Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – September1914


I have long loved the sea for its fecklessness, sometimes angry, at other times calm, always changing as the moon drives the tides. She has been good to me because I respect Poseidon..  Our Empire is built on his allowing the passage of our great ships.  But in the space of an hour he revealed his capriciousness when an underwater German vessel destroyed three of our cruisers. German vileness brings a new horrifying dimension to the sea, no longer will its quiet surface be safe for Royal Navy mariners.

Whilst my hours in the Ministry passed smoothly as the rail companies delivered our plans, events on the other side of the Channel were complex.  The BEF went south to beyond the river Marne, east of Paris.  There it helped the French Armies halt the German advance, and push its forces back to the ridges running east and west of Rheims.  However its troops dug themselves shelters on these ridges m from which they were able to resist BEF cannon fire.  Our cavalry made no contribution, horses cannot maintain a charge up steep slopes.  Many infantrymen tried but fell to machine gun fire.

At home nearly half a million young and not-so-young men have volunteered in the call to arms.  I expect them to become the bedrock of our national effort to drive the Germans back, if the BEF does not do so by Christmas.

The Russians followed their defeat at what German Press calls Tannenburg by another at the Masurian Lakes.  Yet their troops halted the Austrians.  A cousins’ letter from Petrograd which has reached my mother made strange reading.  Japan is now at war with Germany.  Russia is at war with Germany.  Yet the previous decade Japan had been at war with Russia. One of their nephews was killed at Port Arthur manning the naval guns lifted into the fort.

Natasha decided not to take sleeping draughts once her anxieties subsided as news came in of the French success on the Marne.  Her family in Paris will not have to endure a siege as forty years ago. Granted a weekend’s leave I sailed with her and the children in the estuary, the gentle winds and still warm waters of September allowed us to dream of a peaceful 1915.