Captain George Pirie, R.A.M.C., born in South Africa and educated in Scotland, kept a detailed diary throughout his frontline service with the British Army at Gallipoli and the Somme, up to his death in action at Ypres in July 1917.He was a brave and skilful medic, serving as a regimental medical officer with infantry battalions, who was twice mentioned in Dispatches.
Pirie’s diary is a very special one, not all diaries make good reading. Some are terse, some cover only trivialities, whilst with others the diarist is too absorbed in himself and his immediate concerns. Pirie’s diary has none of these faults. He was a popular and gregarious man with a sense of humour, as well as a keen and sympathetic observer of his fellow soldiers, he saw much frontline service, in both big actions and routine trench warfare. His diary throws light on the battles in which he served, the routine life of infantry battalions in and out of the line and the experiences of a regimental medical officer. On the Western Front he served in the 9th East Surrey Regiment, the brigadier of which was General Mitford, of Wipers Gazette fame. He also shared the regiment with R.C. Sherriff, author of Journey’s End, and the men who Sherriff used as models for his play.
Unlike so many accounts, written decades after the war and distorted by fading memories and hindsight, Pirie’s diary is fresh: it tells how things were and, rightly or wrongly, how they were perceived at the time. Often, he did not know what tomorrow would bring for him and his companions. Many of them, like him, did not live to see the Armistice. This diary is the Great War as it was experienced, the strain of unrelenting shelling and sniper fire, with danger ever present in the frontline; but also the comradeship and light relief in and out of the line, which helped to make things bearable. Pirie’s diary is published here for the first time. It is complete and unabridged, with introductions to the man and his diary, his campaigns, and with extensive notes. The editor has made much use of both published and unpublished sources, while his previous book was a history of the unit with which Pirie served on the Western Front. This book is profusely illustrated with photographs, maps, and contemporary caricatures, including of Pirie and his friends.
“ … a fascinating document … presenting an interesting insight into the life of a Medical Officer on the front line during some of the most ferocious fighting of the war. Unlike many accounts, written decades after the events, Pirie’s diary is fresh and immediate and tells how things were and, rightly or wrongly, how they were perceived at the time. It is an attractively produced book, richly illustrated with photographs, maps, and contemporary caricatures along with useful appendices and a full index. If you’re interested in medical care during the war this is essential reading.” Britain at War
This is an excellent book and Michael Lucas has added a great collection of black and white pictures that add a pictorial content that acts to supplement the words of Pirie at just the right level … I would thoroughly recommend this book to any student of the Great War, the combination of Pirie and Lucas makes much of the text come alive and having read it, you certainly feel that for many of the detailed entries, you were there, looking over the shoulder of George Pirie as he lived his life at war.” Western Front Association Website
“ … This excellent book … is a fine account of the work of a regimental medical officer in the war … Highly recommended.” Stand To! The Journal of the Western Front Association
“ … wonderfully reproduced and illustrated, another gem made available for us to enjoy.” The Gallopolian, Journal of the Gallipoli Association
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