Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – January 1915

JANUARY 1915

Our citizens now face aerial bombardment. Giant Hun ‘slugs’ crossed the East Coast and dropped bombs reportedly killing some dozen non-combatants.

In the British trenches soldiers are being killed in steady numbers by shellfire, snipers and small-arms fire – with no positive progress being made through the mud. The French launched attacks in Artois and Champagne gaining some ground but with heavy losses. I wonder at the ability of the French population to soak up these losses from the six months of fighting.

At least one victory to raise our morale has come at sea after the loss of ‘Formidable’ to a submarine torpedo. Our warships caught the German cruisers on the Dogger Bank and sank the ‘Blucher’. The rest scurried back to their harbours licking their wounds. Britain still rules the waves even though what is underneath them poses real danger.

On the East front the intense cold of winter stops all movement, the Russian troops spend their days trying to keep warm. When they attempt to fight they end by becoming prisoners. However colleagues have told me over drinks that plans are being made to use British and French battleships to force the channel up to Constantinople and the Black Sea. Then supplies can be got to that front.

The Ministry is coping well with the demands being made by the BEF and the Royal Navy even though their spheres of activity are at opposite ends of our Isles. In meetings we have discussed increasing the flow of munitions, horse essentials for fodder and hay, when active campaigning begins again in France. The Minister is especially concerned that the horses receive their requirements – once a cavalryman always a cavalryman, even when a politician.

I get letters from Natasha every second day, which I gladly accept knowing the pressures resulting from nursing the returning wounded. I confess my letter writing is weaker, I put down my scribblings averaging four days. But honesty compels me to add her letters seek reassurance that the children are being well looked after. Fortunately I see them most evenings and at weekends.