Pirie’s diary is a very special one, not all diaries make good reading. Some are terse, some cover only trivialities, whilst with others the diarist is too absorbed in himself and his immediate concerns. Pirie’s diary has none of these faults. He was a popular and gregarious man with a sense of humour, as well as a keen and sympathetic observer of his fellow soldiers, he saw much frontline service, in both big actions and routine trench warfare. His diary throws light on the battles in which he served, the routine life of infantry battalions in and out of the line and the experiences of a regimental medical officer. On the Western Front he served in the 9th East Surrey Regiment, the brigadier of which was General Mitford, of Wipers Gazette fame. He also shared the regiment with R.C. Sherriff, author of Journey’s End, and the men who Sherriff used as models for his play.
Unlike so many accounts, written decades after the war and distorted by fading memories and hindsight, Pirie’s diary is fresh: it tells how things were and, rightly or wrongly, how they were perceived at the time. Often, he did not know what tomorrow would bring for him and his companions. Many of them, like him, did not live to see the Armistice. This diary is the Great War as it was experienced, the strain of unrelenting shelling and sniper fire, with danger ever present in the frontline; but also the comradeship and light relief in and out of the line, which helped to make things bearable. Pirie’s diary is published here for the first time. It is complete and unabridged, with introductions to the man and his diary, his campaigns, and with extensive notes. The editor has made much use of both published and unpublished sources, while his previous book was a history of the unit with which Pirie served on the Western Front. This book is profusely illustrated with photographs, maps, and contemporary caricatures, including of Pirie and his friends
FRONTLINE MEDIC – GALLIPOLI, SOMME, YPRES. THE DIARY OF CAPTAIN GEORGE PIRIE, R.A.M.C. 1914-17
Captain George Pirie, R.A.M.C., born in South Africa and educated in Scotland, kept a detailed diary throughout his frontline service with the British Army at Gallipoli and the Somme, up to his death in action at Ypres in July 1917. He was a brave and skilful medic, serving as a regimental medical officer with infantry battalions, who was twice mentioned in Dispatches.
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