My Memories of the Great War

We hold a absolutely fascinating manuscript memoir, written by Walter Perren, who served with the 17th Battalion Middlesex Regiment during the First World War. The memoir includes detailed descriptions of his enlistment and training in Colchester before his embarkation to France, and then his impressions of the battlefield, with references to the conditions in the trenches and the use of mustard gas, as well as the action that he saw during the Battle of Loos (September-October 1915), the Third Battle of Ypres, often referred to as the Battle of Passchendaele (June-November 1917) and then the Battle of Caporetto in Italy (November-December 1917).

First page of Walter Perren's First World War Memoir
The first page of the manuscript memoir written by Walter Perren

The first page of the memoir has been transcribed as follows: ‘First of all I was at Margate as a season Hand.  War was declared on August 4th 1914. It was but a few days when I decided to come up to London & enlist which I did on the 27th same month as war started. I was sent to the middlesex Regiment my first station at Mill Hill after about 2 nights there fitted all up as a soldier I was one of them formed to make the 12th Battalion Middlesex which was some of the first of Kitcheners 100,000 men.   We started training at Colchester and I was picked to join the 11th Batt after about 10 months hard training we were as efficient as a regular soldier which takes about 5 ys in peace time to train. From Colchester to went to Aldershot when we were finally fitted up to take our place in the field of battle which I think every man was eager to get not knowing what warfare was. Shall never forget what a pitiful sight it was leaving Aldershot wives & mothers waving yes perhaps their last good bye to their dear ones, ones that had never been as much as out of their sight before. Everyone just then thought it would be over in a very short time.  People never Estimated a war between several nations lasting long except Lord Kitchener hisself who predict a 3 years war but he never lived to see his predicament for although a soldier he died a sailors death being drowned at sea when on a Mission to Russia which had he lived I believe thousands yes millions who died in the war would have been alive today’.

Photograph of Walter Perren and his friend Ken Rodger in uniform during the First World War

This item is available to view by appointment at the Barking and Dagenham Archives and Local Studies Centre (Archive reference: BD163).