Frederick William Fea’s Diary
30th October 1914 – The golden sun is setting in the crimson-pink sky and I’m safely away from the front line. I just came back and had some of the disgusting grub that they poison us with daily. I know that I shouldn’t complain but I’m really getting sick of it. The bread’s not even fresh. It’s disgusting watching all the vulgar men fighting over the food and poor tea and stuffing their faces with what they can lay their hands on. You have to be really careful here not to get your food stolen by the scum that infest this place.
I’m not saying that I’m genteel or anything, but I do have principles. I hope I can keep them longer than this rabble have. The sounds that I can hear from the front-line are as worrying as usual. I guess I’ve got used to them but they do frighten me from time to time. Its surprisingly different at the front line. You just seem to loose all your hearing and sense of time. And, when you look back at what happened, you just remember a blur of red colour. You’re just worried about staying alive, I guess.
Not even the dead, choking men can take that instinct from you. It’s mad. At first, I got so upset about what I saw; dying men choking, guttering and drowning in their own blood through a thick cloud of green gas, but know I just don’t see it the way I used to. I get worried sometimes that I don’t even flinch when I accidentally step on a mutilated corpse. Well, at least I’m not as bad as the men who can have a laugh when they see their friend’s head sticking out of the mud. The stink here is awful.
I can’t take it anymore. But there’s no escape. I can’t get out of this place without fear of being shot or taken captive. I wish I never came here. I really wish I ignored all those adverts in the papers, telling men to come to war. I know it’s good and noble to die for England etc. , but i just want my wife and kids back. I must really sound like a coward, but what does that matter? As if anyone’s going to read it. Well its getting late – the sun’s gone down and it’s too dark to write. Everyone’s going to sleep.
I’ve got to find a space in the bunkers before they’re all taken… 31st October 1914 – It’s just before dawn and my rest period’s just ended. I could hardly sleep anyway. I was thinking about getting out of this place. I wonder if I’ll live through this war and get back to England. In about 10 minutes me and some other men are going back to the front line. They’re all eating breakfast. I don’t feel like any though. The front line’s curiously quiet. I don’t know what’s going on there but it cant be too bad, otherwise the officers would have told us.
Anyway, while I’m here I might as well talk about my wife and kids as its the only nice thought I have in the world. I know I’ve talked about them a hundred times in this journal but I don’t mind and neither do you, you’re just a book. Well, I met Sarah while I was working for her father in their big stately mansion, Pembershire House. I was her and her sister’s drawing master. She was really enthusiatic about sketching. Her clear blue eyes would always look so thoughtfully and attentively at me when I instructed her. Well, I proposed to her and she accepted.
Her family accepted readily enough since her own mother was from a poor middle-class home when Laura’s father married her. But I could see that they were a bit upset as they wanted the best for her. Anyway, we lived in a nice house in Cumberland and after a… They’re calling for me. I’d better be off. Wish me luck. 1st November 1914 – Can’t speak much. We’re all going over the top in the morning and launch a surprise attack on the Germans. It doesn’t look very hopeful. The Germans have got those big guns that shoot over a far range – forgot what they’re called.
We’re all getting prepared and checked for anything wrong with out uniforms by the officers. It’ll be my battalion’s turn in a bit. I really don’t want to do this. I hope I’ll be able to see my wife and kids again. Then again, I might never even be able to write about them ever again. My head is aching. I can’t concentrate very well. My hands are shaking and sweaty. I can’t write anymore. I must leave you, my friendly journal. Hopefully I shall write in you again, but I forebode that Fate will not be so kind to me.