Tag Archives: War

Diary entries which mention aspects of the war (other than naval and aerial warfare, which are separately tagged) which ALL noted but in which he had no direct involvement.

30 December 1917; Sunday

Up about 7.30. Woke up by heavy gunfire and German shells bursting near. Heard that the Germans had attacked and taken two lines of trenches. Saw a few German prisoners. On fatigue all day. Went to a C of E service at night and it was very good. Commenced letter to Mr Eaves1 and then had a discussion about war and armies and all the rest of it. Turned in about 11 o’clock. Pulled out again about 12 to go up the line. About 30 of us to go.


  1. Edward Eaves was a minister at the South Durham Street United Methodist Free Church in Sunderland where ALL had been a member before joining the RAMC. See also all diary entries tagged Eaves

27 December 1917; Thursday

On working party again. Stayed at night with Harvey, Holman and Mills and had tea <in> another little dugout. Left about 8 o’clock and came down. Met Mark Jackson, half drunk, and he came into the billet and talked until late. Had good night’s rest.

Received Christmas card from Ranald MacDonald. Big peace rumours. Read account of the official entry into Jerusalem1.


  1. “Official entry into Jerusalem”: Following a long battle, Jerusalem had  fallen to the Allies on 9-10 December 1917. On 11 December 1917, Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby, GCB, GCMG, GCVO (23 April 1861 – 14 May 1936), commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF), made his formal entry into Jerusalem on foot through the Jaffa gate, instead of by horse or vehicle, to show his great respect for the holy place. 

22 November 1917; Thursday

Up about 7 o’clock. On the double1 as usual. On parade and put on the competition squad. Spent afternoon writing and made good progress with French. Heard of victory on the Somme.

British advance on Cambrai 2. 8000 prisoners and many guns.


  1. Double march, or run. See all diary entries tagged “double“. 

  2. The Battle of Cambrai (commenced 20 November) is best known as the occasion when tanks were first used in adequate numbers; the few available in 1916 having had their secrecy blown by being tried prematurely on the Somme, and in 1917, still in small numbers, having been largely wasted in impractical ground conditions at Passchendaele. 

25 October 1917; Thursday

Out as usual all day. Played the piano a lot. Uncle George down at night.

News of Italian defeat.

Italian Defeat 1.


  1. The Italian defeat would presumably be Caporetto, also known as the 12th Battle of the Isonzo and the Battle of Karfreit. There had been 5 more battles of the Isonzo since the 6th, referred to in a note on 21 August. Caporetto is reckoned to have lasted from 24 October to 19 November, so 25 October seems a little early for the defeat to have been accepted; but this entry is also one of those added later. Caporetto was probably the biggest single event in the war between Italy and Austria-Hungary, though the latter were aided on this occasion by the Germans, with poison gas. The defeat is a, or the, major event in Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”. The location is now in Slovenia – now named Kobarid. 

20 September 1917; Thursday

Up at 5 o’clock. Got on our overalls and waited until 9 before the first batch of wounded were down. I worked most of the day with the new American officer, Lieutenant Gutteridge. Went off about 8 or 9 o’clock. Between 4-500 cases.

Day of big push1.

Mr Aitken died2.

Battle of Ridges commenced3.


  1. “Big push”: Presumably the “Battle of Ridges” mentioned below. 

  2. Mr Aitken had been ALL’s boss at the Hendon Paper Mill. ALL’s longhand note recording Aitken’s death on this date was added later; the news had not yet reached him

  3. “Battle of Ridges”: Probably the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. Sometimes called “Battle of the Menin Road”, this was the third British general attack of the Third Battle of Ypres. The battle took place from 20–25 September 1917. Like the above longhand note about Mr Aitken, this was probably added later – ALL clearly knew of a “big push” on this day but probably only later came to know it as “Battle of Ridges”. 

25 August 1917; Saturday

Up at about 7 o’clock. On parade in the morning doing squad drill. Swim before dinner. Pay parade in the afternoon. I studied a little French. Football match at night between our team and the Lancs brigade. We won 2 – 0. Had walk round with Holman and finished up with eggs at the station cafe with John Dory, Harvey and Holman.

Definite news from Piggy Wood that we are moving in a day or two.

Italians doing well and captured 20,000 prisoners, French over 7,000.

We are fighting very hard round Lens and in front of Ypres1.


  1. “We are fighting very hard . . . in front of Ypres . . .”: this was no doubt a reference to Passchendaele (or the Third Battle of Ypres; see 31 July). Passchendaele (now Passendale) is at (A) on the map. Lens is further south (at B, Michelin square D5), about half-way between Ypres and the Somme battlefield; it had been behind the German line until early 1917, when the Germans withdrew to their Hindenburg Line, thus obtaining a considerably shorter and much more heavily-fortified defensive line, and surrendering the Somme area, Bapaume, Péronne and Noyon. 

21 August 1917; Tuesday

Up at 7.15. Most of the chaps *. I got a pair of new boots. Fine morning. No parade in the afternoon and I did a bit French. Had short walk at night with Harry Bascombe and Vic Barber. Read a bit from Everyman1 and read an account of an Italian and a French victory. Italians 7600 prisoners at *2. French 4000 prisoners.


  1. “Everyman”: See Everyman, all posts tagged “Everyman” and Arthur Linfoot’s Library

  2. Name (shorthand outline S-v-d- ?) not identified, but in the 6th Battle of the Isonzo (August 1917), the best episode of the War for Italy, Gen. Cadorna captured Gorizia on the 8th, made a bridgehead over the Isonzo (now Soča), and ended this offensive on 17th August. 

31 July 1917; Tuesday

Usual day’s work. On at night.     Third Battle of Ypres1.


  1. ALL probably added the words “Third Battle of Ypres” some little time after this date, as it is unlikely that he knew on 31 July that a battle of this name – and its number – had started that day. The battle continued until 10 November 1917 and later came to be better known as Passchendaele because the village of that name (now Passendale, Flemish; (A) on the map; about 30km NE of Bailleul (C), where ALL was at this time and 13km NE of Ypres (B) itself) became a much-contested objective.

    There was a prolonged disagreement before the battle began between the Army and the politicians; Lloyd George and others didn’t want another blood-bath, and Haig didn’t get the politicians’ agreement to go ahead until 25 July, by which time of course all preparations and preliminary activity had taken place. One purpose of Passchendaele (as it had been of the Somme), which may have forced the politicians’ hand, was to take pressure off the French. It had been the pressure on the French at Verdun before the Somme in 1916. In 1917, General Nivelle’s offensive (which, like all the other offensives, was intended to end the War quickly) had started in mid-April and ended on 9 May; it began with a British attack around Arras, designed to draw off German reserves before the French attacked on the Chemin des Dames and near Reims, further south. The plan failed, and ended in French mutinies, which appeared to threaten an overall Allied collapse. Nivelle, who had replaced Joffre as French Commander-in-Chief in December 1916, was in turn immediately replaced as Commander-in-Chief – by Pétain of WWII collaboration fame. The (ostensible) territorial objectives of the Passchendaele offensive are mentioned in the footnote on 22 May. When the trench lines had settled in late 1914, Ypres had ended in a small salient of its own, but in spite of its poor defensive location the Allies continued to defend it, not least for morale reasons. 

22 July 1917; Sunday

Usual day’s work. Heard that the Russians have stopped fighting in places1 and the Germans are driving them back. Freddie went on leave. Fritz2 shelled a lot. I got a new patient in Freddie’s ward.

German aeroplanes over at night bombing. A lot of anti-aircraft stuff in action and the noise pretty loud.

Off at night and went to Y M with Harry Bascombe and Gus. Had short walk afterwards.


  1. “The Russians have stopped fighting…”: ALL had noted the February Revolution in his diary entry of 18 March, and had also noted a rumour of Russian withdrawal from the war on 19 May. In fact Russian involvement in the war, though increasingly unenthusiastic, continued officially until October/November 1917

  2. Fritz: a name given to German troops by the British and others in the First and Second World Wars.