I was funded to go to Japan and in 1907 I took a long overseas journey - and found what were then the earliest known flowers and fossil insects from the Cretaceous period.


Portland Museum

I was the first curator of the Museum and I left it my Cretaceous plants from Japan, Carboniferous coal balls and paper archives.

In 1924 the building I bought looked like this (above) However did I find the time!!


Miles from Civilisation

September 2nd 1918 #OTD Alfred Forbes Johnson - letter to wife Essie

We have moved on again and are miles and miles from civilisation


Best of its kind - GBS

Penlee near Dartmouth 28.8.1918

Dear Dr Marie Aylmer Maude [author of The Life of Tolstoy] has lent me your book on Married Love which I failed to get in London from, I suppose, shortage of paper. It is the best thing of its kind I have read.

I do not write merely to give that not very surprising opinion. I want some information which you can perhaps give me. Among my friends is a married couple. The woman wants a baby. The man in consequence of a rupture is impotent.

The reason seems to be inconclusive he is to normal appearance a normal virile person and I suspect that in competent medical hands the difficulty could be removed. The only specialists I can name are in America. To whom should he go in London ?

Your study of the subject must have brought you in to communication with such specialists. ever G Bernard Shaw

[Reproduced with permission of The Society of Authors, on behalf of the Bernard Shaw Estate.]


Two out of 48 left

James Sansom: Sept 4 1918 We arrived at the Somme on the 1st and got straight into action. 48 stretcher bearers attached to three regiments - Buffs, Suffolks and Sussex - I am with the Buffs. It’s very hard work and exciting times up against the Hindenburg Line but very few washes or shaves

Weds Sept 25 1918 At the start of the month there were 48 of us stretcher bearers with three regiments up against the Hindenberg Line. I and one chum went right through the action, the rest being killed, wounded & gassed

Thursday September 26th 1918 We are relieved by two American divisions and after a day’s rest we entrain for the North to Peronne



Lady Mary's diary: Sept 4th 1918

The collection of blackberries has begun in my pump-room. A few of the hundred baskets arrived, oceans of bb juice flowing all over the floor. To go to Whitchurch, Hants. Helped all I could.

note: In the latter years of the war, increasing losses of shipping to U-boats in brought a fear that the country might begin to starve. Rationing had started at the end of 1917 and a government committee was set up to find ways of using every available natural resource to feed the people.

Schools in 1918 were asked to ‘employ children in gathering blackberries during school hours’ and thousands of children took part in what became known as the Great Blackberry pick.


A Real Friend

A grateful letter from Grace “although strangers to each other you are a real friend to me and hundreds of others who read your wonderful book”.

A letter from Brighton about Married Love says “to sternly refuse the young a wise and loving education in sexual intercourse is to proceed in a course which must be disastrous to better sexual relations in the future”



September 6th 1918 Telegram to Mrs Essie Johnson, Haverstock Hill, London from Folkestone Pier.

“Due Victoria 2/32. Second train, Alfred”


150 U-boats sunk

Lady Mary’s diary: Sept 6th 1918

News very good. List of 150 U-boats and the captains’ names we have sunk, and that is not all, “but enough”. Most impressive. The worthy Ebdon brought in a ton of coal, to my great relief.

September 7th 1918 News very good a new world. In pony cart to Mrs Dyer Mrs Ryle and Drysdale. Took Mrs Kitson. After pleasant talk & tea, Mrs Kit and I walked by Melplash Court. Fresh warm wind, lovely: saw a pair of wheatears, brown body, grey breast, white back edged w. black.



A letter from Surrey about Married Love: “I think it’s great and this young generation ought to be very grateful to you, as I am sure it will help to make people happier.”

10 September 1918

I’ve had some interesting correspondence from #Leatherhead about a chapter in #MarriedLove1918 “I have been married for 40 years and find it distasteful. I shall tear out the chapter from my copy and I feel awfully sorry you ever wrote it”.

I replied to Leatherhead suggesting it was not written for women of her generation. Ms B of Leatherhead wrote back “quite sufficient knowledge can be had without all the unnecessary details you give which to my mind are offensive. I replied inviting Ms B for tea!


Sacred Instincts

10 Sep Ms B replied Dear Dr Stopes - we should like to come to tea on Saturday very much. I am very sorry to hear that you have had no honeymoon and that you have been unwell, your book seems to me to violate some very sacred instincts...

...we are expecting our own RAF boy on Sunday if his leave is not postponed and I am counting the hours and so dreading that this new offensive may stop his leave. The large piece of REAL wedding cake sounds most attractive!! Yours Amy


Coitus Interruptus

A letter from Lyon on 11.9.1918 wrote “my family doctor recommends coitus interruptus” to which I replied “do not on any account use coitus interruptus. If you cannot get satisfactory help in using the cap you should try a sponge soaked in oil.

I went on to say “The free clinic in London is happy to give personal instruction to anyone who comes without any charge”.


Half a ton of blackberries!

Lady Mary's diary: Sept 12th 1918

Half a ton of blackberries have been collected by the schoolchildren in four days [to be made into jam for the soldiers] My pump room is full of 28lb baskets and hampers and the stone floor indelibly stained with the juice



Olive Harcourt's diary 13.9.1918

Found Postchild wandering about in a dressing gown, clasping a hedgehog to his bosom. Behind the furthest bed was a saucer of bread and milk, where it would have its meals in darkness, undisturbed.


Ambrose Pinney

Lady Mary's diary: Sept 13th 1918

Mrs Pinney and old Mrs Brisk both aged 70 carried me off behind two raging horses to Horn Park - I only went there to see Ambrose. He came in from shooting with old Mr Brisk and his son Joe looking very thin. But fine and gay to see these two young men.

Ambrose has gone through 1000 dangers and all his brother officers are gone. Joe (6ft 4in) frightfully wounded and lame but going back to France next week. I raced back down the hill through the darkening evening


Newspaper Habit

The newspaper habit in exciting times - William "WK" Haselden's cartoon from the Daily Mirror struck a chord with Lady Monkswell who pasted it into her carefully indexed scrapbook crammed with cuttings from 1918.

Every day, Lady Mary scrutinises the newspapers with hawk-like attention to detail, writes her own pithy summary, and files away the news articles in huge scrapbooks for later study.

Her trick often is to know about the news before it appears in print.


Meeting Robert

Lady Mary’s diary: Sept 17th 1918

Robert walked over from Seatown and I had the best pm seit lange [for a long time]. He sat in his own chair, read George Trevelyan’s “Carlyle” settled my accounts. Went over to see DVG, had tea and we started together as far as in sight of Slepe talking of everything.

Here we parted, the autumn evening, the romantic winding road; he looked back and waved two or three times, just as his father would have done


Dinner with MP

Lady Mary’s diary: Sept 18th 1918

Sir Robert Williams [Dorset West MP] duly appeared about 6 of. I found him much worn with his son’s death in France and his clever wife’s death.

I think he liked talking to me. I gave him a meagre dinner and we went up to the hall where he addressed some 60 electors. He speaks badly but one loves him rather. I much enjoyed his company. He is much in distrust of the socialists’ power. Expects an election in November.

[In 1918, 70 year old Sir Robert Williams, Baronet of Bridehead had been West Dorset’s MP for 23 years and would hold the seat until 1922 when he stepped down. The father of eight lost his wife Rosa, 19 years his junior, in 1916. He died in 1943 aged 94.]


Seatown visit

Lady Mary’s diary: Sept 19th 1918

A most successful trip to Seatown. We all crammed into car. M’Coy and dog on the box. Had wired Robert to say we were coming - telegram unopened. Rather stunned to see us but we had brought our own lunch. But he had plenty.

Little Lorna taller but too thin, very lovely. DV.J. actually walked up eastern down, looked a different creature. Robert and I raced up to Thorncombe Beacon, sea broad stitches of silver and blue, stained with purple shadows of the clouds. Violent storms. 12-6 of


A brief respite


WW1 Performance


Furious Folly


Rail Strike!

Lady Mary’s diary: Sept 24th 1918

I hear tonight of a railway strike, no Great Western trains running. These traitors should be shot


Treasonable strikers

Lady Mary’s diary, Wednesday 25th September 1918

Anxiety relieved about treasonable strike by letters arriving only two hrs late and newspaper. To Trotman’s for tea, the happy Owen and his handsome wife. One fine peach which I gave to Mrs Kitson.



Tuesday 24th September 1918 Letter from Alfred Forbes Johnson to his wife Essie

..we are still living the same kind of life under tarpaulins in any holes we can find. Reading: Chance by Joseph Conrad




Strikers Pelted

Lady Mary’s diary: Sept 27th 1918

Railway strikers at Dorchester pelted by the wounded Tommies - serve them right. To Stoke Abbot in pony cart with Mrs Russell to call on handsome Mrs Owen who has transformed poor Owen into a human being.

Saturday Sept 28 So many Victories thank God, can’t take them all in - all along the Western line N to S, Belgians, us, the French, the Americans. 40,000 Turks prisoners in Palestine, Bulgaria wishing to resign. The news is simply splendid


Open air life

September 28th 1918 Letter from Alfred Forbes Johnson to wife Essie

It is getting rather late in the year for this open air life, but perhaps it won't last much longer. Reading: Joan and Peter, by H. G. Wells, (1918)

[The book, which blames England's stagnating education system for the suffering in WW1, and reflects on the impact of the war on society, was praised by Thomas Hardy who read it aloud to his wife in the evening.]


Letter from a Soldier

Marie Stopes: A letter came on 24th September 1918 from a soldier 18th division signals France “your book impressed me tremendously but doesn't, I think, go far enough....I have been married for 8 years (an intelligent embrace covers all) boy Brown was born 10 and a half pounds!

But the war has upset my ideal family - I have been in France 3 and a half years now" and so his letter goes on and he ends by saying “I am sending your book to my brother now a prisoner of war in The Hague who contemplates marriage immediately on arrival in England”

I reply: “You will find what you want to know in my forthcoming book Wise Parenthood” Yours Dr Marie Stopes


Bulgaria Surrenders

Lady Mary’s diary: Monday September 30th 1918

At 5 of the clock, a rumour that Bulgaria had laid down their arms: at 7 ’o a telegram from Winnie Cuddesdon that the Servians there had heard this. This is [underlined] news

Tues Oct 1 1918 The splendid hope confirmed. Bonar Law at the Guild Hall told them Bulgaria had surrendered. They are treacherous barbarians but we are taking no risks. The great change is that Germany’s desired command of the East is over.

Bulgaria has almost 4 million people and is about as large as Ireland. This will give us command of a large piece of the coast of the Blk Sea, of the Danube, and the Berlin-Bagdad railway thro' Bulgaria


Another push

Tuesday Oct 1 1918 Letter from Alfred Forbes Johnson to wife Essie

The news continues to be splendid from all fronts. We have been doing another push and are now hoping it will last for a bit, so keen are we on the war. Reading: Mansfield Park, Jane Austen (from 1816)


In Ruins

2/10/1918: Ltr from Alfred Forbes Johnson to Essie Today I have been out with Simpson to a town where I was when I first came out. It is all in ruins now.

I am writing this is a crowded mess with the table covered with the latest papers and everyone discussing the news.


German game is up

Lady Mary’s diary: Weds October 2nd 1918

Did nothing but study the map. Am pretty well up in the various sectors. pm walked and turned in by chance at Jephson’s cottage. They kept me to tea and I had a most moving talk with Captain the Rev. He thinks the German game is up. He was all thro’ Gallipoli.

[William Jephson, former curate at Beaminster, and Rector of parishes including Highclere in Berkshire, had served as chaplain with the 9th Hampshires in England, Egypt & the Dardanelles. He played first class cricket for Hampshire until 1914 and later captained Dorset]


Pregnant Again

A very sad letter arrived from Lee “I have gone and tried to end my life and should have done so if my husband had not prevented me, as it sends me out of my mind with the pain - after two children I have been in terrible pain for 7 years - I am pregnant again- what can I do?

I replied to Lee “so at this stage there is nothing I can do to help”- so very sad that women in 1918 are not in control of their bodies


Postchild and Perry

Olive Harcourt’s diary 4th Oct 1918

Postchild and Perry so funny, throwing about a potato in the kitchen & playing up splendidly. In the evening I hold their hands and said Postchild was a great artist and I knew that because I had been much among them.

He looked at me very earnestly and said: “Miss ’Arcourt, you & me is one.” Convoy arrived yesterday.

[At the age of 22, Henry Postchild (born 1989 in Stepney in 1889) was living with his parents and working as a ‘carman’. By 1915 when he enlisted in the Suffolks (16617) he was described as a stevedore. In 1950 he was living in Tower Hamlets]


Walk with the Major

Sat 5th Oct Letter from from Alfred Forbes Johnson to his wife Essie

Yesterday I walked about 10 miles with the Major to see the war.

I divide my days into a walk, reading and playing bridge in the evening.

Reading: The Adventures of Roderick Random, Tobias Smollett (1824)


An impudent German peace

Lady Mary’s diary: Mon Oct 7th 1918

The Germans being driven back at all points this morning, wish to open negotiations with America for “an honourable peace” an impudent German peace: that will not do. A great emotion to think they have come to this. They are burning our beautiful old French towns as they retreat. I hear my beautiful old Laon is in flames. No cathedral safe.The French will take their revenge at Berlin. This day week Bulgaria surrendered unconditionally and today the cry is the Germans shall do the same and receive their punishment

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Explore by day, month or person here on the blog or on our five Twitter feeds: @Voicesfrom1918 @LadyMonkswell @MarieStopes1918 @JamesSansom230 and @OliveHarcourt.

Voices from 1918 has been developed by artists Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet in partnership with Wimborne Community Theatre, Dorset History Centre and the Priest’s House Museum, Wimborne with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to all who have helped us with this project: Maria Gayton and staff at Dorset History Centre where we found Lady Mary Monkswell’s diaries; Joan Cocozza, ward of nursing auxiliary Olive Harcourt; Portland Museum where we found James Sansom’s diaries; the British Library and Wellcome Libraries; Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne and Gill Horitz from Wimborne Community Theatre.

We’ve used a new simpler type of blogging system which we beta tested for indie developer Janis Rondorf of Instacks software.

Posts created as simple text files are dropped into a folder on the webserver without the need for complicated formatting making it easy to upload material quickly.

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