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November 08 , 2008

James Sullivan's First World War Diary


At 18 years old, James Sullivan volunteered for the Great War and was assigned to the 10th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusilers. After one week of target practice he was on his way to the Front Line. Four years later, James Sullivan began his Memoirs of his three years and three months of service, in the First World War. For nearly 100 years, his First World War Memoir has sat, unseen, in the back of an old wardrobe. The words he recorded give a unique and vivid picture of life in the trenches, the everyday duties of a WW1 soldier, rest time, hospital stays, his brief encounter with royalty and the awfulness of war. I’m Rosemarie Meleady, and these are the Memoirs of my grandfather.

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"I prefer the Front Line to what we have to do now. Every night we go up under cover of darkness to the third line to dig new trenches. Hungry and tired we dig for our very lives through dead bodies of the French, who were here before us. What a stench. Surly this is awful, what do we do with them - pull them out, drag them up on top and re bury them. Such was our first experience of the Great War.

"4.35am and we are to get over and meet our dear friend the German. The barrage starts. Every gun of ours opens fire, the air is alive with shells. What a hell on earth. We are at the German wire entanglements, four belts of wire are cut to pieces by our gun fire, we make a run for the German Front Line. Some of us don’t get far, they fall everywhere. I have steeled my nerves for the worst, but it does not happen. I find I am on top of the German before I know. His Front Line trench is level with our shell fire, a fly could not live in it. Hundreds of dead Germans lie along it mangled to pieces."

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