Stephen Warner Diaries Volume I, September 1915

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Wednesday September 1

“the first batch of sisters arrived this afternoon – among them Miss Meadows who was acting matron at Beachborough when Miss Machmahon left. She was surprised to see me and was quite pleasant – but I could not forget that time when I had nicknamed her ‘sour face'”

Friday September 3

“Lovett was depressed this evening so to cheer him up I offered to give him the satisfaction of beating me at draughts – however I beat him twice so that the cure was not effected!”

Sunday September 5

“5.00pm official notice given to authorities that hospital was ready to receive patients – I am detailed for night duty in ward JH”

Thursday September 9

“Pt. Raine who had a bullet go through the back of his head in a line with the tops of his ears. Brain matter came out under tension and portions of bone were removed. He seems to be trifle better though still only semi-conscious”

“what a thing it is to be soldier! Talking of food, a staple diet with no ____ is machanochie’s rations (a restch firm) these rations are tinned meat and vegetables which came to the table in the form of a messy stew”

Sunday September 12

“some of the nurses had letters from home today saying that a zeppelin has found London to some purpose at last and has done some damage to Liverpool Street and in Threadneedle Street”

Wednesday September 15

“today just as we were about to start upon a simple operation of incisions for drainage of some shell wounds, the other orderly was suddenly called for and brought back back a man from ward F (this ward so far had had the largest number of operations and most of them serious) suffering from a surrounding haemorrhage – the original truth was a gun shot wound in the thigh just above the right knee resulting in a contaminated fracture of the femur”

Monday September 20

“we received a visit from the Queen of Portugal (the widow of King Carlos) 47 – Thursday September 23 “some of them were so delighted at the thought of going to England many were on stretchers and some were so young to be returning home with only one leg or one arm as the case may be”

Saturday September 25

“rumour has it that all the hospitals in the neighbourhood have been asked to take in, if possible, more than they are supposed to have. If this be so, then the struggle at the front must be titanic”

Wednesday September 29

“what grand news from the front! The 3rd German army corps surrounded – but at a great cost”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume I, August 1915

  Monday August 2, 1915

“hurry up old chappie, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up old chappie, hurry up, HURRY UP – this is chanted in a kind of  a sing-song by the Canadians when they are waiting for something and are getting impatient”

Tuesday August 3 , 1915

“this evening Lovett and I walked along the Calais Road about 2 1/2 minutes to the village of Francq, the extreme limit of where we may go without a pass. We entered the first little sorta minuet we saw and I introduced him to to a glass of vin du pays which he was anxious to taste. He chose red and I white and as a result I think he is less enthusiastic than I was!”

Wednesday August 3, 1915

“a year ago today England declared war and the mention of this fact is sufficient to bring to mind a thought of all the suffering and misery that has been caused during this time”

Sunday August 8, 1915

“the graves were about 8ft deep, two bodies being put in each grave with 2 wooden crosses on the head each bearing a strip of thin lead punched with the man’s number, rank, name, regiment and date of death – above in each case is another little strip of lead bearing the letters RIP. There are not many graves there yet but it is filing up only too rapidly”

Tuesday August 10, 1915

“no loitering is allowed in Etaples – the place stinks in the nostrils not only of the casual visitor but more unfortunately still in those of the military authorities. Reports have it that the Canadians got on the rampage there and what with one thing and another the place is now banned  and banned by those in command”

Thursday August 12, 1915

“today about 5 of the nurses arrived including the matron (Miss Todd) and assistant matron – among the other three was Miss Macmahon who was matron at Beachborough when I wrist went there. She remembered me and was very pleasant, so that maybe it will stand me in good stead later on!”

Saturday August 14, 1915 

“5.30am reveille (revally as it is usually called), 6.00am parade for early fatigue duty – whether it may be there are various parties made up for various duties, 7.15am breakfast, tidy up beds and kit, 8.30am parade for fatigue duty, 12.15pm dinner and leisure until 2.00pm parade for afternoon fatigue, 5.15pm tea, 6.00pm parade for next day’s orders, 9.00pm roll call in dormitories, 9.30pm last post and 9.45pm lights out”

Monday August 16, 1915

“8.45pm finished a kind of plum tipsy caked secreted with in my billy can as the result of the kind of officers – an excellent little meal for which we are very grateful and he had just brought in part a bottle of lemon squash so that he is a true friend to us”

Tuesday August 17, 1915

“I don’t mind washing my own body but I dislike doing the same for my own shirts, pants and handkerchiefs – but it has to be done, so I arm myself with sunlight soap and wrestle in the wash house with the said garments in a basin much to small for the job”

The Stephen Warner Diaries

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In 2014 Lowewood Museum marked 100 years since the start of the First World War with an exhibition displaying objects and stories connected to the Borough of Broxbourne.

Exhibits included a collection of diaries written by Stephen Warner, the great grandson of John Warner of Hoddesdon. During the War, Stephen served initially as a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps, but after a time there he felt that he could not let others bear the brunt of the battle and so became 2nd Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Essex Regiment where he was served with distinction and was awarded the Military Cross.

After the war, he wrote and illustrated a number of books, many of which are now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. He died on 24 June 1948, leaving his wife Winifred Warner. They had no children.

The diaries which are part of the Museum’s collection provide an insight into an individual’s experience of the First World War. For the first time these diaries will be shared online.

Follow the blog page and Lowewood Museum’s Twitter page to read extracts from the diaries and follow Stephen Warner’s journey through the First World War.