Alcie's First World War Diaries

Alcie Petavel, in her 30s from Gravesend, Kent, writes about her first hand experiences of the First World War as a civilian. She provides the reader with illuminating insight into events that are unravelling day by day around her both in the media and from her own day –to-day experiences. The detail is very personal and at times you almost feel there with her, transported back in time when you delve into the pages of her diary.

I would like to share some extracts of some of the interesting details she shares with us by regular blog instalments:

12th October 1914 (book 4)

Alcie at times is shown to have quite strong opinions. She writes about her disdain for the British troops taking time out for leisure:  ‘thousands of eligible men spent the afternoon watching a football match instead of practising shooting’. She goes on to say that ‘what they all deserve is horsewhipping’. 

In the same diary entry she talks highly of the famous Lord Baden Powell (founded the Scout movement, and first Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts Association and also a lieutenant-general in the British Army) and says what a good example he has set to these idle troops by going straight off to the front. She he says he ‘harangued’ these men for their behaviour. Alcie then goes on to express her frustrations about not being able to do more for the war effort; ‘oh if only I were a man I could be off’.

Alcie talks about the invasion of Belgium in an entry on 13th October 1914 and her dread of German occupation of England. ‘For all intense purposes Belgium is a German province’ and says she has read in the news that an ordinary chaplain In Belgium has said ‘if the way the Germans carry on here is any criterion of how they would carry on if they got to England, God help us for no one else could’.

14th October 1914 (book 4)

We get to learn more about how the landscape is being changed within London during the First World War regarding military defences being built against the Germans. Some of these are being created almost on her doorstep! Alcie mentions in her diary that Gravesend has been ‘making trenches on all these downs which constitute the main defences of London’. She then describes just how very close these defences are to where she lives by telling us that she is situated on the brow of the hill where the defences are being built and she believes that if the Germans landed our authorities would either want her house ‘blown up or evacuated to shoot from!’. 

17th October 1914 (book 4)

Alcie writes about the famous loss of a ship which was reported in the media of the H.M.S. Hawke which was torpedoed by the Germans in the North Sea. The H.M.S. Hawke was a cruiser built in 1889. The ship apparently went down fast and there were heavy causalities, the loss of life being 524 officers and men, including the ship’s captain Hugh P.E.T. Williams with only 70 survivors. Alcie reports this event by saying that the ‘H.M.S. Hawke has been torpedoed and sunk. Most of her crew lost. It happened Thursday afternoon’. She says how the German press has reported this event ‘gloating in would be ghoulish vein over the anticipated destruction of our fleet’.