Monday, 1 September 2014

Hungerford Arcade A WWI Trench Journal - The Dump

The Dump: A Trench Journal

During times of war, when the serving troops are suffering great hardship through situations they can’t control, keeping morale high is one of the biggest challenges the Army faces.  One example of a great morale booster is this wonderful magazine one of our stallholders showed me.  A magazine or “Trench Journal” written for the enjoyment of troops serving in the trenches of the Western Front during The First World War.  The idea of a magazine written by your fellow soldiers was brilliant and I imagine it offered some much needed comic relief to the poor souls stuck in the trenches. 

Some are better known than others such as The Wipers Times (named after soldier slang for Ypres where it was first printed.) of which a BBC dramatisation was produced in 2013.  Others, such as The Dump are very much unknown.  While doing some research I found only one mention of this same edition of the journal on an old auction listing, but no information at all.

 It seems that the journal had always been planned to be published once a year, at Christmas, until the end of the War.  However it is my assumption, and please correct me if you believe me to be wrong, that this was the one and only published issue of The Dump.  The XXIII Division, under the command of Major-General Sir James Melville, was sent to France in August 1915 and this edition was published in Christmas of that year.  It is my opinion that so much happened on the Western Front during 1916, including the Battle of the Somme, that the XXIII division was no longer able to produce the magazine.  Being one of humanity’s bloodiest battles, it is more than likely that some of the main contributors of the journal were killed or wounded at the Somme.

Produced in the winter of 1915 by the XXIII Division, The Dump begins with a message from the editor in which he talks of various limitations, which have been overcome in the production of the journal, including time, materials and means of illumination.  He goes on to say that all ranks have contributed in some way towards the publication and the generals and staff officers have been just as ruthlessly sub-edited as the rank and file, if not more so. 

Contrary to what you might expect from a war journal, it is full of humourous cartoons and anecdotes.  Obviously it was aimed at the troops living in the trenches; keeping hold of your sense of humour when in such poor conditions can be all you need to stay sane. 

On the first page an advertisement for “Wisquerine” appears; “The latest invention for raising hair on the most beardless youth’s cheek.”  One of the testimonials reads, “Your Wisquerine made me a terror to look at in less than a week.”  It is a product I can find no mention of anywhere else and am quite certain it is a tongue in (hairy) cheek advert, simply for amusement.

I have included some pictures of my favourite parts of the journal but here I think I will leave you with a poem by “A Recruit” that seemed to stick with me.

Alex Rogers


From a Recruit.

 I’ve eaten my stew with my fingers,

And drunk the juice from my plate,

I’ve tasted mud with the humble spud

I’m given to masticate.

I’ve shared a bowl with the stranger,

Whose face wore a two-day’s coat;

I’ve quaffed my tea in which I could see,

Strange bodies bob round and float.


I’ve slept in a whitewashed barrack,

With friends of unfragrant kind;

In a luscious rug, where the sporting bug

Was not a strange thing to find.


I’ve sat in a growing puddle,

In my one and only pair;

Wild nights I’ve spent in a leaky tent

Where twelve had the floor to share.


I’ve tried my hand at some laundry,

When my shirts I’ve managed to rinse;

They were hung to dry, but the wind was high,

And I’ve never seen them since.


But, bless you, I’m not grumbling,

What Briton would ever dare!

When over the way, in a ghastly fray,

There’s shrapnel and blood for fare.


So come, you chaps, from your downy beds,

It isn’t all nice, no doubt;

But you’d better die eating English dirt,

Than live to eat Sauerkraut.


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