People – Who were they?

It is comparatively easy to follow ALL’s Army movements and activities through his diary entries, particularly because he normally wrote French place-names in longhand, at least at their first mention, and also because independent verification is available in the form of maps.

In contrast, most of the persons’ names he mentions are never written in longhand, and since his shorthand was unavoidably imperfect, and even perfect shorthand, being phonetic, does not cope well with the varied spelling of English surnames, the transcription of many of the personal names in the diaries is more or less uncertain.

Furthermore, little independent verification is available; we happen to know the names of some family, church and work-place members, and a handful of Army comrades’ names are written in longhand in address lists in the diaries, or in typescript in ALL’s Notes on the Somme period, June – August 1916, but these are a small proportion of the total, and unless someone in the future can match them with RAMC records, some doubt must remain about the accuracy and spelling of the others.

Given these limitations, however, it is possible to set out some kind of overview of all the people mentioned.

Civilian Life

Altogether, around 260 names seem to have been mentioned in all the foregoing categories (ie family, churches and work), some of them very frequently, but half of them (132) only once – and in some cases only when they had died. But due to the ambiguities of transcription and to the absence of any independent verification, entries referring in reality to more than one person may sometimes have been conflated, and – perhaps more often – entries have not been recognised as referring to the same person.

Army Life

By concidence, the number of Army names is broadly similar to the total number of family, church and work colleagues; 246, accounting for (I made it) some 877 references in total, compared with over 1000 references to the 260-odd civilians.

August 2013