Title - February 1915 Diary of 12/69 Alphaeus Abbott Casey

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Monday 1st February 1915

Clear sky, frosty.

Digging connecting trenches on Roper’s Hill, 5’ 6” deep, 2’ 6” wide top, 1’ 6” bottom, zigzag side 6 paces. Draycott partner. Did about 4’ 6” in 3 hrs. Hard work, especially when deep down.

Afternoon route march carrying equipment, coat in haversack and entrenching tool on. Went via Ringinglow and back, practising fixing bayonets on road. Nicols[Nichols?] hit brewery man with snowball. Very amusing.

6-9pm more trench digging. Stables as partner. Very fatigued, hands sore. Teased Foster and Clark.

Soup for supper.

Hear a cook going to Aldershot April 2nd for course in field cooking. Looks as if we shan’t leave until April. Piano arrived, 5d each per month.

Tuesday 2nd February 1915

Dull, raining. Mess orderly. Porridge and bacon for brekker. Parade 10.40. Stiff. Everyone tired. Acted as flanker scout in open drill with sections extended.

Afternoon, raining, physical exercise in hut under Townsend. Simpson showed us new one, arms locked on floor, pull head over heels. Pulled Howard and Draycott. Also some wrestled Cumbrian style, hands clasped.

After break bayonet drill under Sgt. Mjr. Costello. Point downwards to man in trench, pull out by shortening under rt arm. When parry and too close to enemy, can shorten over rt arm. Still drizzling, heavier and heavier, in huts, cleaned rifle. Sing-song round piano (Camp Songs 1/6) after tea. Evening in Y.M.C.A.I., beat Stables, lost of Copplestone at chess.

Wednesday 3rd February 1915

Dull weather.

Shooting. Scored 79% at 25yds. No. 8 Rifle Squad drill. Weary of it. Brush with L.Cl. Simpson. Told him off.

1st kaki[sic] suit served out to about ½ A Co. Looked like Tommies.

Afternoon trench digging. Cover trenches 2 ft. wide at bottom, 5 ft. deep. After 2 hrs started sniping with clay pellets. Developed into fusillade, Capt Allen and Lieut Storey joining in. Sport. Night march past Lodge Moor, to left along Manchester Rd and back up Wyming Brook. Very dark, judged no. of party marched past. Cocoa.

Everett and Townsend played duets including majestic Wedding March.

Thursday 4th February 1915

Dull, sleet. Parade 10.40am. 10.40-12.30 physical exercise under Blank. Games 11.30-12.30. Bantam fight, charging on one leg. Very amusing. Knocked 4 men out. Beaten by Godwin. Stand jumps. Fine sport. Afternoon bayonet drill under Sgt. Mjr. Marsden. Fixing and unfixing. Later 2 movements between knees.

To fix on march, trail arms, raise muzzle, fix, on guard, slope, time from rt hand man. In close column marker holds hand or bayonet above head. Bayonet. On guard, left elbow close to rifle. Mans breast, rifle end, and eye in line. Rifles cleaned. Beat Stables 2-0 chess.

Friday 5th February 1915

Washer up. Drill.

Outpost scheme. Was detailed as sanitary man of no. 1 picket. Had to dig trench 3 ft wide and 1 ft deep, earth piled on one side only.

Quarry 2-4.30pm. Wheeled barrow, smashed blocks. Fun doing squad drill with barrows. Paid 7/1. Peeled potatoes.

Concert in Y.M. 7-9.30pm by Endcliffe Wesleyan Choir. Excellent on whole. A beautiful girl, Isobel Duffy. English. Quiet, sweet rosy face. Clear voice. Sang Killarney. Another artist sang “When my ship comes home”. Wish I had a sweetheart to confide in. How lonely I feel often. “And God saw that it was not good for man to live alone”. Beautiful thought. My dream girl, how I love her. And man’s folly cuts short the creations of human and divine aspiration. How Clarke and Stables teased me.

Saturday 6th February 1915

Put equipment together. Buckles same distance on either side of belt so that back buckles are in middle of back. Next put bayonet frog on. Then put braces on, left over rt, for average man 1in over end of short strap. Bottle on rt side fastened to braces, haversack at left, braces. Entrenching tool on rt, pack resting on belt. No route march, raining heavily. Got pass till 11.55pm.

Saw Wednes v Oldham 2-2. Fastest game seen this season. Wednes best team, ought to have won.

Evening 7.30-12.30pm, Lyceum with Tom and Douglas, “Chocolate Soldier”. Good. Colonel Popoff humorous. Fine singing. Artistic scenery.

Neutrals angry at blockade threat. We are rather amused, more unconcerned. Barracks 11.15pm. Clammy fog. All asleep.

Sunday 7th February 1915

Hut orderly, Raining all day. No rations to fetch.

Afternoon singing. Apricots for tea. Gramophone and piano.

Monday 8th February 1915

Shooting at range. Scored 66%. Firing in snow storm, difficult to see target at 25 yds. Squad drill.

Afternoon, still snowing, physical exercise in hut under Marsden. 3-4pm 2nd batch of 20 went to be vaccinated. Never been done before. Don’t believe in it. No good causing trouble. Hot arguments between different sides. Operation simple, not so rotten as inoculation. Made several scratches on 2 patches on left arm until blood came and then squirted little vaccine over each. Skin 1st cleaned. After little covering put on. Tea and biscuits. Evening straightforward route march to Stanage Pole and back. Rifles only. Snow on ground. Clear sky. Back 8.50pm. Answered picket (inlying). In afternoon given new suit, kaki. Forage cap rotten round shape.

Tuesday 9th February 1915

Parade 10.50. Equipment on. Neck of water bottle should be on level with belt. Inspected. My braces were slack. Platoon drill. Heard Hanforth died having had relapse after operation in January. Neumonia[sic]. 20. Eldest son. Rotten luck, Military funeral.

Afternoon bayonet drill under Costello, inspected by Gymnast, formed one of 12 to practise ceremonial drill, firing party for funeral.

Present arms as put in hearse. Reverse by extending arms to front, turning rifle upside down, change position of hands, cant it backwards catching it at lower band behind back with rt hand, butt up. March slow time about 200 yds.

Evening fine concert at Y.M. Harry Hull, Mrs Unwin, Hoole (Bones), ect. All tip top artistes. “Once more to breach”. Officers present.

Wednesday 10th February 1915

Clear, frosty. Trench digging. Skirmishing with pellets.

Afternoon. Ceremonial drill. Quick march at trail, rifle reversed, 2 movements from reverse. When arrive at Cemetery gates (slow marching) open out to 8 paces, inwards turn, rest on arms reversed. Bring rt hand round to butt, then left, bend head and remain until coffin and chief mourners passed thru. Reverse arms, quick march to grave. Rest on arms reversed during burial service. Present arms as coffin lowered, slope arms, volleys load, pre-sent. Fire. 3 times. Unload. Order arms. Fix bayonets. Present, last salute to dead. Unfix.

Evening route march, equipment, no rifles. Clear sky, 6-9.15pm.

Thursday 11th February 1915

Clear sky.

Morning:- Ceremonial drill.

Afternoon: Football match, A & B v C & D. Moses unwell, took inlying picket for him. Had to keep crowd back.

Good game. A men vaccinated and so couldn’t go in with vigour. Result 2-3. Sg Heppenstall scored both, penalties.

Supper given to teams.

Pains in stomach at night.

Borrowed Norton’s rifle and thoroughly cleaned it ready for morrow.

Outline of U.S.A. Notes to Great Britain re neutral flags on merchant vessels, and to Germany re proposed submarine blockade.

Friday 12th February 1915

Ceremonial drill 11-12.45. Fed up with it. Unwin worrying himself to death.

Hanforth’s funeral. Bearers left 10.45am. Platoon and other followers at 11.

Hurried dinner, Unwin rushing about, silly fool.

Bus to Crosspools, marched to Ranmoor Church, where, after waiting 1 ½ hrs, met procession from Cathedral.

Fell in with arms at reverse in front of gun carriage. Marched to Fulwood Churchyard at trail, changing arms, rifles reversed, last 150 yds slow march, arms reversed, very impressive. Opened out inside gate and rested on arms reversed after arm movement. Short cut to grave. Beautiful burial service by Chaplain. Present arms, 3 good volleys, fix bayonets, last tribute to dead present arms, last post. This was blown in splendid fashion and gave a grand and awe inspiring impression. Reminds one that a man yearns for a reawakening of the soul after death.

In evening, headache, shivery, went to bed. Doctor came round about 2am, inspecting men, about 20 who had been vaccinated fainting after hard march to town.

Saturday 13th February 1915

Felt rotten, headache, pains all over body, rt ear drum and bronchial tube clog. Doctor gave me some medicine and put on slops diet. High temp. Had oxo for dinner. Couldn’t take much food. Got Clarke to bring me up bottle of Bovril.

News of combined aeroplane and seaplane operation previous day by 34 naval aeroplanes and seaplanes on Zeebrugge, Blankenberge and Ostend, latter railway station demolished.

Sunday 14th February 1915

In bed. Still rotten.

Clarke and all chaps jolly kind.

Arnold Kay dropped in to see me. Said Tom send word Douglas got a good government post Londonway.

Monday 15th February 1915

Bed. No parades for vaccinated cripples until next Monday. Also they not allowed out of camp until Saturday.

Had sick parade round hut, Townsend with one foot in a sling consisting of puttee round his neck, the dry scrubber as a crutch, towel for a sling for arm, dish cloth round his head. Looked very humorous.

Saw Arnold Kay in evening.

Tuesday 16th February 1915


Dictated letters to Clarke and wrote mother for herb tea, clean pyjamas and kerchiefs. Also congratulated Douglas.

Air operations continued by 40 aeroplanes. French steamer torpedoed.

Death of Captain of Blucher from pneumonia.

Wednesday 17th February 1915


Dictated letters to Clarke and wrote mother for herb tea, clean pyjamas and kerchiefs. Also congratulated Douglas.

[The entry for 16th February included then crossed out – suggests pages may have been written up later when feeling better!]

Pater came up in afternoon with necessaries and few bananas, bottle of Bovril, cake. Had chat for ½ hr. Temp 103°F.

Thursday 18th February 1915

Bed. Got up little in morning but felt rotten so went back to bed.

Tom arrived 4.35pm, having had to wait 1½ hrs for bus. Brought jar of Blackcurrant jam, oranges, egg.

Clarke showed him round camp.

German submarine blockade of British Isles due to begin.

Friday 19th February 1915

Bed. Bad headache in afternoon so didn’t get up. Played Hut 1 at pingpong and won 4-3. Concert in evening, Quartet sung, Whiteley gave delightful reading on “how to become a defaulter”. 3 stages. Jones sang Welsh National Anthem (Land of my Fathers).

Hear of sinking of 2 small slow ships. Evidently submarines as useful as remainder of German fleet.

Zeppelin L3 destroyed on Scandinavian island (Faro Isl) after great storm. Seem to be pretty useless toys.

Housewife and Oldale served out.

Carlisle drew 7/- for me.

200th day of way [sic – war?]

Saturday 20th February 1915

Got up a little. Bed in afternoon. 3 of Varsity girls came up. Had tea in hut. Soon to be taking finals, graduating. Zeppelin L4 also destroyed in snow storm. Doctor won’t let me go home yet.

Sunday 21st February 1915

Head thick. Bed afternoon and early evening. Very tired, arm almost better.

Aeroplane drops bombs on Colchester, Coggeshall and Braintree at night, doing trifling damage.

Monday 22nd February 1915

Hurrah. Doctor can go home for 7 dys. Left camp 12am wearing khaki uniform for 1st time. Beautiful sunshine, skylarks singing. “Hail to thee blythe spirit”. Bus to town. City foggy. Home 1pm. Surprised, expected me on Saturday. Soup for dinner. Poached eggs on toast tea. Fish and chips supper.

Nice to be at home again. Saw Mrs Turner and Mr and Mrs Thorpe. Dardanells[sic] bombarded by allied fleet. Looks as if are going to force them. Loose lot of grain and oil in Russia and lower grain prices, competing with American. Russians seem to have had big defeat. Thought they would. Masurian Lake District big stumbling block. We shall have to beat Germany.

Bed 9pm. Feather bed.

Tuesday 23rd February 1915

Poached eggs on toast, bed. Rose 11am. Played piano. Read papers; one or two small steamers sunk. Slept a little.

Evening went down town. Bought knife in market, 10/6. Good one.

Went to Electra. Good picture, “Playing with fire”. Whoever plays with fire, whether guilty or guiltless, will suffer the pain of burn.

Easily dropped back into civilian life. Conscription would be a curse; it would take away true freedom and in time ruin that freedom which is an Englishman’s pride. We are a race of sportsmen, and as such we can even hunt men. Proud am I of my country, of the land that gave me birth; for her have I turned to a harsh life. Tis the rational egoism which helps us to remain – rulers of the world.

Wednesday 24th February 1915

Breakfast in bed. Rose 10.30. Am beginning to feel better.

Went walk in afternoon, out about 1½ hrs. Felt weak. Very tired.

Evening Coliseum. Good picture, “The end of the bridge”. Sir Markham challenges coal trade by fixing maximum price of 15/- per ton for coal at his collieries which produce 4,000,000 tones per annum. Coal in London £2 per ton owing to freights 13-17/- per ton. Rotten shame. Wish government would smash up the rings. Wheat down 6d per qr[quarter] at Liverpool.

Thursday 25th February 1915

Had breakfast downstairs at 10am.

Admiralty announce outer forts defending entrance to Dardanelles destroyed. Good work. Turks will be feeling queer.

Afternoon, 1.30-4pm, went for stroll with pater. Beautiful day, rather cold. Came back through Roe Wood, going through Southey.

Evening went to Empire. Good piece in which a veteran of Napoleon describes the former glories of France to a Prussian sergeant, ending with fulfilment of promise to Napoleon that would, if needs be, give life for France.

Saw through new house, 101 Burngreave Rd. Much better than one we are in.

Friday 26th February 1915

Boiled egg for brekker. Am feeling much stronger. Official announcement that since blockade declared 763 ships entered ports and about same no. left. Out of these 14 were sunk, 7 by submarine and 7 by mine or submarine, and several of these were neutral ships.

Afternoon had name and address put on knife. Cost 6d.

Went to cinema. Beautiful film of American waterfalls, the “Bridal Vale” Waterfall being exquisite.

Evening went over songs and music taking back to camp.

Saturday 27th February 1915

Brekker in bed.

Bit of panic on Chicago Exchange at news of bombardment of Dardanelles. Wheat down 6d at Liverpool. Russians making big stand.

Botha advances in German S.W. Africa.

Afternoon saw United beat Newcastle 1-0, Kitchen scored 1st min. Decent game, Newcastle forwards weak.

Evening Coliseum. Good programme. “The Aftermath” very good.

Blockade declared of German S.W. Africa, 400 miles of coastline.

Last night at home. Then back to the simple life.

Hot bath.

Last night at home.

Dacia, cotton, transferred ship, stopped by French cruiser and taken to Brest.

Sunday 28th February 1915

Rose 12.30am. Made most of chance. Afternoon played music, made parcels, cleaned buttons, rested. Tea.

Chapel, Arnfield preaching.

Proverbs. Keep thy heart diligently. Sermon good in parts. Said doesn’t care about German or English culture so long as heart allright. Rot.

Official news of destruction of 4 forts at entrance to Dardanelles, Allied flags over forts, first 4 mls swept clear of mines.

Had to walk from Tom Lane, que[sic] of 200 waiting for buses. Snow and rain drizzling, uphill, fagged out.

Hut looked bare and cheerless. Made bed. Sleep about 11pm. 

PointerNext instalment

Permission to publish this transcript of Alphaeus Casey's diary is by kind permission of Jacky Hodgson and the University of Sheffield Library.

Top | Sheffield City Battalion | Site Map