Lot 17
Sold for £5,040 (US$ 8,471) inc. premium
Lot Details
War diaries of Walter Lang, in two volumes, the first when serving with the Second Battalion Coldstream Guards in the Somme area (beginning as a 2nd Lieutenant), from 24 September 1916 until March 1917; the second when serving as Intelligence Officer to the Guards Division, recording the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), from 1 April to 17 October 1917, some 500 leaves, blue boards, minor signs of rubbing and wear, folio, Western Front, 1916-1917


  • AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE AND VIVID RECORD OF THE SOMME AND PASSCHENDALE, the main accounts carefully and comprehensively written-up in two stout folio legers after the war, but interspersed with charming and quirkily-illustrated letters home to his small children, his daughter "My darling Bunts" and son "My darling Kenneth"; together with intelligence photographs (including marked-up views of the desolation of Passchendaele), trench maps, photographs of fellow officers (one group of his brother Ivan, killed in November 1917, and three others, all killed in September 1916), official orders, etc. The journal is made up both from contemporary records (such as the delightful but poignant letters to his children), as well as "Further notes from memory", as for example in his description of the opening of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele): "I planned to get to my Prisoners Cage before the Barrage started, but the motor smash delayed me somewhat. My party was therefore still a few hundred yards away from my shelter when zero hour struck. I knew it when a battery of Field Guns loosed off about 20 yds behind me in the dark, and I felt a sort of scorch pass over my head from the muzzles of the guns. I was walking on some raised duckboards and my attention wavered from my feet for a moment with the result that I stepped carelessly and missed the narrow path in the gloom, and down I came in a heap with all my paraphernalia of books and papers and haversacks and things, for we were all well laden. When I picked myself up Hell was let loose. Thousands of guns belched forth and the roar was simply indescribable. The Battery behind let off again, and as it was unpleasantly close to us, we sat down for a few moments to get acclimatised. The eastern horizon was a marvellous sight. We had some new kind of shell which burst above the Hun trenches and rained liquid fire on them. I suppose that it was burning oil. Anyway it had the most fearful appearance, and I could not imagine how anyone could remain alive under such a storm. Everywhere around, our guns flashed from what had been a desolate darkened piece of country just a few minutes before" (ff.152-3).
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