My War Diary, 1914-1918

Written by Ethel M. Bilbrough
Review by Doug Kemp

Published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of The Great War, this is a colour reproduction of the diary kept by Ethel Bilbrough during the war. She was a wealthy married woman living in Kent, and her diary is a charming mixture of observations, experiences and newspaper clippings and objets associated with the war as it was seen and lived through in the comfortable Home Counties. She had no children, and although there was no immediate concern about the loss of sons or other close relations, there were dangers from incursions made by the German Zeppelins and the Gotha long-range bombing aircraft which came rather too close to home for comfort.

The diary is a valuable and interesting document, which was given to the Imperial War Museum ten years after Ethel’s death in 1951, for it provides insights into how the War was seen by intelligent opinion at home; certainly parts of the home war effort were castigated as was the perceived belligerence and inhumanity of the Germans. The handwritten diary is transcripted as the second half of the book – rather unnecessarily as Ethel’s writing is generally very clear and easy to read.