Alexandr Pepys’ War Diary – November 1914



The war is ever expanding.  Our Allied warships bombarded Dardanelles forts so Turkey declared war to side with Germany.  The sea passage up the Bosporus to Russia is now closed.  Russia needs our help with munitions from being pushed back at Lodz and out of Austria-Hungary. The news I glean from colleagues in the War Office is of large Russian casualties – I hope not including the sons and former retainers of our friends.  Germany won a naval victory in the Far East sinking two of our cruisers but an Australian cruiser sank one of theirs.  The battleship Bulwark was blown up when loading ammunition at Sheerness – showing me our trains carrying explosives must be more carefully laden.  An explosion in a city such as Southampton would be a crippling blow to National morale.


The murderous fighting in France and Belgium has lessened, probably the result of exhaustion by both sides.  It is difficult to launch large-scale attacks through rain and deep mud against shelling and intense machine-gun fire..


The railway network is holding up to the great increase in heavy traffic. The excessive numbers of wagon pre-War have given us flexibility during the mobilization months.  However I am concerned about the tracks as so many men maintaining them have volunteered.  I have put to our Minister that keeping the flow of men and munitions is as much a contribution to the war effort as facing the enemy in Belgium trenches.  We should retain a core of experienced men to train others to carry out the vital maintenance – fortunately he agreed with me.  A decision to this effect is being made.


Natasha is becoming enured to the state of the wounded soldiers.  She says this helps her to show kindness even when it is clear the wounds are mortal.  So often the men call for their mothers as they pass over, sometimes Natasha has spoken as would their mothers which brings them comfort in their last moments.  It helps that she has been a strong mother to our children.


Our friendly help is coping well with the children, perhaps she is letting them get away with too much when she stays overnight with my often sleeping in London.


Will Christmas and 1915 see a change in this dreadful war?  Already I question how much further it will expand.