Brittain, Vera, Diary, 27 June 1915

Diary of Vera Brittain


Case Study: 
From Youth to Experience: Vera Brittain’s Work for Peace in Two World Wars
Brittain, Vera
27 June 1915
McMaster University Libraries
Vera Brittain estate; McMaster University has a non-exclusive licence to publish this document.


is a cheerful upstairs room full of different coloured bottles, & dressings & smelling of various antiseptics & anesthetics. I talked there to a Scotch soldier they called “Jock”, who had been there ever since Christmas, when he was sent back from the front after a month with frost-bitten feet. He was a very cheerful & intelligent person, most anxious to talk, & possessed of such a Scotch accent that frequently I could hardly understand what he said at all. He told me various stories about his trenches near Ypres (a name which is pronounced in more ways than the most ingenious mind could possibly calculate.) On one occasion they were opposite the Saxons, whom they greatly preferred to the ordinary Germans. On one occasion they & the Saxons made a mutual agreement not to shoot one another, they continued to use their rifles so as not to seem inactive, but aimed all their shots into the air. They actually used to meet in the space between the trenches & carry on conversations -- in what language I can’t imagine. Finally the Saxons had to charge with the Prussian guard & promised that when they got out of the trenches & the enemy who was the enemy came in, they would fire a volley as warning – which they did. This man told me he had frequently stood up to his waist in water in mid-winter, and hadn’t had any hot meals either. He also told me how many young officers & men had been shot soon after going out through over-carelessness about putting their heads above the parapet of the trench. The men are keen to have a look at the battlefield, put up their heads to see, -- and it is all over with them. He told me how they had lost one of their officers in this way – a Capt. MacGregor, who was a splendid officer & greatly loved by all his men. The first day they went in the trenches he exhorted his men all the time to keep their heads below, but was not at all careful of himself; he said it was only his men that mattered. He was a big man &