Here is just one of many compelling journal entries from my grandfather's WWI journal. The Great Promise contains all of his entries. Visit my website wwone100yearanniversary.com to see additional entries and documents.
September 17th–October 13th
On the 20th of September I managed to get a little drop of water to wash my face, for it had not seen water for 8 days and I had not shaved for over a fortnight. I looked at myself in someone’s little pocket mirror and thought, “What a picture I am.”
We have effectively formed our battle line known as the Aisne River.
We’ve been fighting for a long period of time, all day and almost every night. It seems to come to one as second nature by now. We fired an average of 250 rounds each day. It is really similar to siege warfare, except instead of trying to scale a high castle wall, we try to scale the land between trenches.
Enemy attacks take place nightly. For protection from the shelling I dug a hole at the back of a limber as my home.
Every day seems to be alike. The only difference is that some days the fighting is more severe than others. They shell us occasionally so it is never safe to move far from our dugouts or the shelter of the guns.
The battery took up a position at the base of the cliffs where the Aisne River has eroded away some of the limestone creating great caves.
We placed our wagon train inside the caves for added protection, but even there we have had quite a few men wounded and several horses killed.
Sometimes when they shell us severely we have to desert the guns and take refuge in an adjacent cave. This undoubtedly has been the means of saving some lives.
One night I slept in the cave. Before dawn the next morning I was going to the guns like I do most mornings. However, this morning I left when it was still dark, lost my way, and wandered towards the enemy lines. When it became light I found that I had wandered into a valley between us and the Germans. I was confused and hardly knew what to do. I could hear rifle bullets whipping uncomfortably near me. The ground all around me was full of great holes that were caused by the German heavy artillery.
I knew that when it became full light I would be in a veritable death trap. I was hopelessly lost and unarmed so I decided to take refuge in a shell hole and wait throughout the day. Then when night fell I would try to make my way back.
As timed passed I decided I would chance it and either get to our own lines or meet whatever came my way. After a great deal of wandering and exciting moments, I met an officer who was forward observing. He directed me to where he thought our guns were located.
I reached our guns without further mishap. My off-man and the others thought I had gotten swallowed up for nobody saw me go. Strangely the path I had taken from the cave took me within 10 yards of our guns, which I could see well in the daylight. We all had a good laugh.