Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – October 1914

OCTOBER 1914

Our troops have been facing near-disaster as they battle to hold back the German hordes. The BEF was pulled out of the Aisne area and railed north to face the German thrust towards the sea at a town called Ypres in Belgium. I am told that in one attack their young men, linking arms and singing, walked into the 15 rounds per minute fire of our soldiers and were slaughtered.. Poor Belgium, she is mostly in enemy hands since our naval men were forced out of Antwerp, many into captivity in German camps or interment in Holland..

Since the Marne battle the French armies have stabilized their positions, exhausted by the casualties they have suffered. Joffre accepts time is needed for rest and rebuilding his decimated regiments.

German submarines are changing the dynamics of sea warfare. Another of our cruisers ‘Hawke’ was sunk in the North Sea. However the Dover Straits are remaining safe for the transportation of men and their equipment to France. The rail networks are delivering to our plans so we continue to enjoy the support of Kitchener – which makes bearable our long hours cooped up in the Ministry building.

I am very proud that Natasha has volunteered to help with the wounded soldiers being brought back to England. She went to Dover to give of her nursing skills and told me she was horrified by the state of the men. Shells and bullets wreck bodies, tearing away limbs and flesh.. Her absence has required a girl from the village to visit the house and look after the children. With my coming back late from the Ministry they are learning to cope on their own and she says are enjoying being grown-ups.

I wonder about the weather conditions being faced as the autumn rains soak our troops in their temporary dug-outs. No longer is warfare about a brief campaign before going into dry shelters. It starts to look as these dug-outs will become their homes. Northern France can be awful in winter.