Inspiration is the key!
I have always been fascinated by War diaries. People who, unaware of the fact they would one day be published, shared their personal thoughts with a piece of paper during a time that History would someday claim as its own.
A diary I was particularly interested in, is “A Nurse at the Front: The Great War Diaries of Sister Edith Appleton“, which recollects the entries posted by nurse Edith Appleton, serving with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service in France during World War I. She both narrates of life as a nurse, describing the horrors of the Great War, aswell as her personal thoughts and impressions on regular life in France at the time. Some passages are very detailed and portray the dramatic circumstances of war:
We had a convoy of 399 in yesterday, only 70 wounded. Far the most of the sick were suffering badly from shell shock. It is sad to see them, they dither like palsied old men, and talk all the time about their mates who were blown to bits, or their mates who were wounded and never brought in.
Other suggested reads could include “Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front, 1914-1915” by anonymous source, available at Amazon for free. Moreover, another poignant group of accounts is that which is collected in “Forgotten Voices of the Somme” by Joshua Levine. It is not a diary, which means all accounts have been elaborated as a retrospective by those directly involved in the conflict. It is however very interesting to hear about the lives these soldiers lived before, how war entered their lives and how they felt about it.
Why do we need to read these diaries? What do we have in common with people who lived so many years ago, almost a century ago? We often feel so advanced and immune that we forget how we mostly live in illusions and that comfort that sometimes traps the human soul. Yes, society tells us that we must never forget, and it is true. However, it is the human element which I tend to stress here as I suggest reading War diaries. These people were no different from us, and yes they lived in another time in history, but they had the same hopes and dreams as we have, and have been forced to be humble and understand human compassion and what men can achieve in the most terrible circumstances. They are stories of courage, passion, conscience.
War diaries are interesting and important, because they have a personal element into an otherwise neutral and objective narration of what war is. History speaks of troops, invasions, battles; war diaries speak of dying soldiers’ wishes, memories and hopes from the front, acts of friendship and love among people. It is especially important for younger generations to get to know the ‘Zeitgeist‘ of the 1910s and what World War 1 meant for their great-grandfathers’ generation, become familiar with what seems so far away from them in time and space.