And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

31 May

1682
Jacob Bee,
tradesman

‘Betwixt 11 and 12 at night, was a very fearfull thunder, with flalshes of fire, very tirrible.’

Very fiery comets

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1836
Thomas Mitchell,
administrator and explorer

‘I now ventured to take a north-west course, in expectation of falling in with the supposed Darling. We crossed first a plain about two miles in breadth, when we came to a line of yarra trees which enveloped a dry creek from the north-east, and very like Clover-creek. We next travelled over ground chiefly open, and at four miles crossed a sand-hill, on which was a covered tomb, after the fashion of those on the Murray. On descending from the sand ridge, we approached a line of yarra trees, which overhang a reach of green and stagnant water. I had scarcely arrived at the bank, when my attention was drawn to a fire, about a hundred yards before us, and from beside which immediately sprung up a numerous tribe of blacks, who began to jump, wring their hands, and shriek as if in a state of utter madness or despair. These savages rapidly retired towards others who were at a fire on a further part of the bank, but Piper and his gin going boldly forward, succeeded, at length, in getting within hail, and in allaying their fears.

While he was with these natives, I had again leisure to examine the watercourse, upon which we had arrived. I could not consider it the Darling, as seen by me above, and so little did it seem “the sister stream” to the Murray, as described by Start, that I at first thought it nothing but an ana-branch of that river. Neither did these natives satisfy me about Oolawambiloa, by which I had supposed the Darling was meant, but respecting which they still pointed westward. They, however, told Piper that the channel we had reached contained all the waters of “Wambool,” (the Macquarie), and “Callewatta” (the upper Darling), and I accordingly determined to trace it up, at least far enough to identify it with the latter. But I thought it right that we should endeavour first to recognise the junction with the Murray as seen by Captain Start. The natives said, it was not far off; and I accordingly encamped at two o’clock, that I might measure back to that important point.

Thirteen natives set out, as if to accompany us, for they begged that we would not go so fast. Three of them, however, soon set off at full speed, as if on a message; and the remaining ten fell behind us. We had then passed the camp of their gins, and I supposed at the time, that their only object was to see us beyond these females, Piper being with us. I pursued the river through a tortuous course until sunset, when I was obliged to quit it, and return to the camp by moonlight, without having seen anything of the Murray. I had, however, ascertained that the channel increased very much in width lower down, and when it was filled with the clay-coloured water of the flood then in the Murray, it certainly had the appearance of a river of importance.’

Encountering the natives

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1883
Thomas Cobden-Sanderson,
craftsman

‘Yesterday Annie and I walked together on the Embankment towards Westminster, I to the Long Gallery, she to the Abbey to wait till I had done. But the day was so lovely, the sun so bright, the river so attractive, that when I suggested that we should walk on the river-side of the road, she suddenly bethought herself of Walter Sickert at Chelsea, and should she not go by water to see him? I backed her up, and so at the next pier we parted; she went down the landing steps - the tide was very low - and I continued along the Embankment, looking back from time to time. Presently her steamer approached the pier, paused and came off again - I watched it approach, and a wave of a parasol drew my eyes to my darling. I waved my hand and hat, and smiled to her. [. . .]

Here there came a knock at the door, and my diary fell to the ground as I rushed to open it. It was Annie back from Chelsea. We embraced, and then she hurriedly began to tell me of a girl whom she had met on the steamer, red-haired, consumptive, Scotch, an envelope folder or sorter, returning from the Brompton Hospital where she was an out-patient. (She ought to be an in-patient, but could get no letter). [. . .] She got 1d. for 1,000 envelopes, and, when well, made 12s a week.’

Innumerable ripples; countless diamonds

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1889
Alice James,
sister to writer

‘I think that if I get into the habit of writing a bit about what happens, or rather doesn’t happen, I may lose a little of the sense of loneliness and desolation which abides with me. My circumstances allowing nothing but the ejaculation of one-syllabled reflections, a written monologue by that most interesting being, myself, may have its yet to be discovered consolations. I shall, at least, have it all my own way, and it may bring relief as an outlet to that geyser of emotions, sensations, speculations and reflections which ferments perpetually within my poor old carcass for its sins; so here goes - my first journal!’

Geyser of emotions

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1902
Victor Trump,
sportsman

‘Still raining leave for ground at 1 o’clock. Started match 5.15pm simply to get the crowd in a good humour. Match a draw. Saved us from a good hiding.’

Ran about all day

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1916
Patrick Blackett,
sailor

‘The day dawned glorious but with a slowly falling glass. When I got up I heard that the Lion, five miles ahead of us had sighted a submarine and the Royalist fired at it. During my forenoon watch we had several submarine scares, once when the Lion sighted one ahead of us. We could not see her, however. Some suspicious neutral trawlers were about as usual. Our station was five miles astern of the Battle Cruiser Squadrons. The latter were six in number, the Lion and 1st BCS in one line and the Indefatigable and New Zealand on their port beam. The Australia is in dock as is also the Queen Elizabeth. We went to Exercise Action in the forenoon to clear away and to get the cages loaded. I slept all the afternoon and just after tea, about 3.50 p.m. ‘Action’ was sounded. When we realised it was without the ‘G’: real action that is, we wondered what was up. Of course I could not find my Gieve [life belt] - I had put it in the gunroom five minutes before, but it had apparently vanished. We closed up and learnt that some light cruisers of the enemy had been sighted. Just before five o’clock we loaded and trained on a light cruiser - the first German ship I have seen since the Falkland Islands. At 4.57 p.m. we opened fire at about 18,000 yds. range. A few minutes earlier we had seen the flashes of the Battle Cruisers firing ahead of us. After two salvoes at the light cruiser, both of which failed to hit, we shifted target on to the 2nd German battle cruiser from the left, probably the Seydlitz. The visibility was not good but our shooting might have been much better. I saw a lot of misses for deflection. I could see through my periscope quite well at first, but later it got misty and was eventually smashed. We were firing on and off, when we could see, and for the first part were not being fired at. After a short time we passed a destroyer picking up survivors from an oily patch on the water. I had, of course, no idea what it was that had sunk but learnt later that it was the Queen Mary. I also saw one of our ‘M’-class destroyers with her bow out of the water and very much down by the stem. I did not like it a bit when we began to be fired at, seeing the splashes a few yards short, all their shots falling very close together. The noise of them falling was just like our six inch guns going off. Things did not seem to be going very well then, but I was very cheered to see one beautiful straddle we made on one of the German Battle Cruisers, one of our shots bursting on the waterline armour. I saw the flash of it. We then fired four more salvoes rapid and straddled again. After this I saw an explosion aft. We then shifted target. About a quarter to six the British battle cruisers turned sixteen points to starboard and crossed our line of fire. About 6 p.m. we also turned and during it got a bad strafing from the German 3rd Division, their crack squadron. As the Battle Cruisers crossed in front of us I saw that there were only four instead of six, so knew they must have been badly strafed. I saw one of the Lion’s turrets out of action by a shell, also one of the Princess Royal’s.

About this time we got the cheering news that the Grand Fleet was coming up. We carried on firing at ranges varying from 24,000 yds. to, at the end, as little as 8000 yds. Most of the time we could see nothing but the flashes of their guns. These were very curious. The guns fired in succession beginning with the after gun, so that one saw a succession of flashes, not all at once, as with our director control, or haphazard as in individual control. It was very horrible seeing the flashes, then waiting for the salvoes to fall. They formed very small splashes of far lesser height than ours, and they caused practically no interference with our fire.

The terrible part of it was that we could not see them to reply, for they had the modern ‘weather gauge’ not of wind but of light. We were silhouetted against the bright western sky and they were merged in a great haze.

About this time we got our ‘five minutes hate’. It really lasted much longer and was extraordinarily unpleasant. It is estimated that some five hundred 12-inch bricks were fired at the Barham and the rest of the squadron. How we survived with so very few hits I have no idea. Many people say that we were saved by one of the armoured cruiser squadrons. They got in front of us and made a very great smoke screen, which I believe was meant to shield themselves, but it effectively screened us and saved us from a far worse strafing. The terrible fate of the ships I did not see luckily. We do not quite know why Arbuthnot (R.A.Defence) got there at all.

Soon after this the German destroyers attacked and met ours in the middle between the lines. One got through and about five torpedo tracks were seen from the ship, all of which we avoided, but one mouldy [torpedo] struck the Marlborough. This ship was three ahead of us in the line of the Grand Fleet, when deployed but she continued in the line after being hit. She had a ten degree list. Everyone was very relieved that the Grand Fleet had joined up, for it was exceedingly unpleasant alone. About this time we trained fore and aft and lined up. I went on top of the turret and saw the battle line extending miles into the mist. The German ships were not visible. We avoided more than one torpedo attack by submarine and the Revenge, two ships ahead claims to have rammed and sunk one. The 1st Battle Squadron was next ahead of us and did a good deal of shooting. The 4th ahead of them did less and the 2nd in the van practically none. If we had only another hour of daylight I drink very few Germans would have got back. We tried to close them about 9 p.m. but had to draw off eventually owing to the gathering dark.

We were then allowed to leave our stations to get some supper. In order to get aft it was necessary to go along the mess deck. Many people did not know till then that we had been hit, but one realised it terribly then. There was an extraordinary reek of T.N.T. fumes, which mixed with the smell of disinfectant and blood was awful. Nearly all the killed, some twenty-four in number, were lying laid out on the deck, and many were terribly wounded, limbs being completely blown off and nearly all burnt. I then learned that the Padre and Paymaster had been killed in the Forward Medical Distributing station. When I got to the gun-room flat, I found the whole place completely wrecked. The gun-room and the Eng. Comm’s cabin were merged into one and the flat outside riddled with holes. The after cabin was also in an appalling mess.

I got some food in the wardroom and then returned to my turret. As I was going there I saw a very violent action, some way off on our starboard beam. Some of our light cruisers had met and blown up a German one. Various actions continued all night, the flashes being very visible and one huge explosion being seen. The night was very trying, waiting closed up - trying to sleep in turns.

We expected to renew the action at dawn and had everything ready.’

Laid out on the deck

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1968
Dang Thuy Tram,
doctor

‘Today we had a major base evacuation to evade the enemy’s mopping-up operation. The whole clinic was moved, an infinitely exhausting undertaking. It’s heart-wrenching to see the wounded patients with beads of sweat running on their pale faces, struggling to walk step by step across narrow passes and up steep slopes. If someday we find ourselves living in the fragrant flowers of socialism, we should remember this scene forever, remember the sacrifice of the people who shed blood for the common cause. Who has brought this suffering upon us, comrades? They are the devils [US military] robbing our country.’

The crimes of war

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1953
Hermann Buhl,
mountaineer

‘Base camp.

. . . Peter, who is out hunting, comes back in the afternoon, asks about Kuno and then lays into me because everyone is doing exactly as he pleases. If we don’t want to obey the orders we should go on our own . . .

As Peter says nothing to me about going up, I ask him again. As my altimeter is broken and we only have one between four, as opposed to Base Camp where there are four altimeters, I would like to swap mine, also on the wishes of the others. After asking several times and being told we could manage with one, I eventually get Albert’s. I don’t even want to mention the map - although there are five of those at Base Camp.

As I set off Peter tells me not to be such an egoist. I don’t really understand and ask why. He finally says it’s because of the altimeter. It’s all too much for me so I give it back to him and leave. Peter calls me and then comes after me. Gives me the altimeter back and tells me not to be so childish, he had put himself out for me, and after all they were not dependent on me, and could manage without me, whereupon I leave. It takes me 50 minutes to get to Camp 1, it is snowing heavily again. Walter is waiting for me up there.’

Scenery fantastic - like home

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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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