Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – March 1915

MARCH 1915

The allies are intensifying their efforts to drive the Germans back to Germany. At Neuve Chapelle, a little village in Picardy, the BEF attacked on the 10th, after a barrage, but taking only some trenches and driving back a short part of the German line. Losses were horrendous for so little gain. The listing of the dead in the better newspapers tell of the number of families who will be grieving. At the War Office where I am now based the reality caused despondency even though we knew to expect serious levels of casualties for the Regular and Territorial units engaged.

News was no better from the Dardanelles. The Royal Navy and French battleships steamed into the Narrows on the 18th after their gunfire wrecked the Turkish forts in the days before. Half of the battleships were sunk or put out of action. Turkish mines, not cannon, were the cause. Just last summer I remember the sunny day we went with the children to see over HMSs Irrestible and Inflexible in Portsmouth. The seamen were so charming especially to Rose, she blushed for days whenever Nat teased her about a certain young Midshipman.

Next day bad weather intervened, no more efforts were made to reach the Sea of Marmara. I have heard that planning is now well advanced for a sea-borne landing on the Gallipoli peninsula, using British, Australian and New Zealand troops now training in Egypt. General Hamilton is already there to command the land battle.

Though the Russians have not fared well against the German forces, they have done splendidly against the Austrians. On the 22nd the fort of Przemysl surrendered, over 100,000 laying down their arms and were taken together with hundreds of cannon. Hopefully the grave disappointments of the last few months will be in the past – though the massive Russian losses cannot easily be made good.

Natasha has written about her discussions with a Canadian doctor. Hearing of my work, they feel that light rail track could be used to get the wounded on stretchers back from the trenches. She is going up to the front with him to see how practical would be this proposal. Gaily she tells me that she will dress in men’s uniform as a military medical officer so as not to invite suspicion. I hope she knows what she doing. Snipers have been wounding and killing many French and Canadians in that sector.

I am delighted to report Rose has taken to ably managing the household. With Becky’s support Thom and Nat are having little about which to complain. When they return from school they find the evening meal is always ready.

This is such a relief to me. It means when I am at the War Office I do not need to trouble about their days: I can concentrate on liaising with the military organisers. In the evenings when in London I am invited to their Messes where we talk into the evening about the logistical problems of this war.