Diary of life in the trenches for Yate soldier to be given to museum

Gazette Series: Veronica Bruce with her great uncles 1st World War diary (3519995) Veronica Bruce with her great uncles 1st World War diary (3519995)

A DIARY recounting a Yate soldier’s experiences of life in the trenches during the First World War is to be given to a museum by one of his distant relatives.

James Fletcher was part of the British Expeditionary Force that was sent to France on the outbreak of war with Germany in 1914 and recounted his experiences in a black leather diary.

His great niece, Veronica Bruce, has been a keen follower of her family’s history in Yate and Wotton-under-Edge over the years and has accumulated a vast amount of papers, photos, licences, birth certificates and other information, which she keeps at her home in Wotton-under-Edge.

She has decided that her prized possession, Mr Fletcher’s 100-year-old diary, should go to Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum in Gloucester to coincide with the 100th anniversary of The Great War.

The weathered book includes daily reports of the young man's life and recounts how he would have to march18 miles to get a bath and how they would at times have to dig for nine hours.

During his time on the front line he wrote to the Dursley Gazette, describing how he was sometimes only 80 yards away from the Germans in their respective trenches, using a biscuit tin on his lap as a desk.

“We have had a rather rough time so far in the trenches. The Germans have been very active shelling us night and day but we take no notice of it. We give them just as much as they give us and a bit more,” he wrote.

“We get in an awful state in the trenches when it is wet and are glad to get out of them to have a shave and a good brush up in general.”

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in France for his valour and when he returned home he became a super intendent and driver for Chipping Sodbury Police.

He would marry three times and even followed his last wife to New Zealand on a Russian ship before returning several months later and spending his last few years at Ferney Hill, a retirement home for the blind in Dursley.

He died in June 1974, aged 83.

Ms Bruce said she was glad she had documented the family’s history over the years, as she would be unable to find the time to do it now.

“We were a close knit family. That’s why we have so many records,” she said.

“It’s absolutely fabulous reading through it all. Some things are unbelievable to find out about.”

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