Maggs Bros Ltd

[Diaries, 1903-1919 and 1928-1930.]

BEADLE Gerald 'Jack' (1930.)

£3000.00 

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Manuscript in ink. 2 volumes. Tall 8vo ruled notebooks cloth covered boards, both vols re-cased and reinforced. V1: 197pp, 61 tipped in photographs and various pieces of ephemera June 1903 - October 1919. V2: 357pp. 10 tipped in photographs, clippings and ephemera. December 1928 - April

Detailed manuscript diaries of a man's young life in the merchant navy, as an itinerant labourer and ultimately smallholder in Oregon, then at the outbreak of war enlistment into the Gloucestershire Regiment and service as a sniper for the 7th Battalion at Gallipoli. Following this, further action and detailed movement across the Mesopotamian campaign, specifically Bazra, Suez, the Wadi River, and a stint on camel transport through Iraq. Demobbed to Baku in Azerbaijan after peace is officially declared, there is a fascinating insight into the post-conflict situation in the Middle East with descriptions of harsh military policing, capital punishment and the movements and treatment of Armenian and Syrian refugees. Finally back home, we see a young man desperately struggle in integrate back into civilian society, and battle depression and likely PTSD.

 

Apprenticed at the tender age of 15 on the British barque Galena, Gerald 'Jack' Beadle of Southampton begins his diary with salty tales of the merchant navy. Carrying mineral cargoes like saltpetre and coal, he finds his sea-legs via Callao, Newcastle NSW, Talcahuano and various other key ports on the early 20th century trade routes. The action is lively and it is clearly a dangerous life; within two weeks of departing from Barry Docks, a mate he joined up with Victor Cooke falls from the rigging overboard and is killed. The entries are peppered with rough seafaring anecdotes, like at Newcastle NSW how "the last time Capt Chisholm was there he was master of a ship called Black Braise, he shot two of the crew, which cost him 700£ to get out of, two Dagoes I think", and how they "sold most of their clothes for pocket money" in Montevideo.

 

Following the Galena's shipwreck off the Columbia Bar, Beadle and his lifelong friend Billy Marshall decide they'd had enough and skip out after 3 1/2 of their 4 years indenture. A local dairy farmer aids and feeds them as they evade capture by the Sheriff and their Captain, living hobo-style in the woods. They then work off this debt on the dairy farm and begin a bucolic period of itinerant farm work and fruit picking in and around Astoria in Clatsop County, Oregon. Beadle and Marshall slowly pay off the purchase of a plot of land in the small town, with an intermission of a six months between Oct 1909 and April 1910 in which they work as crew on the Glasgow Tramp Steamer Earl of Douglas. Just before leaving Portland, Beadle buys a camera (most likely a Brownie), and the trip and subsequent years' adventures are well illustrated with photographs he takes of his shipmates and surroundings, and develops below deck. Notable images include one of the Chinese cook who "would persist in having his alarm clock + bottles + boxes + things [in the picture with him]. I thought I'd get a good meal for this photo of him, but owing to having missed out his feet, he was quite upset. I got no feed." In Belfast docks he sees the Olympic and Titanic under construction before making a brief visit home to Southampton.

 

He returns to Clatsop in 1910 travelling cross country on the Pacific Railroad. Initially he stays again with dairy farmer Frank Wilkinson, but finds that his friendship with Frank's daughter Marjorie has developed into uncomfortable feelings: "The reason I left Frank was because I got so abominably fond of Marjorie, + not at all in a sisterly manner [...] Marjorie being 15 + I 22 I chucked my job up to get out of the way, otherwise I should have gone stone crazy." The Brownie prints they took of one another in this period are particularly evocative: "Marjorie + I both had cameras + took a good many photos, developing them in a darkroom, which was perfect agony." 

 

Beadle and Marshall move into a shack they've built on their plot of land and start cultivating cranberries whilst continuing to work for Wilkinson and other farmers in the town. Beadle takes winter jobs on a lumber steamers, travelling between California and Alaska to service the canneries in Chignic Bay. There are a dozen good photographs from Alaska in 1913, including pictures of other ships, crew life, and one of indigenous canoes. The summer of 1913 in Clatsop saw the town club together to build a dance hall, which they put money and labour towards. The rest of that year was then spent enjoying the good small town social life, and the ongoing perils of his feelings for Marjorie. 

 

As news of the outbreak of was reached him in 1914, Beadle shipped home on the Olympic, which he had seen in construction four years previous, and from which journey there is another nice group of photographs. He tried his luck at the Scotland Yard Recruiting Office with a letter (loosely inserted in duplicate) stating that "I have returned home to take any part I can in the War and believe that my experience would enable me to be very useful in a Flying Corps either Afloat or Ashore." A later note in Beale's hand adds "they suggested the Navy. I said I had already been to sea so would try the Army." 

 

He enlists in the 19th Hussars (glad not to have been made an officer "being terribly self conscious + lacking in the smallest degree of self confidence") and on August 16 1915 he and "A draft of 100 men left Gravesend to join the 7 Gloster [sic] Battalion on the Gallipoli Peninsula". Their arrival finds a near decimated 7th Gloucestershire who in his words had "made an attack shortly before we joined them, going over the top 1,050 or 1,100 strong + coming back about 200". Beadle describes how he maintained these diary entries in the trenches on the back of the cheques in his chequebook. These entries are then copied up into this ledger during the period in 1919 after demobilisation when he has returned to his parents' house, with additional comments separated from original entries with an asterisk. In only his second entry dated 7th Sept 1915 he records the death of a comrade "Rafferty was killed this morning. Shrapnel in the back of the head." Beadle volunteers as a sniper, but notes that he erased this detail from the original chequebook in case he was captured by the Turks.

 

The Gallipoli entries are as harsh as would be expected from any record of that campaign, but specifically give an insight into intimate conditions affecting privates in the trenches. Lice and dysentery are primary complaints, as is the unfair treatment from commanding officers, which is at times harsh to the point of endangerment. The instability of the mud trenches themselves however in the encroaching winter is the real harrowing read: "On Nov 26th we had a terrible rain fall after dark, filled the trenches up to the top. Our Battalion which was 500 strong, two days after was 65. We snipers drew no rations for 5 days. But russled food out of swamped dugouts and trenches. It was hell absolutely. People who have not seen cannot imagine. After rain of two hours heavy frost followed. Men died + were drowned in the trenches." 

 

After three months of moving between the firing line ("I've been handed over a pair of wire cutters for cutting barbed wire entanglements") and the support trenches ("we only shifted back 300 yards into some more trenches, for a rest, as they call it"), all the while suffering terribly from dysentery, Beadle was evacuated to Suvla Bay and spent Christmas day 1915 on Lemnos Island, reporting sick with frostbitten feet. There is a fine snapshot from this time of he and his comrade Norton Crocket taken "outside our dugout at Suvla Bay, Crockett cleaning his revolver, myself cleaning my rifle."

 

January sees him through Alexandria and Port Said where "we paraded + drill + did everything that a soldier does when he's having a so called rest", before being garrisoned on the east bank of the Suez Canal in order to conduct patrols. By 16th Feb however he's mobilised from Port Said to the Persian Gulf, in particular Basra. Conditions in Iraq sound desperately unpleasant with fever, thirst, heat (120 in the shade), and flies being the main complaint, as well as a very poor relationship with his Commanding Officer Younghusband: "Washing our equipment was another of the many useless orders given in the army which make life a misery. It's alright in the barracks, but on active service altogether out of the question. The cursing that Younghusband got, was sincere and from every man's soul. I myself called him a bastard + fervently called to Christ he would get killed." (This "curse came true" when Younghusband was indeed killed in the next skirmish). 

 

His next movement is to the Wadi River, where he comments that the heat, mosquitoes, and septic sores almost drove him to insanity. By December he is headed up the Tigris with a bad case of diarrhea and on a ration of just a pint of water per man per day: "Dead tired (dia') bad. Would willingly lay down and die quietly." He spends his birthday on the firing line and then is on the move constantly to Baghdad, Kerna and finally Basra. Thirst is still a daily trial and April 1st he receives "7 days No 2 Field Punishment, for drinking unchlorinated water".

 

July 1917 he has his first leave since arriving in Gallipoli, spending a month in Belgaum, India. He then returns to Hamedan, Iraq where he comes face to face with swathes of refugees dislocated by the conflict, although seems to have little sympathy for their plight: 27 Aug 1918 "disarming refugees as they come down. Pressing all able bodied men into the army, don't know what army! Carrying dead out of hospital, dying like flies. Most have trecked 19-25 days before getting here. Armenians + Syrians, lots are lazy + wont help themselves. Small pox here. Dysentery + other diseases worse. Have to drive them with sticks to get vaccinated." Following this he is put on camel transport, and is either marching or riding camels great distances daily until peace is declared. 

 

The official end of the war does not mean home for Beadle however, as he is demobbed to Baku in Azerbaijan to enforce the peace. This is perhaps the most interesting section of all, as it shows the volatility of this nation, only just separated from the Russian Empire in its early infancy. It's more than the exhausted Beadle can take however, and his previously hinted at prejudices and attitudes truly shine through in this period, finding very little compassion for the those native peoples on either side: 5 Dec '18 "Some people wish the Turks to take this place again, they massacred somewhere between 20,000 + 30,000 Armenians last time they took it."  11 Dec '18 "We have one man in the clink who owns the largest hotel in the town + also a lot of property besides. An Armenian, Capt in Russian Army. Slaughtered 300 Persians. Think he will be shot." This thread continues: 13 Dec '18 "Saw two men hung + one shot at noon. Some party say they wont tolerate capital punishment + say the way things are being done is how we would govern our negroes in the African Colonies. I could have hung those two men better myself."

 

Beadle then extraordinarily spends some months guarding two Persian Princes, who are being held as political prisoners. From an inserted clipping it seems highly likely that they were Abulfath' Mirza Salar-ed-Dowleh and one of his brothers. He doesn't think much of the princes and their demands, and predominantly ridicules their sensibilities and eccentric habits "the prince has a mania for pulling the WC plug."

 

Finally, in February/March 1919 he sails out via Constantinople and Salonika, and after a further crowded an unpleasant lorry journey, he is deloused and returned home. Rather than a joyful homecoming however, upon arrival, he discovers that his brother George has died of pneumonia in Germany, and he sinks into a deep depression. During this period he scarcely leaves the house, and occupies his time with copying up this ledger of diary entries from his wartime notebooks (now lost). He pines to return to America and corresponds with Billy Marshall regularly, and his father and grandfather try to lend him money to buy into the barge industry, but his nerves and confidence are shot, and he declares that "I'd rather go over the top any day than go round making inquiries how to do things." The first volume of his diaries ends October 5th 1919 with the sentence "Wonder if I'll ever feel contented again anywhere."

 

There is a space of nine years elapsed before the second volume begins, and we find Beadle a settled and more pensive man. He did indeed enter the barge industry, and writes much of this and the sea in general. His father has recently committed suicide, and this return to diary writing feels both like an attempt to come to terms with this event and a exercise in more general self inspection and literary refinement (he has ambitions both to poetry and playwriting). He has never married, but maintains correspondence with Marjorie, who has had two unhappy marriages and who's son there is a photograph of tipped in. In his words "I love + admire women, but were it possible I should not inflict myself upon the most unselfish female born." Although set at an entirely different pace to the constant action and movement of the first volume, this revisiting of old ground is potentially rich in psychological insight into the after-effects of conflict induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Stock Code: 224295