The author of this diary is an artillery officer who served on the Western Front from 1 September 1915 till his death in action on 31st March 1918, and it is one of the best, ranking alongside Old Soldiers Never Die and The Journal of Private Fraser. Following two brief spells in 1914/1915 with the BEF during the first of which he was injured when his horse fell on him, he arrived in France on 1st September 1915 as OC ‘C’ Battery, 108 Brigade RFA, 24th Division and before the end of the month he was in the thick of it at Loos. His description of the scene is graphic. He writes about trying to get his guns forward on roads jammed with traffic, trying to find the infantry brigade he was supposed to support, floundering about in the dark under heavy shellfire in an enormous plain of clay having the consistency of vaseline, devoid of any landmark or feature, covered in shell holes. His own artillery brigade commander had been killed before the offensive began which left him in command of all four batteries in what was virtually his first action, and a major offensive at that. Later he gives a vivd account of the German gas attack at Wulverghem on 30 April 1916, when a mixture of chlorine and phosgene was used causing 338 casualties in the division. During August and September 1916 his division took part in the bitter fighting for Delville Wood and Guillemont, and the diary entries for this period provide some of the most powerfully descriptive writing recorded in any memoirs. There are excellent maps showing battery positions. He was in action at Messines in June 1917 and a month later at Third Ypres. In August 1917 he was finally given command of a brigade, 108th Brigade RFA still in the 24th Division. When the Germans struck on 21st March 1918 Hamilton was on leave in the UK, but he quickly managed to get back to his brigade, which was in action near Rosieres, a few miles east of Amiens. On 31st March he was killed when a shell burst under his horse just as had happened in October 1914; on that occasion he got away with an injury, this time there was no reprieve. He is buried in the communal cemetery at Rouvrel about three miles west of Moreuil, the only Commonwealth war grave in that cemetery. If your battlefield tour takes you near Amiens, make a point of visiting the grave of a brave soldier; it is fifteen years since I was there. This book is a wonderful and fitting memorial to him.
WAR DIARY OF THE MASTER OF BELHAVEN 1914-1918
Memoirs of an artillery officer who, after two brief spells, served on the Western Front continuously from September 1915 till his death in action on 31st March 1918.