Monthly Archives: September 2014

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 [sic] Russians on French soil1. “Oceanic” wrecked off North of Scotland2. 70000 [sic] 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. Alf 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 * 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”2 & loss of about 240 lives caused through striking a mine. Also the Runo liner3 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. Pathfinder: see note on 5 September

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

5 September 1914; Saturday

Finished about 1.30. Went to Tunstall Hills1 in the afternoon with Father and saw a destroyer off the harbour. Went to Roker at night with Charlie and met Willie Whittaker at Whitburn. A lot of soldiers in the town. News to hand of the Germans sinking 15 fishing vessels in the North Sea. Received Ernie’s letter stating that if things didn’t improve he was going to <en>list.

Pathfinder sunk by submarine 250 dead wounded & missing2.

  1. See footnote on 15 May 1914 and Sunderland map. 

  2. Pathfinder: a 4″gun destroyer, 2940 tons, built 1904, sunk by submarine U21 in the Firth of Forth 14 miles ESE of May Island; a contemporary report says that the majority of the 268 crew were lost. 

3 September 1914; Thursday

Not so busy at work. The recruiting strain getting worse and lots of men joining. Had walk at night. Bob and Sandy in the office. They are going to join Kitchener’s army. Their appearance and conversation caused a lot of excitement.

Lemberg & Galicia captured by Russians. HMS.Speedy1 sunk in North Sea by a mine.

  1. HMS Speedy: torpedo gunboat, launched 1893, sunk by a mine – actually in the Humber estuary.