[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I

Flanders: 1914.

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Hardcover. Small octavo measuring 3" x 6". Approximately 140pp. Cloth over stiff paper boards with maroon leatherette spine housed in a specially made box. Very good or better with some edgewear and rubbing. Two pages have pencil scribbles, presumably by a child.

A manuscript trench diary kept by Captain Edward Kemble Twiss while serving on the front lines with the 1st Dorsetshires line in the first few months of World War I. Twiss’s diary begins in October of 1914 and continues through December of that year reciting an almost daily account of his experiences during that time. The 1st Dorsetshires landed at Le Havre on the 16th of August 1914 as part of the British Expeditionary Forces, and fought at Mons that month. Captain Twiss’s diary begins with a march to Weymouth Station in October 1914, in less than a week’s time he is billeted with his regiment and on the battle front. He is given command of A Company with Captain Mostyn and Lieutenant Shannon. On October 29th they moved to Festoubert under shell fire to reinforce the Devons and Manchesters. He writes, “rifle fire and shells all over the place. This is a pretty hot show!!!” Thus begins Twiss’s harrowing descriptions of life in the trenches.

Twiss relates the conditions of the soldiers dealing with constant shelling and battles writes, “without a doubt this is the limit, it is pure and simple murder, and attacking against modern guns and rifles is too awful for words. However, we all manage to keep merry and bright, it’s no good worrying!!” He later continues, “They say the battle in the North has been won, by jove, it does not seem like it here, it has been fiercer than ever the last few days; the whole ground shakes from morning to night.” He complains about the lack of news about the war, making it clear how important letters from home are for the troops. He remarks on how the French and Germans leave their dead and he is unable to do the same. He writes, “I am having a great difficulty in getting hold of the man blown over the front of the trench. I must get him home and bury him.” In another entry he notes where a fellow soldier was buried at what would later become the Wolverghem-Lindenhoek Military Cemetery.

Of note is a passage that concerns the famous Christmas truce of 1914. He writes, “What an extraordinary show this is. On Xmas Eve the Germans were all singing songs and their National Anthem, and our fellows ‘chipped in’ with ‘God Save the King’ and ‘Are We Down-hearted,' etc. Xmas Day they tell us has been spent in the most friendly way, both sides coming out of the trenches, meeting half-way, & exchanging cigarettes and having a yarn…it was sort of an un-official truce. One man of the Devons is supposed to have cut one of the Germans hair out in the open. There were as many as 1500 men out in the open together all chatting away. The Bavarians are opposite to us and they say they were all beautifully clean and seemed quite happy. It was all very strange, really, but so like our fellows.” At the time generals played down any fraternization with the enemy, and these instances were omitted from official reports. However, they are recorded in the many diaries kept by troops. The end of December brings the diary to a close, and Captain Twiss is granted a much deserved seven-day leave.

Edward Kemble Twiss was an English first-class cricketer and served as an officer in the British Army and the British Indian Army. In 1901 he played “minor counties cricket” in Oxfordshire, making “five appearances in the Minor Counties Championship.” He eventually decided to make a career in the military and enlisted as a second lieutenant with the Devonshire Regiment in the summer of 1901. His first campaign was in the Second Boer War and by 1904 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He was transferred to the British Indian Army in 1905 and joined the 10th Jats. In 1910 he earned the rank of captain and made two appearances in first-class cricket for the Europeans against the Hindus in the 1913-1914 Bombay Presidency matches in Poona. During the First World War Twiss was “cited for the Distinguished Service Order in June of 1916” and rose to the rank of major shortly after. After World War I he served with the British Indian Army as a Lieutenant Colonel until retiring in March of 1920.

A historically important, highly detailed, almost daily account of an officer's harrowing experiences on the front line.


Item #450332

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[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I. Captain Edward Kemble TWISS.
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I
[Archive]: Flanders Trench Diary World War I