George Pirie was a South African doctor from a Scottish family who volunteered for service early in the First World War, and who took part in the Gallipoli campaign, the battle of the Somme and the start of third battle of Ypres, where he was killed by German shelling.
One of the most notable features of these diaries is Pirie's changing moods. In most diaries the tone only shifts in one direction, with initial enthusiasm soon fading, and the horrors of the trenches coming to the fore, but here the author's mode goes up and down. As late as April 1917 a day can be described as 'beautiful, so it was top-hole out riding', while an account of a successful aerial battle above the lines produced a 'fine day', while back in 1915 on Gallipoli there are plenty of 'horrible' days.
This is an uncut diary, so as well as the periods of combat we also get Pirie's accounts of his time out of the line. These vary dramatically in quality, with the rare trips away from Gallipoli taking him to Greek islands almost entirely untouched by the war.
We don’t get much medical material, although there are frequent references to the location and relative merits of his medical posts on each front, and the fate of his stretcher bearers and other helpers. Enemy bombardments play a major part in the diary, as does the weather, and the more exciting aerial combats witnessed from the line. Every so often we get Pirie's view of a major Allied attack, many of them costly failures. These entries tend to be longer and rather more sombre than the standard daily round.
Sadly Pirie died in 1917, so his diaries weren't edited after the war. The diary thus reflects what Pirie felt at the time, and gives us his unvarnished views of the fighting.
Part I: The Gallipoli Diary: December 1914-September 1915
1 - From Edinburgh to the Dardanelles, December 1914-May 1915
2 - At Gallipoli, May-September 1915
Part II: The Western Front Diary: March 1916-July 1917
1 - Facing Messines Ridge, March-July 1916
2 - The Somme and Vimy Ridge, July-October 1916
3 - Loos and Lens, October 1916-April 1917
4 - To die in Flanders, April-July 1917
Author: Michael Lucas