1916 Diary of Norman Allatt

In this 1916 diary, Norman Allatt writes about his experiences fighting in Northern France and in Belgium. The diary starts in transit as he leaves England for the France–Belgium border, arriving at his post in Bailleul, France. It is here that he spends his time on sentry, guarding listening posts or filling sandbags (29 February 1916). After two months along the border, travelling between Bailleul and Ploegsteert, Flanders, he focuses most of his time on sniping and map drawing, as the bombardment and shelling from the German side heavily progress, and the number of casualties grows. On 31 March 1916, Allatt witnesses the death of his friend Mac. Kagan, who was shot through the head, and Allatt carries the body away himself. Six weeks later, on the front lines at Zillebeke in West Flanders, Belgium, Allatt suffers a slight head wound from a sniper (20 May 1916). As his front-line engagement continues along the French border, he is exposed to exploding bombs and gas in the trenches and must sleep in the field. On 7 September 1916, Allatt writes that because of the heavy shelling and excessive bombing, he is “too scared to sleep.” The diary ends with his trip to Heckmondwike, England, to visit his family before returning to the front line in northern France. Amid the front line action, the tenderness of leaves and flowers pressed between these pages speaks of his humanity and vulnerability. 

Diary Transcription