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First World War diary describes life in the trenches and front line

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 18, 2014

Photo issued by Dorset History Centre of Regimental Sergeant-Major George Beck, of 1st Warwickshire Regiment and other soldiers in the First World War, whose harrowing account of life in the trenches during the First World War has been revealed - 100 years since they were first written

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The Christmas Truce of December 1914 has become an enduring image of the triumph of man's spirit over adversity.

Regimental Sergeant-Major George Beck's harrowing account of life in the trenches during the First World War has been revealed – 100 years since they were first written.

RSM Beck's handwritten diary daily describes the grim reality of the Somme and the use of poison gas during four years on the Western Front serving with the 1st Warwickshire Regiment.

His entry for Christmas Day 1914 notes: "Not one shot was fired. English and German soldiers intermingled and exchanged souvenirs. Germans very eager to exchange almost anything for our bully beef and jam. Majority of them know French fluently."

He also describes how the sworn enemies played football, shared cigars and that a German band played 'God Save the King', which made the British troops think of home.

The soldier's immaculate handwriting also records lighter moments during the heat of battle with a snowball fight against the French.

RSM Beck was awarded both the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Cross in the war but turned down a commission to become an officer.

He was born in Warwickshire in 1881 and enlisted in 1898, serving in South Africa during the Boer War.

Rising through the ranks he was promoted to colour sergeant in 1905, which enabled him to marry.

In 1907 he married Eliza Attwooll, of Portland in Dorset, and settled on the island raising six children.

After the First World War, RSM Beck worked at the Duke of Yorkshire School, Dover, Kent for nearly four years until he was discharged on the grounds of ill health.

He then worked as an inspector for the Portland Bus Company before dying of pneumonia/influenza on March 20, 1928, at his home in Portland. He was 47.

RSM Beck received full military honours at his funeral at St George's Church on Portland.

His diaries remained with his family and have been given to the Dorset History Centre by his granddaughter Caroline Milverson.

They will now be published online from August 21 at http://news.dorsetforyou.com/rsm-beck-diary.

Mrs Milverson said: "I am delighted that more people will now be able to learn about my grandfather's thoughts and feelings as he wrote his diaries 100 years ago." A blog can also be followed on Twitter at @RSM_GBeck.

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