Background to the diary

Charles Robert Grimes was a leather tanner and territorial soldier of the
1st/6th Battalion Manchester Regiment. He was born in Moston 1892 and lived in Prestwich. Charles was killed in action on the 5th June 1915 during the Third Battle of Krithia.

This is the full text from Charles Grimes’s diary. It records what it was like being a long way from home and not knowing what was going to happen next on the long way from Littleborough to Gallipoli. It is funny, poignant and just one of many private First World War diaries held by Tameside Local Studies and Archives.

Part 1 covers the journey between Littleborough and Southampton, the voyage to Alexandria, and time spent guarding prisoners in Malta.

Charles Grimes’s diary (Accession 4578)

The diary was transcribed by Liam Hart and David Govier. Veteran Graham Braithwaite provides context in bold.

Leaving Littleborough and Southampton

The Evening News later said “The 6th came through in a very soldierly fashion, Officers riding and one or two men mounted and marching four abreast, the Manchester “Terriers””.

Wednesday 9th September: Moved from Littleborough to Southampton, took us 15 hours to do it, started at 6 o’clock from Camp, landed at 9am on Thursday 10th September 1914.

SS Caledonia painted in 1905 by Fred Pansing [Wikimedia]

The sixth battalion sailed for Egypt aboard the SS Caledonia.

Thursday 10th September 1914: Got everything ship shape on board ready for moving off which we succeeded in doing by half past 7pm we got to bed at nine o’clock.

Friday 11th September 1914: The first stop was in the afternoon at Lands end, we saw Eddystone Lighthouse. Time if meals were breakfast at 7 o’clock, dinner at 12 o’clock, tea at 5 o’clock & was put on picket at 3.30.

Saturday 12th September 1914: Came off picket at 9am and we had a very easy time after that. I was put on mess orderly.

Sunday 13th September 1914: We had a service on Coast.

Monday 14th September 1914: We first saw fish in the sea they we’re flying fish.

Tuesday 15th September 1914: We past Cape Finistone at half past four in the afternoon.

Wednesday 16th September 1914: Lost my clock. Past another lighthouse about 7.30pm. Two battleships past us just outside the Bay of Biscay. Gun battleships sent up a rocket as a signal for all gun boats to stop. They signalled to the battleships for a few minutes and then they sent up another rocket for us to go. We we’re then about thirty miles from Cape Riga off the coast of Lisbon.

Thursday 17th September 1914: We sighted Gibraltar at 11pm and we were anchored at 9 am. We had a light reception by the Spaniards who sold our fellows cigarettes very cheap. We saw a captured ship, an Austrian. The dock is full of battalions and guns and mines under the sea. We left Gibraltar at 6pm, at 7.30 we had a fine concert, some good talent in the singing line and a good singing display.

Friday 18th September 1914: Saw plenty of sharks and a whale. The weather was very hot and the sea was calm.

Saturday 19th September 1914: we saw a French battleship about 11 pm. It was a grand night.

Sunday 20th September 1914: awakened up to find the sea very rough but the weather was fine. We had a service on board again.

Monday 21st September 1914: Saw the Island of Papernalian off Italy at 6am also saw the tropical Island off the coast of Tripoli. Saw Malta and Lighthouse.

Tuesday 22nd September 1914: It rained all night and very rough. We was towed by own Battleship as they had seen plenty of ships in the distance. Our Battleship made a rush after them. But it turned out alright they were Indian troop ships being led by a French Battleship.  There were on board 70,000 troops, 20 ships all together.

This would be the ships containing Jullundur Brigade with the 1st Manchesters aboard heading for the Western Front.

Wednesday 23/9/14: Sea calm, sun shining it was an ideal day.

Thursday 24/9/14: Nothing doing.

Friday 25/9/14: First saw Egypt at 5am we all rushed to on the deck to see it and then a boat came a long side of us. A Pilot came on board to show our Captain of the ship the way to the shore. After that small boat came to us with fruit acceptable and they did do a trade with us having the usual meat every day we got tired of it. Also it was a change. We lowered anchor at about 9 oclock. We got ready for moving off board when we got told that we had to stay on board for three days.

Saturday 26/9/14: Still buying fruit and waiting. Any minute for a move.

Mustapha Barracks, Egypt

Sunday 27/9/14: Had to get up at 3 o’clock, just kit bags on the quayside. Get own helmets. Moved off at 6 o’clock, got at our destination at 8.30.

Saw Mustapha Barracks, got marched in the grounds hilted our rifles pulled our equipment off and had a well earned rest. They did not know which barracks to put us in at first, there was not enough room for 3 Battalions so they put up tents for the 8th. We got in our barracks at 11 o’clock. No dinner, supposed to be bad bully beef, never got anything to eat for 14 hours then we got a loaf and some fresh Haddock.

Monday 28/9/14: Setting up everything. Inspection of quarters at 9.30.

Tuesday 29/9/14: Drill at 6am until 8.30 another drill at 4 o’clock. Put on guard at Barrack Door.

Wednesday 29/9/14: Bathing parade at 6 oclock am. Usual one at 4 oclock. Got braid belt, not me, still guard.

Thursday 1/10/14: New guard came on at 9 oclock, usual operations in changing guard got off at 9.30 not supposed to go on any other duty that day. Went on the 4 o’clock parade, didn’t want to miss it. Received a letter from George.

Friday 2/10/14: Another pay day they paid me one week, that leaves this weeks they owe me.

Saturday 3/10/14: Usual paradise sea calm.

Sunday 4/10/14: Service in the square at 8 O’clock. A lot changed quarters.

Monday 5/10/14: Started on earned inventory. Walking outdoors.

Tuesday 6/10/14: Sea bathing again, also sea still till 8.00. Usual one at 14.20.

6 Section 6 Platoon: Cpl Neautues; Pte Grimes – B; Hughes– Mess 2 – B; Dunkerley– B; Kelly– A; Dabbs– A; Dabbs– A; Hough– A; Williams (Just Smoking) – A; Davies– A; Rogers– A

Wednesday7/10/14: Nothing doing in the morning, only usual parade [Illegible].We went on foot saw a few sights which nobody would dream of.

Guarding German Prisoners

Sunday 18/10/14: Got aboard the “Koeber”, Trieste.100 of our men sent as an escort to guard 500 Germans off 18 ships. We watched for over a week on board the Luebyour [SS Ludzow – Australian Trooopship]. For a prison to be made and the… Saw Stephan but it was… (Illegible).

Tuesday 20/10/14: Brought off Koeber [Austrian SS Koerber, detained as a prize at Alexandria, Egypt] and taken on coast [board] the Ludyow as there were not enough men to deal with the German Prisoners because there was a fire on board and it took the men on the Ludyow [SS Ludzow], all this time to deal with that.

Wednesday 21/10/14: Nothing doing until 8 O’clock at night. The prisoners were kicking up a fuss and we had to call the guard out.

Thursday 22/10/14: The prisoners were getting rowdy and the guard called out again. They picked out the biggest man and told them to load and marched them up to the prisoners. Then forced continuous on siege 10 over. Then way through them until they picked out the tough men, Dobbs had seen the cause of all the bother they arrested them and put them in cells. All in the quarrel we men kept live shot, off accidentally and this frightened them. It was alright in about an hour and a half. J. Neville owe 3 quartze. Only sleep and guards: Friday, Saturday, Sund, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Christmas Day Friday, Saturday

Wednesday 28/10/14: and we take them to (illegible) the (illegible) London H. Bedwick (illegible) Lancs.

Thursday 29/10/14: Nothing worth recording. Second Thursday on a boat.

Friday 30/10/14: Abraham Christmas but still nothing , waiting to move.

Prisoner and escort duty

Hundreds of prisoners of war and civilian internees hailed from all nations allied to the Kaiser’s Germany and these included Egyptians, Arabs and Greeks suspected of being German sympathisers. In 1915 Malta was used for prisoners of war from the German and Austro Hungarian forces, many thousands were sent there, including OttoVon Liman from 1918 until the summer of 1919 and in WW1 Malta Karl Doenitz who would go on succeed Hitler and surrender to the allies in 1945.

Sunday 1/11/14: Sailed at 10pm after a fortnights watch with the prisoners on board for Malta.

Monday 2/11/14: Sea moderate, nice day, nothing important.

Tuesday 3/11/14: Guards as usual 4 on and 8 OR and 12 OFF.

Wednesday 4/11/14: A very rough night Sat night it upset every thing off the table, nearly rolled me out of bed, very windy when we went on guard. The spray came over the side and covered us and drenched us. The rail of the boat on the lower deck touched the water. Landed at Malta at 12.45 am transferred the prisoners to the Maltese barracks at 4.30 got back at 5 o’clock in time for tea. A very mute afternoon (Illegible). We escorted 600 prisoners from the boat to the barracks from 1 o’clock and went back for tea at 5 o’clock (Illegible) after Malta.

Thursday 5/11/14: Stayed all night at Malta had to stay on board, would not give us leave. Moved from Malta at 8.30am. Only one section on board and the crew. Had the sum [run] of the ship, we were lowering a torpedo on boat, no guards now the rope we are towing the boat with has broken 4 times and as delayed us considerably. It is now 8 o’clock Thursday night Nov/5/14.

Friday 6/11/14: Sea calm at morning service in the afternoon. Went very black at night, lightened very much a storm brewing we thought but it was not. We had a concert, a very good one it was it began at eight o’clock, when it was finished we came on deck. We found the moon shining brilliantly. But it still lightened.

Saturday 7/11/14: I heard it had been raining very hard during the night. I didn’t know, I slept through it all. At half past six we came in sight of Greece we anchored in the harbour at half past seven and we moved off at 5pm.

Sunday 8/11/14: Very windy and raining heavily, the boat was rocking from side to side the bottom deck touching the water but we seem to have got used to it , it never had any effect. We had a short service on board.

Monday 9/11/14: We had been stopped almost all of the night as the rope broke again we got down for breakfast at half past seven to find the ship still nothing, we got all the plates and knife forks and spoons duely set on the table when the ship gave a sudden lurch and all the lot went off the table with a crash came in night of Port Said at 12 o’clock pm.

Tuesday 10/11/14: At 10 o’clock am went asleep for a couple. Dropped (Illegible) it is a splendid view from the harbour here all two destroyers otherwise and a torpedo boat. One Cruiser was the Minerva the one which escorted us to Egypt from Southampton we stayed 8 hours at Port Said sailed for Alexandria at 7 o’clock.


Wednesday 11/11/14: Landed at Alexandria about 8 o’clock. Disembarked 11 o’clock got at barrack 12 o’clock had the rest of the to ourselves. Out in our new suit.

Thursday 12/11/14: Revelle 5.50 brakfast 7.30 parade 8.30 first parade for about 4 weeks. We went to the desert for a sham fight with one half batt against the other. We finished at 10 o’clock got back at 6 o’clock. 2 o’clock is is four miles away. We drew and the (illegible) in the afternoon mist.

Friday 13/11/14: Out to the desert again had another fight without blank cartridges. Had an inspection of feet and (illegible).

Saturday 14/11/14: On inspection 10.30 am forward (illegible) Got paid at 11.30 played a game of Baccarat with (illegible) and (Illegible).

Sunday 15/11/14: Reveily 515 breakfast 6 o’clock kit bags out, blankets to be in at 6.30 moved off at 6.45 we had a stop ever hour ten minutes a time. We were in full marching order with 100 rounds of ammunition. Reached met at 11 o’clock. Get dismissed, we had a stroll round looking at the view of the battle some years ago.

Monday 16/11/14: Reveille 5.30 breakfast at 6.30 parade at 7.30 we drilled for a few minutes then we were put on outpost duty. We dug trenches big enough to stand in without being seen Dinner 12.30 rifle inspection 2.30 parade 2.45 and 4.30 finished for the day.

Tuesday 17/11/14: Reveille 5.30 parade at 6 o’clock until half past 6. Breakfast at 7 o’clock parade 8 o’clock we had another sham, we were the attacking party and we won. One lad sprained his ankle and the colonel and him his house to sit in while another lad held the left. The colonel walked in back to the camp with us. We had a football match 6 Platoon v 5 Platoon lost 3-0. Parade 3 o’clock until 4.30 we practiced rushing as if we were marching for the firing line. H. Loen 10 Pastles.

Wednesday 18/11/14: Was put on quarter master fatigue from nine o’clock until dinner, after dinner we played football match D coy we beat them by 5-2.

Thursday 19/11/14: Reveille as usual, parade as usually. Parade stayed short.
Friday 20/11/14: Parade usual moved to afternoon parade as we were on duty at night outpost. I was on duty went on at 6 o’clock pm, got my first watch at 6.30.

Saturday 21/11/14: Came off duty at 6am got tea as we came off duty but we had not been cold. But we needed no parade we had to clean out the line, get every speck off the floor. Got paid at 1oclock from this hour we were allowed out for the time. Had my first donkey ride to Max. 5 of us went to Alexandria, Sailors and Soldiers institute.

Sunday 22/11/14: no parade had to clean the lines again, get every bed out side of the tent. Put beds in a straight line from the first tent to the last. 10 tents in all. We had a short service at ten o’clock had the rest of the day to ourselves half of that all allowed out we had one hour yesterday.

Monday 21/11/14: had a sham fight with D Coy, won, in our estimation. Another parade 4 o’clock meal 5.

Tuesday 24/11/14: had own first day at the guns. Done bad scored 54 out of about 100, practice.

Wednesday 25/11/14: standard test. Same again do the previous day but I scored a bit better grouping 20 out of 25 sillouette 3 out of 15 my bayonet came off after the first shot. Gave hinderance and only scored 1 out of 20, wind very bad.

Thursday 26/11/14: began with 12 out of 20 at 500 yards, next 10 out of 20 at 500 yards, 30 sec allowed. Scored 8 at 600 scored 86 out of 160, had to do outpost duty at night. It rained for two hours we had to sleep with wet thing slept to dawn reveille, slept morning.

Friday 27/11/14: came off guard 6 o’clock this morning. Found all the tents were being struck owing to the wet night, all the tents had to be moved to anther position. We had no parade all day. Lent 4 (illegible) Rogers 5 Hughes.

Saturday 28/11/14: another wet night, more tents had to be moved, water filled all the trenches and it was about five feet deep where the tents were. Had a hand to my forted a day.

Sunday 29/11/14: had a service for about 20 minutes. Had the day to ourselves. Lent Dabbs 5 piastres

Monday 30/11/14: reveille 5.30 had to parade in marching order at 8 o’clock, had practice of field fencing had it in coys, D Coy first. Our turn came we had to run rat from behind a hill to an open space had to advance 100 yards then fire all cartridge at dummy targets finished at 2 o’clock. Sent 3 Piastres to Baker, 4 Coen, 10 Piastres 2 owe. Total 27 Piastres.

Look out for part 2 in which Pte Grimes describes Christmas in Egypt and then the long wait in the desert before his battalion sailed for Turkey…