1915 Diary of Norman Allatt

In this diary, Norman Allatt records his experiences training in Canada and subsequently serving as a sniper from the moment he arrived in England on 26 August 1915 until January 1916 when he was in France. Some entries have been copied from Allatt’s 1914 notebook either verbatim or in expanded form, suggesting that Allatt might have had both the 1914 and 1915 notebooks with him in 1915 and wrote some 1915 entries in the 1914 notebook by mistake or because the 1914 notebook was more accessible at the time of a specific entry (see editorial note for the 1914 diary for more details). In any case, this 1915 diary provides a fuller account of Allatt’s first year of enlistment and deployment. He begins with his training while still in Canada, which included shooting drills, trench digging, and bomb throwing. Upon his arrival in Plymouth in August 1915, Allatt was often assigned as mess orderly and was given new training tasks, such as learning “how to dig yourself in in ten minutes” (6 September 1915). On 9 October 1915, while he was on guard, Allatt writes that he “helped to carry soldier on stretcher” who had fallen down a cliff. He later notes that the soldier “died a little later with fractured skull.” During this time, some soldiers began contracting diphtheria and others were drafted into the trenches to take their place, Allatt being one of them (25 October 1915). He spent many nights in the trenches, including that of 7 December 1915, which was his birthday. The diary ends with a list of contact names and their corresponding addresses. The list includes his future wife, Gertrude (Gertie) May Benford, whom he would marry on 5 May 1920.

Diary Transcription