Allegedly the diary of a dead English soldier found on the battlefield, these ‘notes of a fallen Englishman’ tell the story of a naïve working-class youth who joins the army to escape a hard labouring life. When war breaks out he is sent to France where he is wounded and eventually killed in battle. This supposed ‘British Tommy’ produces typical German propagandist sentiments about greedy, warmongering British imperialism and the dauntless courage of the German troops. The British Army by contrast is portrayed as ill-equipped and ill-disciplined, its men lacking commitment to any cause except drinking. The real author, Norbert Willy, wrote a similar work purporting to be the diary of a French soldier who, like ‘Tommy’, comes to recognise the failings of his own country in the face of German superiority.
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I was born on the 13th of May 1890 and the most important thing that I can remember was when my Mother died I was then five years of age.
I then, when my Mother was buried went to live with my Grandmother and Grandfather where I spent a not very exciting life.
I left school when I was thirteen years of age and started work at once.
I was errand boy, worked in a bridge building yard, also in a wagon building works where I followed the glorious calling of driving a Steam Hammer where I didn’t succeed in killing anyone which wasn’t my fault.
I then must have thought the Steam Hammer had imparted some of its strength to me so I passed another eighteen months
(Wiedergabe einer Originalfeite des Tagebuches.)