Ernest’s diary is a small, leatherbound pocket book, 4.5″ x 2.5″. The prayer-book thin pages are covered with spare, almost zen-like comments in a purplish pencil. Occasionally the names are revisited and re-inked.
The first few pages contain an assortment of random entries: shopping lists, football results and addresses.
The first (and only) dates in the diary prior to the start of the war diary in May are the 1st and 2nd January 2016. It records that Ernest was at work in the rain on New Year’s Day 1916, exercising his carpentry skills in the repair of a shutter on a beer cellar, but that it was too wet to finish the job. It maybe that the diary had been a gift for Christmas 1915 and that he was keen to start it but that the novelty quickly wore off!
This page also gives us information about the regiment that Ernest’s was about to join:
“Sapper E. Garraway
Reg. No. 137810
No 4 Section
237 Field Company
The rest of the entries appear to be the addresses of several ladies, including a couple of Miss. Chipp’s. Given that Ernest’s mother’s maiden name was Chipp, it is likely that these are aunts or cousins. Some of the addresses on this page are surprisingly metropolitan (‘South Kensington’, ‘Chelsea’, ‘Wood Green’) for this country lad.
The next page contains further addresses, including three that may refer to colleagues who had joined the navy, stationed in the Portsmouth barracks and on HMS Redoubtable and HMS Monitor.
The final page before the start of the war diary contains a list of birthdays of people importatn to Ernest, including his brothers Len (Jan 5th, 23 in 1916) and Ray (May 19th, 13 in 1916), and his mother (Oct 13th, 53) and his father (Dec 31st, 53).
There are also a few clues to another colleague:
459 W.R. Fld Co.
Stan C. Johnston
It looks as though Ernest was collecting addresses of people he intended to write to, reminders of birthdays and the names of fellow servicemen, possibly either mates from the village or new chums he had met on basic training. On the following page, Ernest’s adventure begins.