Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – February 1918

I have been carefully looking for the negotiations between the Germans and Russians. What is eventually agreed potentially will have profound implications for the BEF and the French Armies on the Western Front. At Brest-Litovsk, our agents have reported the conditions are too harsh for the Russian delegation to accept. But what did they expect, having been soundly beaten? The Boche have begun pushing forwards again. Hordes of Russian prisoners are being taken. The advance has reached Narva, aircraft have bombed St. Petersburg. The Finns have taken the opportunity to drive the Russians out of Finland.

In Champagne, at the Butte de Mesnil, American artillery enabled the French $th Army to capture some 150 Germans. Then their infantry joined in a raid with the French taking more prisoners. Their Chief of Staff of the 42nd ‘Rainbow ‘Division – composed of National Guard units from many States – was keen enough to join in the raid, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his enthusiasm.

Good progress is being made in Mesopotamia, Jerusalem was taken on the 2st. After centuries, Christians will again be able to pray there without being subject to pressure.

The ROD is using the ‘quiet’ of the Front to carry out maintenance of the locomotives and rolling stock. Materials for next summer’s campaigns are being moved through Dover and Folkstone to France. Despite the ‘quiet’ our front line soldiers are still taking casualties, the ambulance trains are still binging ‘Blighties‘ back to hospitals in England.

I am taking this quiet period to catch up on family life, knowing, once Spring comes , supporting the war effort will put great pressure on the Department. I went down to Woolwich to meet with Rose, taking her and Charles to dinner. It is nice to see how they sparkle together, feeding off each other’s jokes and observations. Natasha would have enjoyed seeing them together. However Thom is starting to fret about boys of his age going overseas, even though he is working hard on his studies. I shall not stand in his way if he decides to enlist.

Nat and Mariya are still playing games with each other and on Gwen. But she has got the measure of them – if they annoy her too much, the biscuits suddenly disappear from the cake tin. The children then apologise and the biscuits reappear.

Delphine has become more confident with her English and, as a result, she is becoming a favourite in the church congregation and among the villagers. I have noticed that she is wearing more bright colours and before she tended to focus on black garments. Actually I approve, as it means she is coming out of the widow’s weeds. So it is more pleasant to share the evenings by the wood fire, she having gathered in the wood I cut during the day.

Nevertheless I am concerned about the German units which are ‘redundant’ on the Eastern Front. They are experienced troops, with training in the tactics absorbed during Passchendaele they may be a formidable addition to the Boche armies along the Western Front. Knowing the amount of the supplies of concrete, barbed wire, timber being moved to France I am uncertain that enough is being done to consolidate our defences – I hope the GHQ has planned sufficiently for changes in the strategic positioning of the enemy.