Irish WWI soldier’s diary posted online by Maynooth University

11 Jun 2015

Image of Albert Woodman via Joyce Timms/Maynooth University

Nearly 100 years ago, Irish men volunteered their lives to fight in one of the bloodiest and most gruesome wars in all of history, and one such person was Albert Woodman, a signaller in the Royal Engineers whose WWI diary is now available for viewing online.

Launched by author and historian Turtle Bunbury at Maynooth University, the diary follows Woodman, who was the eldest son of an Anglo-Irish family living in Glasnevin, Dublin, prior to the outbreak of WWI and was provided by his granddaughter, Joyce Timms.

With skills in telegraphy developed while working at Dublin’s General Post Office, Woodman joined the Royal Engineers’ Signal Corp and was soon stationed in France and, while home on leave in late 1917, he married his sweetheart, Nellie Mae Preston, before returning to France.

Charting his daily life between January 1918 until the end of the war in November that year, Woodman’s meticulous entries mention the near-constant air raids from German forces and comment on his work in the Signal Office behind the front lines.

Push to Paris

A 1918 newspaper clipping shows the German forces pushing toward Paris, a German military objective since 1914. Image via NUI Maynooth

While the carnage and battles of the war were well documented, the diary also shows Woodman coping with the occasional monotony of a soldier’s life.

“At 2.15am that blessed big gun starts its antics again and fires over about eight big ones keeping it up every seven minutes till just on 3am,” Woodman says in his diary on 12 June, 1918. “Then we get to sleep again.”

The diary also includes numerous maps and newspaper clippings that reference various campaigns and advancements.

The interactive website of the Woodman Diary is freely available to the general public and features high-quality digital images of the diary, transcribed entries with annotations and notes, video interviews and background information on the Woodman family.

The project was developed by students enrolled in An Foras Feasa’s Digital Scholarly Editing module under the supervision of Professor Susan Schreibman and is hosted by Maynooth University.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic