An ordinary soldier's account of his travels to the Dardanelles and Somme via Egypt
Eileen was reading the “Darwen Advertiser” one day in November 1982 when she said, “That’s my Uncle Albert!” Next to his photograph, part of his diary had been transcribed - life in the trenches at Gallipoli. This is how the article began:
“TODAY we publish the lucid and vivid diary of a Darwen man who volunteered for the Fourth East Lancashire Regiment during the First World War. Mrs Nellie Garner unearthed her late husband Albert's diary of his time in the Dardanelles while looking through some old papers. Mr Garner died in May 1968 when he was 72 and his widow is now 86. The couple have four children, Raymond who lives in Darwen, Tom who lives in Cleveleys, Joan who is in America, and Connie, now living in Pudsey.
The first link will take you to copies of the original diary pages, the next two to transcriptions which are much easier to read! To return here, use your browser back button.
“Said Connie: "My mother doesn't see too well and she showed them to me. I was astonished, it is the first time we have seen them and unfortunately he doesn't use any dates, but they are so clear and vivid and a fascinating document." Said Mrs Garner: "Albert Joined up in October 1914 and went to the Dardanelles. He came home with dysentery and afterwards he was sent to France where he was injured in the foot. He came back to England and was at Heaton Park for a long time and when the war was over he was training new recruits in Rhyl. He was a private and became a corporal."
Connie sent the diary to the Imperial War Museum and later lent us her transcription of the second part, his journey to the Somme. Eileen and I went to the Museum in 2009 and requested the original handwritten pages. We were shown into a reading room high in the dome of the magnificent Georgian building and an archivist carried the card filing folder to where we sat on our balcony, research scholars busy working far below at desks on the reading room floor. As we read Uncle Albert's pencil-written rough pages, the story became even more real than previously.
Albert's journey to the Somme was roundabout, to say the least! The British army was sending him from England to Belgium and northern France so his trip included passing Gibralter, travelling down the Med as far as Egypt and then, a month later, setting sail for Marseilles where he caught a train to the Somme!
The illustrations on this page were selected because of their relevance to his story, for instance the hospital ship that evacuated him and the pictures of his East Lancs Regiment. Some of them come from a "The 42nd [East Lancashire] Division, 1914-18" by Frederick P Gibbon, London 1920 - an excellent resource!
We were unable to find his service records, probably destroyed during WWII, but we know that Albert was demobilised in March 1919 and returned to Darwen to marry his fiance, Nellie Entwisle, later the same year.