The War Diary of the Master of Belhaven 1914-1918

Ralph Hamilton fought almost continuously through the war, including action in the epic battles at Loos, Ypres and the Somme.

First published in 1924, this diary provides an extraordinary account of an artillery officer’s experience during the Great War.

From the cold and the mud to the omnipresent shelling, he paints a picture of devastating authenticity.

At the Battle of Loos his battery scrambled in the sticky clay.

At the battle of the Somme he fought bitterly at the infamous Delville Wood.

At a town near Amiens he died.

His batteries underwent constant bombardments from all types of guns but nothing was more feared than the silent landing of the gas shells.

When not on the front lines, there was little to do but wait to be called into action. Yet even there, trips to divisional headquarters might see an errant shell or stray sniper’s bullet.

Yet the Master of Belhaven remained upbeat. For Hamilton, as long as he could listen to his gramophone and his Wagner records, the war was bearable.

‘An extraordinarily painstaking and accurate picture of war … with not the tiniest detail unrecorded.’ — Captain Cyril Falls, MC.

Ralph Hamilton (1883-1918), the Master of Belhaven, attended Eton and Sandhurst before serving as an officer in the British Army. In 1901 he joined Grenadiers, and later the King’s Own Hussars in India. In 1908 he joined a battery of the Royal Horse Artillery of the newly formed Territorial Force. By the outbreak of the First World War he had attained the rank of major and entered the Western Front in August 1914.

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