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Experiences of the Great War

George Ramage's diary

In common with many of his fellow Aberdeen arts graduates and students, George Ramage kept a diary of his experiences while serving with the Gordon Highlanders in Flanders during the First World War.

In 1934, the year of Ramage's death, the National Library of Scotland bought the four volumes of his war diary [National Library of Scotland reference: MS.944-947].

Thoughts on various aspects of war

The diary paints a very vivid picture of events at the Front from April to June 1915.

Ramage had arrived at the Front at the time of the first German Gas attacks at Ypres, 22 April 1915. The diary mentions the early improvised gas masks used by the allied forces and the battle for 'Hill 60'.

But the diary is more than a mere account of life at the Front.

Ramage expounds his thoughts on the various facets of war, describing the bravery of some of his colleagues and the ineptitude of others.

He realises that he is taking part in the first 'scientific war'. He has to parade in front of Generals, he has to bury dead comrades in arms. He watches French peasant farmers working their fields as battle rages around them.

Questions everything

In his diary, Ramage explores many of the themes developed by thinkers during and after the war. Everything is questioned, including the role of the Generals in command and the place of religion in warfare.

After he is wounded and sent to hospital in England to be rehabilitated, Ramage describes in great detail his life as a convalescent soldier in a hospital full of fellow amputees.

He questions the British Army's strategy and tactics and the validity of religion in the wake of this 20th-century 'Armageddon'.

Life of an ordinary soldier

However, Ramage's diary is perhaps most important for its vivid account of what life was like for an ordinary soldier in the front-line trenches during the Great War.

Although only at the front for a short time, Ramage was able to capture the essence of life there, and his story is in a sense the story of thousands of other young soldiers as well.

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