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First World War diaries which recount first days of the Battle of the Somme go up for auction

The First World War diaries of two soldiers which detail the chilling horror of the Battle of the Somme have been unearthed and are expected to fetch hundreds of pounds at auction. 

Gunner H Belshaw and Captain John Oliver Mark Ashley wrote their journals from the Western Front between April 1, 1916 right until the end of the conflict on November 11, 1918. 

The Battle of the Somme was the bloodiest battle of the First World War and lasted for 141 days. On the first day of the battle alone, more than 19,000 British soldiers were killed and 38,000 were wounded.  

The journals described the grim reality of trench warfare and were recently uncovered by experts at Hansons Auctioneers, in Etwall, Derbyshire, who believe the two artillerymen may have been related. 

The first diary is written in a Field Message Book by Belshaw, who was a member of the Royal Garrison Artillery. 

He offers extensive coverage of his day-to-day activities and includes notes relating to the fateful day of July 1, 1916 – the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  

The second diary, which belongs to Captain Ashley, of the Royal Garrison Artillery, begins on January 1, 1918. 

It runs for the whole year and offers notes on Home Service as well as time on the Western Front. 

One entry, written for November 11, 1918, in Teddington, London, stated in block capitals ‘THE END OF THE WAR!’.  

A Hansons spokesperson said: ‘His account as an officer gives a different insight into the war compared to that of a private soldier.’

They added: ‘The lot includes a large scrap book brimming with photos, maps and papers which belonged to Captain Ashley.

‘It covers his post-First World War career in the Army, service in India before the Second World War and active service in Italy during the Second World War until December 1945 when he retired.’ 

The war memorabilia will go under the hammer on August 7 in an online auction with an estimate of between £300 and £400.    

The Battle of the Somme began on July 1, 1916, and lasted until November 19, 1916. The British advanced seven miles but failed to break the German defence. 

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