The First World War offers many tales of survival against the odds, but few can have been so meticulously documented as this. Wounded at Passchendaele in October 1917, then sent to a supposedly quiet area near the Aisne just before the Germans’ ‘Spring Offensive’ intensified, Private William Roberts was both desperately unlucky and extremely fortunate. His wartime diary provides not only a compelling insight into the carnage and mud-filled misery at the front, but also glimpses of rare lighter moments – a quiet drink in a local French bar or the surreal experience of attending a concert while battle raged only miles away.
The diary brilliantly captures his training in Doncaster, with the excitement and foreboding of what was to come, and the blend of doughty camaraderie and daily tedium that was life in a POW camp.
Locked away in a chest for nearly a century, this is perhaps the most remarkable diary by a private soldier of the Great War.