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World War I soldier diary and papers

 Collection — Box: BW 49, Folder: 1/1
Identifier: MSS 16717

Content Description

A concisely written diary documenting the realities of life on the Western Front as experienced by chemical warfare soldiers in the British Army. The diarist makes his first proper entry upon being transferred from the Machine Gun Section to the Chemical Section in September 1915, only a few weeks before the first British mobilization of chemical weapons during the Battle of Loos. Following his month-long training at Helfaut, he is attached to the 15th section of the 187th Company, first entering the trenches on December 17, where for the next year and a half he would manage the supply, disposal, and potential bombardment of gas shells. The diary ends suddenly on April 15, 1917, after a series of hurried entries referring to the diarist's work with the advancing artillery in the Somme Offensive. It is not known if the diarist lived to see the final Armistice in 1918.

Preserved within the book's rear inside sleeve, five wartime currency notes (issued from the war Front towns of d'Amiens, Bethune, Havre, St.Omer, and Treport), one reinforced clipping of an overly patriotic WWI poem by Harold Begbie ("Fall in!"), and a gelatin silver print, presumably depicting the diarist, in uniform, on a dispatch motorcycle.


  • Creation: 1915-09 - 1917-04

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.


0.03 Cubic Feet (1 folder) : Letter size folder

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was purchased by the Small Special Collections Library from Marc Selvaggio Books, Ephemera, and Photography at the University of Virginia Library on 18 June, 2019.

World War I soldiers diary and papers
Ellen Welch
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States