Vaughan s diary rivals All Quiet on the Western Front as a battlefront narrative and an insight into the thought life of a soldier in the trenches The author s detailed descriptions of his experiences at Ypres allow the reader to observe history from a truly firsthand perspective. A truly harrowing first hand account of trenches action in the First World War I recommend it to anyone who might have a romantic and heroic idea of what warfare is all about. Excerpt From Publishers Weekly This Stark WWI Diary By A Year Old Subaltern In The British Army Begins With An Account Of His Eager Departure For The Western Front, And Ends Eight Months Later With An Awesome Description Of The Battle Of Ypres In Which Most Of His Company Died A Snobbish, Inept And Generally Insufferable Youngster When He Joined The Frontline Regiment, Vaughan Was Eventually Humbled Both By The Tongue Lashings Of Superiors And By His Ego Shattering Experiences In The Trenches He Is Frank About His Fear Of Death, Which Renders The Material In The Latter Half Of The Diary All The Moving, For One Discerns That Vaughan Is Gradually Turning Into A Brave And Capable Leader Of Infantry Some Entries Are Punctuated By Mad Laughter While, At The Same Time, A Tone Of Despair Becomes Evident Pretty good book Really gives you an idea of the conditions that the British fighting the Germans in France w trench warfare I do not envy Vaughn.. Compelling reading But I felt an adversarial response to the writer that made me work harder at reading the book he wasn t likeable, he pranked others, and he was sometimes sarcastic and secretive.I do not believe that this is a diary There are clues in the text matters of wording and construction that this is a memoir that was written some time after the fact And it certainly seems like something that was written for psychological catharsis, rather than a day by day accounting of daily life.I also felt compelled to extra illustrate and annotate the book because there was much detail that needed explaining Despite a good deal of research, I was still left with some questions regarding contemporary slang I could make some fairly good educated guesses especially when it seemed he was referring to a certain species of personal naughtiness but I couldn t be sure I question the fact that there were no pictures of the original text and that nothing was said about who decided to have this volume published I do not doubt the author wrote about his experiences but I would like to know. Edwin Campion Vaughn was a junior officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment during the Great War This book is his diary from January to August 1917, taking him from joining his regiment in France through to the slaughter and horror of Passchendale This is very much a warts and all account told purely from Edwin Vaughan s point of view We aren t told how he fits into the British stratergy, his view is focused purely on it s impact on him Nor are we told much about the experience of the NCOs and other ranks, other than when he is in direct contact with them We are though given a wonderful insight into the life of a junior officer on the Western Front, we are told of the privations he suffers, terrible living conditions, periods of fear and extreme danger However we also see the privleges enjoyed by officers, personal servants to, who cook their meals and look after their kit, they also have the money to buy little extras and alcohol, whisky being apparently in abundant supply.This is a very honest account and Edwin Vaughan admits that he was not keen on a number of his fellow officers and initially not impressed with the men with under his command, an opinion revised when they come under fire Nor are his superiors that impressed with him and at one point he is threatened with being sent home.The account comes to an end with the battle of Passchendale where only fifteen of his ninety men survive the attack, we leave him feely sick and lonely drinking whisky and gazing into a black and empty future I found this a moving but fascinating read. One of the best diaries of World War I ever published Vaughn was not a writer, but his diary reads as though he spent years studying the art Some of the scenes are so heartbreaking that you can t believe any human could survive them If you want to write fiction the diaristic form, this is an essential book to have It reads like a novel Be warned It ll make you very sad. This is one of the great books to come out of World War I It is a diary, from the author s arrival in France in January 1917 through fighting at Passchendaele in August of that year Vaughn would later become a decorated company commander and survived the war, but was fated to die at 33 of an overdose when his doctor gave him cocaine instead of novocaine The manuscript remained in his family s possession for decades until it was submitted to a publisher in the 1980s.Had Vaughn worked on the manuscript after the war to bring it into publishable form, it almost certainly would have been worse for the effort, with its embarrassing and unedifying incidents homogenized or removed Instead, it has the sense of immediacy that comes from events written about as soon as they happen Vaughn was not a natural military commander and leader of men he made mistakes, got yelled at, got angry and sulked, and got better at his job It s all there in the text, the raw story of a young man growing up under fire.The last thirty pages of the book are horrifying, and they are written in a flat, dispassionate style that only seems to emphasize the hellishness of the events Madness seems to claw at the mind Vaughn s, and perhaps the reader s too when he writesFrom the darkness of all sides came the groans and wails of wounded men faint, long, sobbing moans of agony, and despairing shrieks It was too horribly obvious that dozens of men with serious wounds must have crawled for safety into new shell holes, and now the water was rising about them and, powerless to move, they were slowly drowning.And we could do nothing to help them.His company attacked a fortified bunker through driving rain and mud and murderous enemy fire When they captured it he talked to a dying German officer inside whose leg had been shot away The German told him that his men saw the British coming and were about to mow them down with a machine gun when a tank, which had crawled up past the side of the bunker, sent a shot through the rear entrance, killing or wounding everyone inside Minutes later the tank took a direct hit from an artillery shell and was destroyed with all hands.By the time the position was captured the company had been reduced from ninety men to fifteen Vaughn struggled to find words that would convey the ghastliness of the chaos and terror they had experienced If ever an author has summoned the horrors of a season in hell, it is in these pages.The book ends abruptly the day after the remnants of the company were pulled out of the line Vaughn felt no reason to continue with the diary, no hope remaining for anyone or anything The diary ends with, So this was the end of D Company Feeling sick and lonely, I returned to my tent to write out my casualty report but instead I sat on the floor and drank whisky after whisky as I gazed into a black and empty future. I have to admit to being slightly biased as the author is my great uncle I remember my mother talking about him and other family members who were involved in both WW1 and WW2, so it was a lovely surprise to find this book it was a very large Catholic family, so we no longer had contact with that part of the family We discovered the book when it was reviewed in a national newspaper.When the author starts his diary he is very much a boy by today s standards , when the diary ends he is a man Edwin is sent to France and doesn t really have a clue what he should be doing Everything appears to be dis organised and haphazard, but gradually he manages to make sense of his duties and responsibilities This book really is a diary some entries don t seem to make much sense, some are pretty dull This is redeemed by some amazing descriptions of everyday life in the trenches and narrow escapes I think my great uncle comes over as a pretty ordinary chap in an extraordinary situation He, and so many others, were so young in this war This is brought home in a lovely passage where he is supervising a road being repaired, when he and another NCO make little boats and sail them in a puddle until a disgruntled soldier fills the hole I m a little hazy on the small details of this scene as it s been a few years since I ve read the book Basically, it s the fact that they are playing like young boys It is worth reading this book to the end as this is where it becomes really memorable I don t want to give anything away, but his descriptions of a battlefield after the guns have stopped firing are truly astounding I ve never heard a description like it It must be a good one as I have heard parts of it quoted on the radio in England on Remembrance Day And that was a funny feeling. Only published in the 80s, these diaries record in a matter of fact manner the lfe of a young officer on the Western Front The episode describing the capture of a pillbox in the later stages of 3rd Ypres is, in my view, one of the most vivid accounts of WW1 action ever written Deserves to be placed in the first rank of WW1 literature.
Captain Edwin Campion Vaughan, MC.
- 232 pages
- Some Desperate Glory: The World War I Diary of a British Officer, 1917
- Edwin Campion Vaughan
- 09 September 2019 Edwin Campion Vaughan