Camped on hillside

James Sansom: April 1st 1918

We come out of the line now for another rest and have a camp on a hillside amongst beautiful natural scenery. Except for the sound of the guns and an occasional enemy aeroplane or two we nearly forget there is a war on



Marie Stopes: “A frequent mistake is confuse menstruation with the ‘period of desire’ which is generally called ‘heat’ in animals.”



James Sansom: April 15th 1918 We get on cattle trucks here to train for Kantara which we reach at midnight after 16 hours in the trucks. We march to our camp about five miles away and settle down


on the move - no camels

James Sansom: April 8th 1918 Too good to last long, we move again today on a 4 days march to Ludd which is the rail-head, a distance of 40 miles by road. We have no camels now but horse transport.

April 12th 1918 We stay 2 days at Ludd, the country found here is glorious with orange groves and other fruit trees, although the nature of the country is sand.

April 15th 1918 We get on cattle trucks here to train for Kantara which we reach at midnight after 16 hours in the trucks. We march to our camp about five miles away and settle down


Robert under fire

Lady Mary's diary April 17th 1918:

At the time you can force yourself to do anything. Robert’s food was once brought him when shells were flying and he was in the open. He decided to finish before moving under cover.

When he got up to move he found it had affected him a good deal. He found himself half paralysed.

[Mary is recalling Robert’s time with a Royal Field Artillery battery a year earlier. He was injured in early 1917 and spent all of 1918 recovering in Dorset.]


Swimming in the Suez Canal

During this time [16-27 April] we march to the Suez Canal nearly every day for swimming and have a good time generally [like these Australian boys in the picture.

[Coming from the Isle of #Portland in #Dorset, quarryman @JamesSansom230 would have been quite at home splashing about in the Suez Canal in late April 1918, while his division waited to join troopships in Alexandria]


Leaving for Alex

April 28th 1918 James Sansom: We leave Kantara for Alexandria docks where we arrive on the 29th. [picture of troops arriving at Kantara in 1918 by Pryce Evans of the 4th Welsh Regiment, is from @ww1imagesegypt]


Leaving Palestine


Setting sail

James Sansom: April 29, 1918 Arrive at Alex and board the liner “Malwa”. Tomorrow we sail for Marseille.

April 30, 1918 We leave Alex with six other ships taking the whole 74th division. We have an escort of 6 torpedo boats, two seaplanes and a balloon.

[Sansom was lucky - three weeks later HMS Leasowe Castle carrying 2900 troops plus crew on the same journey would be torpedoed by a German U boat 100 miles off Alexandria with the loss of 102 lives.]

May 7th 1918 We reach Marseilles after a fairly uneventful voyage [from Alexandria] We get off the boat and march right through the town to a rest camp with people cheering us all the way.


Jack Counter VC

After six men were gunned down before him near Boisieux St. Marc in France, Dorset’s Jack Counter dragged himself face down along the ground, through barbed wire with a vital message for HQ.

His action in April 1918 won him the VC for an act of bravery remembered both in Blandford and his later home Jersey.

Private Counter, who died in 1970, was serving in the King's Liverpool Regiment when he volunteered to carry a vital message from the front line “under terrific fire”.


Letter to Robert

Lady Monkswell: 2.5.18 Letter from 415107 R Burt - Robert’s former batman, injured and working at an “aerodrome in the rear”

My Lord, Pleased to have your letter today but sorry to hear you Lordship is not improving much. Well my Lord, there is no doubt that active service takes it out of you. When one has had over two years and a half of it, it takes its toll. I close hoping that your Lordship will soon be better. Your obedient servant R Burt

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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.

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