Category Archives: Gunner Hamilton’s Diary

Kipling and Sanatogen

Anyone around in the fifties and sixties will recall advertisements for Sanatogen, the tonic wine that ‘fortifies the over-forties’. It was a standard joke during those decades, I think, on anyone’s fortieth birthday, to present them with a bottle of the stuff. Back then, many more people than today were teetotallers, but some were reluctant […]

Passchendaele: The fifth week

Continuing the weekly serialisation of Hamilton Ferguson’s diary of Third Ypres in 1917: Tuesday 28 Aug. This morning I awoke early, certain I heard a German plane close at hand dropping bombs. What I mistook for the sound of the engine of the plane was the roar of the wind, and the firing of our […]

Passchendaele: The fourth week

Continuing the transcript of the diary kept by Gunner Ferguson Hamilton during the battle of Third Ypres. Tues 21 Aug. Night firing task on roads and road junctions to the south of Zandwoorde. Such work means a restless night for us, but we hope it is harassing the enemy. Very little firing during today,  yet […]

Passchendaele: The third week

Continuing the transcript of the diary kept by Gunner Ferguson Hamilton during the battle of Third Ypres. Tues 14 Aug. We had a quieter night last night in our billets, but in the battery area matters were more lively, and other three are in hospital this morning. The enemy is paying decidedly more attention to […]

Passchendaele: The second week

Continuing the diary of Gunner Ferguson Hamilton during the battle of Third Ypres, ninety years ago. (Link to Week One) Tues 7 Aug. Dull day, aeroplane shooting impossible. We had a Counter Battery programme & also destruction of houses known as Tower Hamlets in front of Gheluvelt. Wed 8 Aug. Made out new wind charts […]

Passchendaele: The first week

Continuing the diary of Gunner Ferguson Hamilton during the battle of Third Ypres, ninety years ago. Tues 31 July. I remained at BC post till 3.00 this morning, and, thoroughly tired and very sad made my stumbling way to my dugout. Our offensive began at 3.30 but though there would be a terrific din, I […]

Gunner Hamilton’s diary – the month before Passchendaele

It’s quite a while since I posted any extracts from the diary of Ferguson Hamilton (grandfather of a friend of mine) but the 90th anniversary of Passchendaele has sent me back to look at his descriptions how the battle of Third Ypres appeared to a Scottish gunner who had been a schoolmaster before he was […]

Messines Ridge

In 1965, Ferguson Hamilton annotated his wartime diary. The fiftieth anniversary and the great BBC series had sent him back to reconsider the past. Most of the annotations are one-word explanatory notes, but for June 7th 1917 he has stuck an extra page into the diary, recalling a significant day. Re Thursday 7th June This […]

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, […]

A Canadian Execution

Fri 20 April …A Canadian private was shot this morning opposite our position: “cowardice”. There were several rifles – some with blank cartridge. I refrain from comment: it is too awful to think about. That’s from an entry in Gunner Hamilton’s diary, just after his battery had spent hard weeks supporting the successful Canadian attack […]