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War Diaries

Find out more about written accounts in this quiz.

War Diaries

When one thinks of war diaries, images are conjured of men huddled in the trenches writing their own personal accounts of the war. Many of these exist and they give a valuable insight into the personal experiences of soldiers during the First World War. But another kind of war diary exists. The British Army war diaries were kept by each unit and record daily operations, losses, awards and other such material. Some of these have recently been digitised and made available to the public on the National Archives website. This quiz is about both kinds of diary, which together help historians to understand life on the frontline in the First World War.

The war diary of the 33rd London Regiment tells how on 5th October 1918 Major J. G. B. Bosvile took command of the battalion after the previous commander had gone on leave. For how long was Major Bosvile in charge?
For one day
For one week
For one month
For one year
The diary also records that on 12th October 1918 Bosvile was wounded and his command was taken by Major J. McGaven-Greig
The diary entry of Robert Mackay for 31st August 1917 tells of his finally leaving the battlefields of Ypres. With which two words does he bid the battleground farewell?
In other parts of his diary MacKay describes the horrors of Ypres. On 20th August 1917 he says, "Wandered right up to the front line. No communication trenches here, no trenches of any kind - only MUD! Don't think that hell itself can be worse than this place"
The diary entry of Edwin Jones for 14th June 1916 tells of his admittance to a "rat infested" hospital. Nevertheless he compares what part of the experience to being in heaven?
The company of nurses
Sleeping in a bed
Hot, cooked food
The lack of enemy fire
Jones says, " be put into a bed with white sheets was like being in Heaven. It was eleven months since I had been in a bed." He also appreciated the food, saying on 26th June, "At nine o'clock we were served out with cocoa and bread, the best meal I had received for at least 9 months"
On 24th June 1916 the diary of the 13th Royal Sussex Regiment records that some of the men were treated to what?
A concert party
Some chocolate
A bath
Some rum
Baths were very rare for soldiers in the trenches. Most washed by filling a container - often their helmet - with water and using this to shave and wash. The diary entry says, "The morning was devoted to interior economy, and 50 men from each company had a bath. In the afternoon the battalion marched to the divisional training ground to practise carrying out the attack." The attack they practised for came six days later, cost the lives of 360 men, saw 1,100 injured and gained no ground whatsoever
On 4th July 1916 the war diary of the 1st East Yorkshire Regiment records the names and ranks of the officers either killed or wounded in battle. Eight officers had been lost, the highest ranking a Lieutenant-Colonel. How many officers had been wounded?
11 officers were wounded
22 officers were wounded
44 officers were wounded
88 officers were wounded
The diary entry also records the number of non-officers who were casualties - 35 killed, 239 wounded and 167 missing - but they are not mentioned by name
The diary of Thomas Littler describes how he missed the end of the war as he was hospitalised by the influenza pandemic. His description of the journey to hospital says how the ambulance train he was in "... stopped, many times on the way to hand out..." what?
Medicines to counteract the 'flu symptoms
Papers heralding the coming armistice
Men who had died on the journey
Chocolate to celebrate the coming armistice
Littler became ill on 2nd November 1918 but still reported for duty and marched a total of 18 km (11 miles) before he reported as sick. He spent almost 3 weeks in hospital but was back by late November, after the war had ended
The diary of John French records good news and bad on 1st June 1916. He reports a bullet barely missing a man's head, but then describes finding what luxury item in a stream?
Some watercress
A gold watch
A trout
A case of tobacco
His entry reads, "A German bullet came in last night through the doorway of our billet and embedded itself in a sandbag just over a chap's head. Found a lot of watercress growing in a stream today - had some for tea. It went all right with the bread and cheese." In the trenches simple things such as watercress would have been considered as luxuries
The war diary of Kitchener's 1st Army (47th Brigade RFA) for May 1915, describes the unit's arrival in France and the first man of the unit to be killed. How did this unfortunate soldier die?
He stepped on a mine
He died of trench fever
He was shot by a sniper
He fell off a truck
The entry says, "...disembarked 22nd May, 1915. Proceeded up country the same night and following morning, detraining at St Omer on 23rd May 1915 and thence by route march to billets at La Cloche. During this journey one Gunner of C Battery fell out of a truck and was killed"
The personal diary of Victor Silvester records his being bitten by what?
A dog
A rat
A snake
A man
Here is the passage in question. "That night I had been asleep in a dugout about three hours when I woke up feeling something biting my hip. I put my hand down and my fingers closed on a big rat. It had nibbled through my haversack, my tunic and pleated kilt to get at my flesh. With a cry of horror I threw it from me"
A diary entry for 9th September 1914 by the 1st South Wales Borderers, describes an incident of what wartime hazard?
Friendly fire
Air raid
Part of the entry reads, "Our cavalry, which has already crossed, is fired on by the R. A. Silly asses. It is quite obvious that they are not the enemy... We find 18 cavalry wounded by our guns. The officer of R. A. responsible ought to be shot in my opinion"


Author:  Graeme Haw

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