We head for Northern France

James Sansom: May 8th 1918 We march to the railway station [in Marseilles] and entrain for N. France. We spend three days and nights in the train passing through some beautiful country.

May 12th 1918 We eventually arrive at the town of Noyelles [8 days on a ship from Alex and 3 entrain] from where we march to the village of Le Titre where we go in billets and barns etc. It's the first time we have lived in any building excepting a Monastery for three years

Notes: It's taken Portland quarryman 12 days to get from Alexandria to northern France and a very different war from the sand and camels of Egypt. After three years living under canvas he's billeted in a building at last.


Crutchley VC honoured




Ostend Raid

May 10, 1918 Lady Monkswell: At 1am the old Vindictive, 6000 tons filled with concrete was forced into Ostend harbour and sunk. Another Zeebrugge (17 days ago). Engineer Lieut Cdr Bury severely wounded.

Commander Godsal, killed, Lieut Crutchley, finished the Vindictive’s position across the canal and fired the charges that sunk her. The Lieutenants of the motor launches that saved the crew of the Vindictive were GH Drummond and Bourke.


Air raids

James Sansom: May 21st 1918 Several air raids over the past few days - including a particularly bad one today, causing several casualties.


No tunics?

Letter from Alfred Johnson to his wife Essie:

May 22nd 1918. We are having gorgeous weather and are walking about without tunics. I expect some superior officer will shortly object and we shall have an order. "It has been brought to notice that officers are going about without tunics. This practice must cease forthwith."


Old Contemptible

Sgt Hugh Joseph Kennedy from Weymouth’s Nothe Fort Red Barracks, 2nd left back row joined RAMC’s no1 Stationary Hospital in Le Harvre in Aug 1914, and served in France until March 1919 with promotion to Warrant Officer class one

Based in Weymouth from 1910, He was one of the BEF Britain's regular soldiers dubbed ‘a contemptible little army’ by the Kaiser - the Old Contemptibles. His unit was at Le Mans until Oct 1914, then Rouen through the rest of the war.


Poppies and cornflowers

May 25th 1918. Letter from Alfred Johnson to his wife Essie: "This country is an absolutely bare waste but in the last month quite a lot of wild flowers have come up, so that it is not so bad as it was in winter. There are lots of poppies and cornflowers & many small things I don't recognise. We had some lilac in the mess."

The academic and artillery officer often read a book a day on duty, because visibility was so hazy at the OP - Observation Point. Today he was reading Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens, (1850)


Villers Sir Simon

James Sansom: June 3rd 1918 We have left Le Titre and after various moves and marchings, arrived at Villers Sir Simon, another village where I and several more have the good fortune to be billeted in a farm. We get a good many raids here also.

June 30th 1918 After several weeks here at Villers Sir Simon, we move again to Givenchy


U-boat attack

June 6th 1918 Field of hay carried. Went to Mrs Bartlett about donkey for Lorna. Enemy at the Marne but “held firmly” there. U-boats on American coast - Stirs them up

June 8th 1918 Came here fortnight today [near Chideock] Watched an air-ship pass close, Lorna waved to it. It hung over Bay all PM. Sea planes came up from both sides, also destroyers, great firing about 11pm. Did they get a U-boat? I think so


Moidart sunk

Sometimes we can use an account of an event recorded in a diary and do more research to build a fuller picture of what happened.

On June 8th 1918 Lady Mary Monkswell witnesses an attack on a U-Boat - a rare thing for anybody to have seen.

She writes “Came here fortnight today [Chideock] Watched an air-ship pass close, Lorna waved to it. It hung over Bay all PM. Sea planes came up from both sides, also destroyers, Great firing about 11pm. Did they get a U-boat? I think so.”

We know that something happened in the sea off Chideock but what exactly? If we look at records of U-boat losses and U-boat sinkings in Lyme Bay we can see a fuller picture.


Villers Sir Simon

James Sansom: July 4th 1918

After two days in Givenchy we move entrain to another village Estree Blanche where we remain for a while. We are in a camp which was used for German PoW and we have the epidemic amongst us that is raging all over the country

July 20th 1918 We march to Berquette on the Merville front and go in the front line for the first time in France. We get plenty of football practice here and good food


Home Leave

James Sansom - August 9th 1918 I leave Berquette to go on leave to Blighty after an absence of three and a half years. I arrive at Calais on the 9th and sleep there for the night. Of course there is a big enemy air raid but fortunately few casualties

August 10th 1918 I embark for England after having breakfast at Calais and have a fine trip across, reaching home [Portland, Dorset] at midnight.

30th August 1918 After an enjoyable 14 days back home on Portland, I have had a miserable time returning, not feeling very jolly till I reached the unit on the 28th. After a couple of days messing about we move entrain today for Lillers.


My Archives


My Archives


A thrilling ride

20th August 1918 News good. To Mrs Pinney: she sent dog cart for me. High bred hunter who did not care about harness. Had to be led up drive. I scrambled in and took reins and the groom climbed in somehow when we’d started. Exciting.

The news of our advance on the Western Front is so good that we feel the dawn is indeed breaking. Excellent letter from Lord Hugh Cecil [MP for Oxford University] about dictating the peace.

I took Gertrude to Strode Manor in Hunt’s governess-cart and saw the dear Ryles [from Parnham] settled in their new home: 450 ft above the sea, a delicious home where in spite of health, war and many other drawbacks, Anne has laid out for herself and children a happy life.


Canadian Advances

Lady Mary's diary - Aug 28th 1918

Mrs Dyer slept here [in Beaminster], agreeable talk of the Canadian advance before Amiens, her brother is a Canadian general. News very good, thank God

29th Aug 1918 Called on Drysdale, found handsome girl Stella D digging her potatoes in farm workers’ clothes. She does the entire garden herself. Immense number of flowers (for their seed) the bunn rabbits for food. Wartime


Two out of 48 left

James Sansom: Sept 4 1918 We arrived at the Somme on the 1st and got straight into action. 48 stretcher bearers attached to three regiments - Buffs, Suffolks and Sussex - I am with the Buffs. It’s very hard work and exciting times up against the Hindenburg Line but very few washes or shaves

Weds Sept 25 1918 At the start of the month there were 48 of us stretcher bearers with three regiments up against the Hindenberg Line. I and one chum went right through the action, the rest being killed, wounded & gassed

Thursday September 26th 1918 We are relieved by two American divisions and after a day’s rest we entrain for the North to Peronne



Lady Mary's diary: Sept 4th 1918

The collection of blackberries has begun in my pump-room. A few of the hundred baskets arrived, oceans of bb juice flowing all over the floor. To go to Whitchurch, Hants. Helped all I could.

note: In the latter years of the war, increasing losses of shipping to U-boats in brought a fear that the country might begin to starve. Rationing had started at the end of 1917 and a government committee was set up to find ways of using every available natural resource to feed the people.

Schools in 1918 were asked to ‘employ children in gathering blackberries during school hours’ and thousands of children took part in what became known as the Great Blackberry pick.


150 U-boats sunk

Lady Mary's diary: Sept 6th 1918

News very good. List of 150 U-boats and the captains’ names we have sunk, and that is not all, “but enough”. Most impressive. The worthy Ebdon brought in a ton of coal, to my great relief.

September 7th 1918 News very good a new world. In pony cart to Mrs Dyer Mrs Ryle and Drysdale. Took Mrs Kitson. After pleasant talk & tea, Mrs Kit and I walked by Melplash Court. Fresh warm wind, lovely: saw a pair of wheatears, brown body, grey breast, white back edged w. black.


Half a ton of blackberries!

Lady Mary's diary: Sept 12th 1918

Half a ton of blackberries have been collected by the schoolchildren in four days [to be made into jam for the soldiers] My pump room is full of 28lb baskets and hampers and the stone floor indelibly stained with the juice


Ambrose Pinney

Lady Mary's diary: Sept 13th 1918

Mrs Pinney and old Mrs Brisk both aged 70 carried me off behind two raging horses to Horn Park - I only went there to see Ambrose. He came in from shooting with old Mr Brisk and his son Joe looking very thin. But fine and gay to see these two young men.

Ambrose has gone through 1000 dangers and all his brother officers are gone. Joe (6ft 4in) frightfully wounded and lame but going back to France next week. I raced back down the hill through the darkening evening


Meeting Robert

Lady Mary's diary: Sept 17th 1918

Robert walked over from Seatown and I had the best pm seit lange [for a long time]. He sat in his own chair, read George Trevelyan’s “Carlyle” settled my accounts. Went over to see DVG, had tea and we started together as far as in sight of Slepe talking of everything.

Here we parted, the autumn evening, the romantic winding road; he looked back and waved two or three times, just as his father would have done


Dinner with MP

Lady Mary's diary: Sept 18th 1918

Sir Robert Williams [Dorset West MP] duly appeared about 6 of. I found him much worn with his son’s death in France and his clever wife’s death.

I think he liked talking to me. I gave him a meagre dinner and we went up to the hall where he addressed some 60 electors. He speaks badly but one loves him rather. I much enjoyed his company. He is much in distrust of the socialists’ power. Expects an election in November.


Seatown visit

Lady Mary's diary: Sept 19th 1918

A most successful trip to Seatown. We all crammed into car. M’Coy and dog on the box. Had wired Robert to say we were coming - telegram unopened. Rather stunned to see us but we had brought our own lunch. But he had plenty.

Little Lorna taller but too thin, very lovely. DV.J. actually walked up eastern down, looked a different creature. Robert and I raced up to Thorncombe Beacon, sea broad stitches of silver and blue, stained with purple shadows of the clouds. Violent storms. 12-6 of


Rail Strike!

Lady Mary's diary: Sept 24th 1918

I hear tonight of a railway strike, no Great Western trains running. These traitors should be shot

Wednesday 25th September 1918 Anxiety relieved about treasonable strike by letters arriving only two hrs late and newspaper. To Trotman’s for tea, the happy Owen and his handsome wife. One fine peach which I gave to Mrs Kitson.


Strikers Pelted

Lady Mary's diary: Sept 27th 1918

Railway strikers at Dorchester pelted by the wounded Tommies - serve them right. To Stoke Abbot in pony cart with Mrs Russell to call on handsome Mrs Owen who has transformed poor Owen into a human being.

Saturday Sept 28 So many Victories thank God, can’t take them all in - all along the Western line N to S, Belgians, us, the French, the Americans. 40,000 Turks prisoners in Palestine, Bulgaria wishing to resign. The news is simply splendid


Not far enough

Marie Stopes: A letter came on 24th September 1918 from a soldier 18th division signals France “your book impressed me tremendously but doesn't, I think, go far enough....I have been married for 8 years (an intelligent embrace covers all) boy Brown was born 10 and a half pounds!

But the war has upset my ideal family - I have been in France 3 and a half years now" and so his letter goes on and he ends by saying “I am sending your book to my brother now a prisoner of war in The Hague who contemplates marriage immediately on arrival in England”

I reply: “You will find what you want to know in my forthcoming book Wise Parenthood” Yours Dr Marie Stopes


Bulgaria Surrenders

Lady Mary's diary: Monday September 30th 1918

At 5 of the clock, a rumour that Bulgaria had laid down their arms: at 7 ’o a telegram from Winnie Cuddesdon that the Servians there had heard this. This is [underlined] news

Tues Oct 1 1918 The splendid hope confirmed. Bonar Law at the Guild Hall told them Bulgaria had surrendered. They are treacherous barbarians but we are taking no risks. The great change is that Germany’s desired command of the East is over.

Bulgaria has almost 4 million people and is about as large as Ireland. This will give us command of a large piece of the coast of the Blk Sea, of the Danube, and the Berlin-Bagdad railway thro' Bulgaria


German game is up

Lady Mary's diary: Weds October 2nd 1918

Did nothing but study the map. Am pretty well up in the various sectors. pm walked and turned in by chance at Jephson’s cottage. They kept me to tea and I had a most moving talk with Captain the Rev. He thinks the German game is up. He was all thro’ Gallipoli

Mon Oct 7th 1918

The Germans being driven back at all points this morning, wish to open negotiations w America for “an honourable peace” an impudent German peace: that will not do. A great emotion to think they have come to this. They are burning our beautiful old French towns as they retreat. I hear my beautiful old Laon is in flames. No cathedral safe.The French will take their revenge at Berlin. This day week Bulgaria surrendered unconditionally and today the cry is the Germans shall do the same and receive their punishment


Die Wacht am Rhein

Lady Mary's diary: Oct 10th 1918

President Wilson replies to the German Chancellor that there will be no pause and no talk till they have cleared out of all their conquests France, Belgium, Servia, Romania, Montnegro, Italy, Russia and Poland. Saw a very noble cartoon by B Partridge “Die Wacht am Rhein” the exhausted Hun like a beaten wild beast.

Friday Oct 11th 1918 We hear today that our enemy has sunk “Leinster” an Irish liner crossing from Dublin - lots of women and children and this when they want peace. And a Japanese passenger steamer. Altogether some 800 lives lost. We have taken Le Cateau.


Our precious Prisoners

Lady Mary's diary: Monday Oct 13th 1918

What may this week bring! It is almost paralysing to read the Spectator and the Observer to take in that we have won the war: the wicked cruel enemy asking for peace (see vulgar poem) I must take it slowly. No more thought of invasion, no more air-raids and I hope very soon, no more U-boats. Every morning I hope to mark on my map the rapid retreats and hear of immense masses of prisoners guns and material captured. The most immediate anxiety is of our precious prisoners Godfrey Phillimore Jack Mellon

Tues Oct 15th 1918

In much agitation as to what President Wilson would say in reply to Germany. I hear now (Tues 5pm) a telegram has come in that his reply is “unconditional surrender. We know now where we are. The Bosh thought they were going to get “armistice before evacuation”.


Generals dictate terms

Weds Oct 16th 1918

The President’s words are in the paper. Generals in the field Foch, Haig and Allenby are to dictate the terms. The outrages to stop at once. Arbitrary power to cease, the Kaiser and Junkers to go. This before the thought of armistice will be even for a moment considered. Of course the Kaiser will go on fighting as long as he can get his army to fight.[adds later] No, he ran away.

From Times “Nothing is more singular that the utter incapacity of the ordinary German mind to understand the situation. They express indignant surprise that President Wilson should venture to require from Germany any guarantees at all.” They must awaken before long.


A librarian asks

Marie Stopes - a Wiltshire librarian asks “I get shy request for books on birth control. What is the best, safest book to give a young woman who is getting married shortly?...the whole thing must be kept strictly private, as interfering people might object to my giving even bibliographic info


A Wonderful week

Saturday Oct 19th 1918

The most wonderful week of our lives. It is clear the Bosch will fight on to the last. Will settle himself on the line of the Meuse

Monday October 21st 1918 President Wilson refuses Armistice in Austria, he stands quite firm

Tuesday 22nd October The German reply makes curiously little impression upon one. For so great an occasion it seems so slight. It denies its outrages says the U-boats are told to leave passenger boats, and is supported by the German “people”. We cannot stop fighting for this.


Wedding Night question

19.10.1918 Letter to Dr Stopes from James ...

“If the wedding night is spent on board a sleeping car would it be better to put off first intercourse until the quiet of a hotel or house? I ask you these questions so I can start off right. Thankyou very much James”


A nap before intercourse?

Marie Stopes: Other letters such as this one have come..... I have read your book Married Love and consider it the best advice I have seen for husbands... A writer here (Ohio) advices a short nap of an hour before intercourse. Do you think this advisable?


Out of the Scrapping

James Sansom: Sunday October 20th 1918 We have had three weeks at a village called Allouagne and although we have been hard worked we are out of the scrapping for a while

23.10.18 We move again this time 50k to Aseq. I go in a motor instead of marching. We remain here while taking in wounded and having air raids. We are billeted in an old chateau in a ruined village. Rumours of peace all the time though the fighting is just as heavy


Go under with honour

Thursday 24th October

Prince Max of Baden the German Chancellor makes use of the words “..go under with honour” Terrible words for Germany to hear. Balfour says the Huns shall not have their colonies restored to them in East and West Africa and New Brunswick near Australia

Saturday 26th October I went to see Mrs Beament today, her worthy, excellent husband cabinet maker and carpenter died last week.She said I had been a great consolation.I put this down to encourage myself. My own little doings obliterated in the great world movement.

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Explore Voices from 1918 by day, month or person here on the blog or on our five Twitter feeds: @Voicesfrom1918 @LadyMonkswell @MarieStopes1918 @JamesSansom230 and @OliveHarcourt.

We have also recorded three audio podcasts entitled The year the World Changed by Mary Monkswell

Voices from 1918 has been developed by artists Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet in partnership with Wimborne Community Theatre, Dorset History Centre and the Priest’s House Museum, Wimborne with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to all who have helped us with this project: Maria Gayton and staff at Dorset History Centre where we found Lady Mary Monkswell’s diaries; Joan Cocozza, ward of nursing auxiliary Olive Harcourt; Portland Museum where we found James Sansom’s diaries; the British Library and Wellcome Libraries; Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne and Gill Horitz from Wimborne Community Theatre.

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Posts are created as simple text files with a few lines of Markup instructions. These are dropped into a folder on the webserver and the post is added without the need for individual formatting or logging in. This made it easy to upload lots of posts quite quickly.

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