail famously attacked Kitchener, blaming him for a shortage of shells during the shell crisis of 1915

20 May 1915; Thursday

At work as usual. Very busy all day. Worked until about 7.40 at night. Charlie met me and we walked round the town. Met Dora’s Charlie and talked to him. Played a bit. Saw Wearside Artillery marched into the town. Saw some cavalry too. The King visited Newcastle1.

  1. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, some 15 miles north-west of Sunderland and about 10 miles inland, on the north bank of the river Tyne. 

15 May 1915; Saturday

At work as usual. Finished pretty soon. Went down the town and bought some postcards of battleships. Went out with Willie Whittaker at night. He called for me. Walked up by Offerton and back by Durham Road. Went into town last thing with Joe. Some oddment† at Youlls’† and the Special Constables called out.

13 May 1915; Thursday

At work as usual. A lot of Roots† now to Lusitania. Finished in decent time. Got work pulled up a bit. Received news of the loss of the “Goliath”1 in the Dardanelles, sunk by Turkish torpedo boats. Heavy loss of life, probably 800 men.

  1. Goliath”: pre-dreadnought battleship, 13,150 tons, built in Chatham 1898, torpedoed as stated above in Morto Bay, near Cape Helles, 13 May 1915, with loss of 570 out of crew of 700.