This blog is written by Stephen Thomas
First and foremost I’d like to thank all of you who have followed the Twitter and Blog feed recording the First World War Diary of Peter Jack; (http://lothianlives.org.uk/?p=1462). This blog is simply a reflection on the things I have learnt while carrying out the project, the first time I’ve posted diary entries of any kind, and the lessons learnt for the future.
As many who have followed the whole of the diary, Peter was not the most descriptive of men and on some days wasn’t forthcoming with large amounts of information. One can only speculate as to why this was. He may have been unaccustomed to expressing himself fully at all, let alone in writing; there is very little in the way of emotion portrayed, no colourful descriptions of the sites or sounds or smells of where he was posted. He does not record any details on conversations or gossip amongst the men he fought alongside, in fact I do not believe he mentions any of the names of his fellow soldiers apart from a few regrettable deaths of officers. This could have been out of respect for the privacy of those men or to prevent, should his diary been lost, information falling into the wrong hands. Personal diaries, unlike for those fighting in Europe, though not exactly encouraged were allowed on the Mediterranean campaign. I am surprised however that Peter was allowed to record, in sketches of admirable detail, the camps and defensive positions of his squadron. Perhaps Peter’s medium of expression was in drawing, rather than the written word. As I say; one can only speculate.
I would have therefore liked to have augmented some of the less than fulsome diary entries with more maps detailing the places Peter visited and information on the campaign he was involved in. Unfortunately, as a small archive with a small number of staff, time allowed for social media projects is sadly limited and so I was restricted to simply to transcribing the diary and adding additional details when time permitted. I’ve therefore learnt that in future I need to research and prepare the project further in advance, to allow it to be a more immersive experience for those following it and to better inform and educate people about the place in history from which the material originated.
I have also learned not to try to second guess or the writer’s meaning of words or phrases; to interpret them with the speech of 1915 in mind, rather than from a perspective of 2012. There were a couple of occasions I wrongly thought that Peter had misspelled or used the wrong words, when in fact it was my modern day take on phrasing that was in error. One must take what is written at face value and trust the writer, because their voice is clearer and truer to them, than when heard many decades later.
The Private Peter Jack blog with all the transcribed entries can be found at: