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First World War diary

The First World War erupted in August 1914, as German troops drove across Belgium meeting the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) based around Mons on the 23rd. The battle raged for several days as British and French forces were initially driven back until they held the Germans in early September and regained some lost territory.

photograph of army officers from the first world war

Officers of the 2nd Dragoon Guards, Captain Stone is on the front row, third from the left. This picture was taken in August 1914, only a few days before the Regiment went into action.

In the Royal Armouries archive is the diary of Captain Edward Stone. Captain Stone began the war as second-in-command of B Company 2nd Dragoon Guards one of the cavalry regiments that were part of the BEF, but soon rose to commanding officer. His diary covers the period of 14 August – 28 October 1914 and vividly portrays the fast-paced action of the early weeks of the war.

Cover of the personal diary of Captain Edward Stone, 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays), August to October 1914. “In case of accidents please forward to: – Mrs. E. Stone, 4 Lansdowne Place, Blackheath, London”.

The German army drove French troops to the right of the BEF into retreat and the British were forced to withdraw to ensure they were not outflanked as the Germans advanced. Stone coveys the confusion of the withdrawal as the BEF pulled back from the enemy:

‘On arriving at Le Cateau the place was swarming with infantry and artillery and cavalry, and there was absolute chaos. Finally we pulled off the road and camped in another wet turnip field; the horses and men were just about done in and wet through…’

handwritten WWI diary entry

Extract from the personal diary of Captain Edward Stone, 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays)

Stone goes on to describe the British counter-attack at Le Cateau, and following actions at Nery, Aisnes and Messines as the German advance was gradually halted and the battle front stabilised into the lines of trenches that remained in place until 1918; the Western Front was born.

Edward Stone survived the horrors of the First World War. He was promoted to Major in 1917 and after a long career retired in 1926.

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