Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – September 1915


The Western Front flared with light from shellfire as the Entente began their planned autumn battles. The key one is centred on Perthes-les-Hurlus, west of Rheims. Thirty divisions were committed. In Artois another attempt is being made to capture the ridge above Vimy. The BEF is attacking at Loos. Gas has been used, my suitable revenge on the Huns for Ypres – and personally for Natasha; she still has moments of coughing. But it was not effective, blowing back over our trenches as the wind changed direction.

Bad news has come, two divisions of volunteers have been shattered before Hulluch. I hear Rudyard Kipling’s son is missing. In The Times the ‘Role of Honour’ notices already fill many columns. Shells for the cannons are in short supply. I do not expect the battle to be sustainable for long, the shells and materials transported to France are rapidly being exhausted. Our factories will need time to replenish them and our loaded wagons to take them towards France.

On Gallipoli the belligerents are now holding their lines having exhausted themselves, I have heard that the French are so disappointed with the Dardanelles that their troops may be transferred elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean. However in Turkish lands to the south in Mesopotamia the Indian Expeditionary Force has moved up the Tigris river to capture Kut.

John wrote thanking me for my assistance towards him joining up. As I expected, he is too old for trench fighting. He has settled into GHQ at Saint-Omer where he is an ordnance clerk. But when the Generals sup, he attends the meals making good use of his life before as a butler.

We decided to rent a flat near Whitehall so Natasha could take a role talking to the many young girls flooding into nursing. I do not want her to pine for what she lost at Ypres and the VAD were co-operative. She tells the girls what they can expect to find when they eventually get to France. She also teaches basic French so that they can communicate at a rudimentary level with French people they will meet over there. Her matron says that the girls, having gleaned why she suffer illness, are in awe of her having been into the front trenches, many having fathers and brothers who are there. Sadly some have suffered bereavements.

Our three are back at school, bur Rose rather unwillingly. She wanted to become a nurse but I insisted she complete her higher education, having done exceptionly well in her public examinations. She can then take her love of the biological sciences towards a medical career, perhaps becoming a doctor as opportunities for women seem to be opening. However I have accepted her writing to Midshipman Hawkins who I now learn is called Rory – a good Anglo-Scots name. She is delighted and letters continue to fly north, though less come south. She, with Flora and Becky, holds the fort while we are in London during the week. With the set-up to Loos completed I can spend weekends at home.