EXPERIENCE what life was like in the Great War for a Portland soldier through an online diary.
People will be able to see the vivid frontline experiences of World War One through a new blog. The diaries of Regimental Sergeant-Major George Beck are being published by the Dorset History Centre exactly 100 years after they were written, with regular entries posted online giving a first-hand account of his remarkable story.
RSM Beck, originally from the Midlands, married a Portland girl and settled on the island. He served on the Western Front for the whole of the 1914-18 conflict, and was awarded the Military Cross in April 1918.
His diaries chronicle the daily struggle in the trenches, including several major battles and the introduction of gas as a battlefield weapon in May 1915. RSM Beck also details the famous Christmas truce of 1914, writing on 25 December: “Germans very eager to exchange almost anything for our Bully Beef and jam.”
The diaries have been transcribed over the course of many months by History Centre volunteer Alison Schwalm. She said: “It has been a privilege to transcribe these diaries written by a courageous professional soldier, a non-commissioned officer who obviously cared greatly for his comrades as well as his young family at home.
“What a stark contrast between his account of survival in the battlefields of France and Belgium, and the occasional leave to Portland.”
Members of RSM Beck’s family still live on Portland, and his granddaughter Caroline Milverson provided the History Centre with his diaries. She 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.”
The centre hosts the joint archives service run by Bournemouth Borough Council, Dorset County Council and the Borough of Poole. Colin Jamieson, the county council’s spokesman for community services, said: “This is a fantastic project which I hope will bring home the horrors of the First World War, and the immense bravery of the people who fought in it, in a unique fashion.
“The Dorset History Centre is a remarkable treasure-trove of information about local people’s involvement in the Great War, and also other conflicts before and since.”
The first entry will go live on August 21. As well as posting the full diary entries on the blog, the History Centre will be tweeting entries from the diaries a century after they were written. Follow the tweets @RSM_GBeck.