Hamilton Diary : Cross-cultural impressions

Gunner Hamilton’s diary is written by someone who had never previously left Scotland, and who finds his new surroundings strange and interesting. He is not afraid to be judgmental:

Wed Mar 7 From what I have seen of French villages, and making due allowance for abnormal times, I think the houses poor – the insides, so far as I have seen, do not reflect much credit on French housewives for cleanliness and tidiness.

Two months later he would amend this impression:

Mon 14 May …I have already changed my opinion of the French people as regards tidiness and cleanliness. I could not make sufficient allowance for the effects of war upon village life. The people of the many villages we passed through were well clad, clean, and smart of appearance…

It is not only the Scots who could be judgmental, though:

Thursday 17 May ….Special Ascension service in church which I attended. Large congregation. People well dressed and quietly dressed… We are now in Flanders and the people of Flemish stock. Kilted regiments are not held in too high respect – because of their dress which is described as “not respectable” and their language does not gain respect for them by the women folk. The kilty would be liked all right if he had trousers on…

The Belgians were definitely seen as different:

Wed 30th May …Lieut Watson told us a funny story of the Belgian Artillery. He heard an officer in a battery haranguing his men before each shot was fired, and was informed that the officer said and the No 1 repeated “The Belgian Army has the honour of firing upon the enemy: fire!”


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