And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

11 November

1884
Gordon of Khartoum,
soldier

‘This morning, 6 a.m., 200 Arabs came to north of Omdurman Fort, and fired vollies towards the village of Tuti and the Fort; the Fort answered, and the footmen of the Arabs retreated; then the Arab horsemen made the footmen go back again, and so on, four or five times; at last they retired. We had three soldiers and one woman wounded; only one wound was at all serious. Arabs must have fired five thousand rounds; evidently they do not wish much to fight. Nineteen Arabs came along the right bank of the White Nile from Halfeyeh to Goba, and captured a donkey; this even the Shaggyeh could not stand, and so I suppose one hundred sallied out and some fifteen horsemen; then came a running fight across the plain, but it was evident the horsemen would not head the Arabs; however, from the roof, it was evident four or five Arabs were killed, and the pursuit is still going on. You may imagine the Arabs have a good deal of confidence, for their nineteen men were distant at least ten miles of desert from their camp and were at a. They were going along b b when they were discovered with the captured donkey. Five at least of these Arabs got away. The Arabs are sure to come down to avenge this.

Noon

Arabs coming down from their camp, Ismailia getting steam up. North Fort reports (?) “Captures, 3 Remingtons! 3 spears! 3 swords! and the killing of 20? 5 got away?” The Arabs are halted on the sand hills. Five soldiers and one woman came in from yjr Arabs at Omdurman, report, “Arab rocket-tube broken; carriage of gun broken; the Arabs deserting; rumoured advance of the Expedition; quarrels going on; Slatin in chains.” The Shaggyeh say they killed twenty Arabs, but they only say they captured nine arms so eleven must have been unarmed!!!

It appears 93,000 okes + 166,000 okes = 259,000 okes of biscuit have been stolen in the last year, only found out now; however, we have now quarter of a million okes, which will see us only for a month or so. It appears that more than thirty of the principal merchants are engaged in the above robbery of biscuit. The process is not finished. One of the greatest problems will be what to do with those Shaggyeh, those Cairo Bashi Bazouks and fellaheen soldiers, whose courage is about equal, perhaps the palm is due to the Shaggyeh. The twenty cows I mentioned as captured by the men of Omdurman Fort (making up forty-one captured cows) were driven in by five soldiers escaping from the Arabs and were not captured. They do not stick at a lie (and, in this, resemble some people in high places I know). 259,000 okes of biscuit was a good haul, nearly two and half million pounds: worth £26,000 now, or £9,000 in ordinary times.’

Imagine my feelings!

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1918
Douglas Haig,
army commander

Fine day but cold and dull.’

On Armistice Day 1918

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1918
Robert Lindsay Mackay,
soldier

‘Mobs rushing singing through the streets of [Calais] at night. News of Armistice confirmed - Thank God! I set off again for the battalion, but stopped en route to give me a chance of finding the grave of my friend, John McIntosh, a gunner, killed at Neuve Chappelle. Found gun pits. No graves nearby.’

On Armistice Day 1918

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1918
Thomas Fredrick Littler,
soldier

‘We had news in hospital that the enemy had pleaded for an armistice and that terms had been handed to him, which he accepted as armistice terms, and he is thoroughly beaten, it is a day of rejoicing and everybody seems happy and glad, bands are playing outside and guns firing salutes, but I feel too ill to take much interest in it.’

On Armistice Day 1918

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1918
William Dalton Lycett,
soldier

‘Up at 7 a.m. shaved and had breakfast then got pass and went to Devonport Military Hospital to see dentist. On the way in buzzers, whistles on our ships all started blowing, terrific noise at 9.10 a.m. It was the news come through of signing of Armistice terms by Fritz, great excitement. Saw dentist and had tooth filled and away by 11 a.m. Stayed in Devonport for little while then went on to Plymouth, called in restaurant for dinner and was given glass of port wine and had dinner free. The place a seething mass of people all gone mad. Caught 10.30 p.m. tram and in bed 11 p.m.’

On Armistice Day 1918

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1918
John Bruce Cairnie,
soldier

‘Armistice signed at 11a.m. this morning: the news reached us at 5p.m. C.O. announced it on parade. I can’t realize it, that the war is finished, probably because we are so far from everything. Had dinner outside, with C.O. etc. Sounds of revelry all over the camp, altho’ I don’t think the askaris know what has happened, except in a vague way.’

On Armistice Day 1918

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1918
Michael Macdonagh,
journalist

‘This morning at eleven o’clock I was startled by the booming of maroons, fired from police and fire-brigade stations, the loud reports of those near at hand being faintly re-echoed by others far off. [. . .] I rushed out and inquired what was the matter. “The Armistice!” they exclaimed. “The War is over!” [. . .]

Hardly anybody can have been the same after as they had been before the maroons heralded, not blasts from Hell, as hitherto, but airs from Heaven. London, in fact, lost all control of itself. I hastened to Westminster, feeling assured that the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace would this day, more than ever, be the centres of interesting happenings. The tramcar was packed, all the passengers obviously deeply moved, whether they were chattering and laughing or self-absorbed and silent. The children were let loose from all the schools. As we were passing an elementary school in Kennington Road near “The Horns” the boys and girls came rushing out, yelling and jumping like mad. There were also many signs that business was being suspended. Shops were being closed and shuttered as on Sundays. Who, indeed, could settle down to work on such a day.

Hark to those loud and silvery bugle-blasts! Boy scouts on bicycles dashed past us sounding the “All Clear,” as they had so often done after an air raid. We all laughed heartily. [. . .] At Westminster Bridge Underground Station I saw an evening newspaper bill. It was the first I had seen for years, their use having been prohibited owing to the shortage of paper; and therefore it was a heartening sign of London’s return to normal life. And what news it proclaimed! “Fighting has ceased on all Fronts!” Hurrah! [. . .]

I had heard Big Ben proclaim War; I was now to hear him welcoming Peace [after four years of silence]. [. . .] When the hands of the dial pointed to XII Big Ben struck the hour, booming it in his deep and solemn tones, so old and so familiar. It was a most dramatic moment. The crowd that had assembled in Parliament Square stood silent and still until the last stroke of the clock, when they burst into shouts and exultation.’

The drama of London in WWI

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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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