Army diaries from the First World War capture its true bloody horror

October 21, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

The harrowing diaries of a courageous Army soldier recording the true horrors he lived through fighting in some of World War One’s bloodiest battles are to be sold at auction.

Private Bert Camp used brief moments of respite from German shelling to capture the full horror and heroism of some of the most ferocious exchanges of the 1914-18 war.

The remarkable diary describes Bert’s front-line action from Ypres to Paschendaele, Neuve Chapelle and the Somme in breathtaking ”matter of fact” detail.

He tells how the British literally ”murdered” the Germans at Ypres only to get a taste of their own medicine with a ”baptism of fire” at Paschendeale.

Bert, a gun carriage driver with the Royal Horse Artillery, was wounded twice when his horses were shot from under him and was wrongly reported as ”killed in action” – but he repeatedly volunteered to fight again.

Bert’s grandsons Roy and Stephen Smith in a foreword to his diary said: ”He was extremely fortunate that he was not permanently physically or mentally scarred, like so many who returned from the hell of 1914-18.

They discovered the yellowing pages of the handwritten diary rolled inside a cardboard tube in 2006 – exactly 100 years after he first signed up for military service at the age of 17.

”As kids and later, this man was our beloved grandad who frequently held us spellbound with his experiences and stories and we could never spend enough time with him.

”To us, he was a hero in every way.  We still recall our times with him and miss him to this day. He is still frequently in our thoughts and we are grateful to have a hero that returned from where many other heroes did not.”

Yesterday Roy, 63, from Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, said: ”Our grandfather was a wonderful man.

”He was born in Islington in London in 1889 and he was 83 when he finally died in 1971. He was a fun-loving character who liked a drink, a smoke and a regular bet on the horses.

”But my brother and I were absolutely captivated when we discovered his diary because his descriptions of the horror and heroism of the First World War are so vivid it seems as if you are almost there on the battlefield.”

* The items are expected to fetch more than £600 when they are sold at Dreweatts’ militaria auction in Bristol on October 26.

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