Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – January 1918

As our Empire begins another year of global war, I am pleased to hear how well the GWR Dean Goods locomotives have done since the ROD moved some sixty to France. Ashby has told me they have performed lighter duties remarkably well, leaving the GCR 8Ks to handle the heavy trains. The plan is to send some fifteen to our front in Salonika, the weight of the 2-8-0s being excessive for the rail loading.

My mother’s latest letter tells of how neighbours in Newcastle are experiencing hunger. It’s not just Newcastle, but throughout Britain. And in Austro-Hungary there are riots in Vienna and Budapest as non-combatants show their dissatisfaction with the food shortages brought about by the blockade . At least for Britain the convoy system is reducing freighter losses as enemy submarines get sunk.

The American President Wilson has put forward fourteen principles to achieve peace. Too many difficulties have been observed. At Brest-Litovsk, the Bolshevik leadership is seeking to stop the rapacious Germans seizing land to increase the Fatherland’s living space at Russia’s expense.

Whereas for much of the Western Front, life is relatively ‘quiet’ the US forces, which are now being deployed in the St. Mihiel Salient, find the boche delighting in giving them a baptism of fire.
Nevertheless, once they become trained in trench warfare their fighting potential should match the better units in the Union and Conferederate units during their civil war.

I was pleased t get a brief letter from ‘Vi’ saying that the parents of Charles were delighted to hear of the engagement. When and if Mr. Northam is able to come to London, I shall look forwards to meeting him. I am unlikely to be able to get to Bristol.

Gwendoline wrote to me before the New Year asking that she preferred the name Gwen. So from the time she came to stay we all called her Gwen. Thom and Nat are enjoying her pastries, though Mariya is discouraged by her mother from ‘tucking in’. Flora does call in after Church on Sundays to ‘check’ the continuation of the high standard she set in the kitchen.

I did become uneasy at whether Delphine would impose ‘mothering’ behaviour on the two boys. However she is looking after them with a light touch as regards keeping clean, good behaviour and helping with the little tasks towards running the household. She does remind them of what their mother expected of them. Thom could resent this but is showing the maturity that Rose displayed during the later stages of Natasha’s illness. Nat is more argumentative but quelled by Mariya. ‘Oh Nat’ and he soon quietens down.

.In the War Office, there is tension what will emerge from the aftermath of the German and Bolchevik negotiations. The Russians cannot be expected to want an agreement beneficial to the former allies of the Tsar.