And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

12 November

1820
Mary Shelly,
writer

‘Percy’s birthday. A divine day; sunny and cloudless; somewhat cold in the evening. It would be pleasant enough living in Pisa if one had a carriage and could escape from one’s house to the country without mingling with the inhabitants, but the Pisans and the Scolari, in short, the whole population, are such that it would sound strange to an English person if I attempted to express what I feel concerning them crawling and crab-like through their sapping streets. Read Corinne. Write.’

Write. Read Homer

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1884
Gordon of Khartoum,
soldier

‘Last night three slaves came into Omdurman. At 11 p.m. they reported Arabs meant to attack to-day at dawn. It was reported to me, but the telegraph clerk did not choose to tell me till 7 a.m. to-day. We had been called up at 5.30 a.m. by a violent fusillade at Omdurman. The Arabs came out in considerable force, and, as I had not been warned, the steamers had not steam up. From 5.30 a.m. to 8.30 Arabs came on and went back continually. All the cavalry were out; the expenditure of ammunition was immense. The Arabs had a gun or guns on the bank. Details further on, as the firing is still going on.

10:20 a.m.

For half-an-hour firing lulled, but then recommenced, and is still going on. The Ismailia was struck with a shell, but I hear is not seriously damaged. The Husseinyeh is aground (I feel much the want of my other steamers at Metemma).

11:15 a.m.

Firing has lulled; it was very heavy for the last three-quarters of an hour from Ismailia and Arabs; it is now desultory, and is dying away. Husseinyeh is still aground. The Ismailia is at anchor. What a six hours of anxiety for me, when I saw the shells strike the water near the steamers from the Arabs; imagine my feelings! We have £831 in specie and £42,800 in paper; and there is £14,600 in paper out in the town! I call this state of finance not bad, after more than eight months’ blockade. The troops are owed half a mouth’s pay, and even that can be scarcely called owed them, for I have given them stores, and beyond the regulations.

Noon

The firing has ceased, I am glad to say. I have lived years in these last hours. Had I lost the Ismailia, I should have lost the Husseinyeh (aground), and then Omdurman, and the North Fort! And then the Town!

1 p.m.

The Arabs are firing on the steamers with their two guns. The Husseinyeh still aground; that is the reason of it. Firing, 1.30 p.m., now has ceased. The Ismailia, struck by three shells, had one man killed, fifteen wounded on board of her; she did really well. I boxed the telegraph clerk’s ears for not giviing me the telegram last night (after repeated orders that no consideration was to prevent his coming to me); and then, as my conscience pricked me, I gave him $5. He said he did not mind if I killed him - I was his father (a chocolate-coloured youth of twenty). I know all this is brutal - abrutissant, as Hansall calls it — but what is one to do? If you cut their pay, you hurt their families. I am an advocate for summary and quick punishment, which hurts only the defaulter. Had this clerk warned me, of course at daybreak, the steamers would have had their steam up, and been ready.’

Imagine my feelings!

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1917
Alfred A Cunningham,
aviator

‘After another night of expecting to be torpedoed any minute we sighted the lightship off Liverpool and took a pilot aboard. Every one on the ship had a feeling of relief and we bade our good friends the destroyers good-bye and they headed for sea to convoy some other ship in. I admit that I was rather disappointed that we did not have a brush with a sub, but this seems rather foolish considering the number it would have endangered. We arrived alongside the landing float at 10:30 a.m. The tide rises 30 ft. here so the steamers land alongside a tremendous floating wharf. The immigration officer looked us over and then we were examined by the customs people. They were extremely nice and did not ask me to pay duty on all the tobacco and cigars I have. I then landed and could not find a porter so had to lug my own baggage all over the place. Took lunch at the Adelphi Hotel and had my first experience with the war food laws. I was allowed about 1/4 of a lump of sugar, no butter and very little bread. The filet mignon I had looked like a piece of tripe. Everything is fairly reasonable, however. We left the Lime Street Station for London at 2 p.m. in one of those dinky little compartments. The country looked very peaceful and attractive and we arrived at Euston Station, London at 7 p.m. They have the most pernicious system of carrying baggage. You have to get your own baggage put in the van and when we arrived in London everyone made a wild rush for the baggage van and there was a regular riot for a while. Everyone scrambling to get their trunks, etc. and when you found your luggage you had to then find a porter and when you found him you had to hunt a cab. After wearing yourself out you finally have a cab with your luggage all over it and can go to a hotel. I never saw so much tipping. Everybody who looks at you has his hands out for a tip. I finally arrived at the Savoy Hotel and Stewart, Tumey and myself have a suite together. We took dinner at Simpson’s and I am now going to bed as the last few days have worn me out.’

Baggage and Boche

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1918
Lionel Dunsterville,
soldier

‘Susanna and Miss Key arrived from Murree by the early morning train and brought with them the wonderful news of: P E A C E AT LAST! and this GREATEST WAR is over. We are so accustomed to war in this fifth year that we can hardly believe the news. Meantime I have been more or less forgiven and am to have command of a new Brigade at Agra - but I do not believe now that the war is over that they will ever want any new Brigades. Susanna and Miss Key are staying with the Bomfords and we go over there also in a few days. We celebrated Peace at the Club with a Champagne dinner party with the Rennies.’

On Armistice Day 1918

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1952
Fredrik von Dardel,
stepfather to diplomat

‘. . . it was nevertheless decided that Raoul, in connection with the rain of decorations on the king’s 70th birthday would receive ‘Illis quorum’. Philipp’s action also aimed for this distinction to mark the Foreign Ministry’s understanding that Raoul was still alive.

So it was also understood by all the newspapers save Svenska Dagbladet, which mentioned the news item under the headline Posthumous Distinction for Raoul Wallenberg.

This was irksome, especially as this paper is the lifeblood of our social circle. After I and several others had shaken up the editorial staff, they introduced in the regional edition, and in the following day’s Stockholm edition, a correct statement in a prominent place.’

The Wallenberg curse

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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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