Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – August 1914


Our British Empire is at war with the Kaiser’s Germany. The call to arms is producing thousands of young men volunteering to fight for King and Country. The British Expeditionary Force has been transported to France, our Department played its role in the frenzy of activity; we are exhausted.

I do not wish to dwell on the military actions of Germany, Austria, and our allies Belgium, France and Russia. Those are best served by the newspaper reports of the German advance through Belgium, the sever casualties suffered by the French along their northern and eastern frontiers, the dismal defeat of the Russian forces in East Prussia , and the first actions of the BEF in northern France.

I did not try to contact Gunter once the Cabinet decided on war. A pity our friendship must end for now. I know he despises Prussian militarism.

After the Fourth our Ministry has taken over control of the national rail services as planned. So far it has run more effectively than even we dared hope. Our Minister praised the railwaymen in the House for their patriotic efforts.

I can tell my mother about her cousins in Russia. As they live in Honkoniemi they are not likely to be experiencing the efforts of warfare. Papa Onegin has already telephoned me to tell of their many French friends whose sons and grandsons have been killed in action. Charleroi and Morhange are places he mentions as being battlefields. Mere Marie was brought up in Lorraine before it was lost in 1871, her mother becoming a refugee. Major Casals , though wounded and captured at St.Pivat, was able to join them in Paris after France capitulated.

My wife has accepted the time I am now staying at the Ministry with good grace. Though young our children have been stirred by the national mood of excitement. They ask so many questions I cannot answer, some because of my necessary code of silence. If this war worsens they will come to understand that it is already showing the brutality, the savagery, the pityliness to non-combatants that characterizes all land wars.

We are not finding it easy to get to sleep. She says she might start taking sleeping draughts.