The wartime diary of Charles Stanley Cuthbert (1895-1988) was donated to dlr LexIcon Local Studies in 2015. The diary records Charles’ experience of World War One, beginning when he signed up in September 1914 and ending with the Armistice of 1918. The diary and other records relating to Charles are currently on display on Level 5 of dlr LexIcon in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin. The exhibition is part of the wider commemorations of the centenary of the end of the Great War.
Image 1: Charles Stanley Cuthbert, 1917 (Charles Stanley Cuthbert Collection).
Charles Stanley Cuthbert was born in London in 1895. He enlisted with the 7th (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment shortly after the outbreak of war and arrived in France on St Patrick’s Day, 1915. Charles was seriously injured when he was hit by a piece of shrapnel at the Battle of Festubert (15-25 May 1915). He returned to London for surgery and recorded that the nurse gave him the piece of metal removed from his body.
Image 2: Piece of shrapnel given to Charles by his nurse in 1915. The shrapnel was stored carefully in a wooden box and only discovered following Charles’ death in 1988 (Charles Stanley Cuthbert Collection).
Many of the combatants of World War One recorded their experiences despite the fact that keeping diaries was strictly forbidden. Along with cameras, diaries were banned as they would be a useful tool if they fell into enemy hands. Charles recorded his day-to-day activities and made special mention of cricket matches played during rest periods. He also sketched his surroundings and recorded poems and stories from other soldiers he spoke to. After the war, he typed up a definitive account as a way of drawing a line under his experience.
Image 3: Drawing of ‘London Bridge’ at Loos, France in Charles’ 1916 Diary (Charles Stanley Cuthbert Collection).
In 1916, Charles was sent for a course of instructions on the Maxim gun and shortly afterwards received orders to report to the machine gun section for duty. He remained with machine guns until the end of the war and saw action at Loos, Vimy Ridge, High Wood and Passchendaele, officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres.
Image 4: A newspaper clipping from Charles’ diary, showing the devastation at Ypres (Charles Stanley Cuthbert Collection)
Like many soldiers, Charles was battle-scarred and disillusioned at the end of the war. He returned to London but shortly after applied for a clerical position with the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. He was successful in his application and came to Ireland via boat to Dún Laoghaire in 1920. Charles continued writing diaries and his records offer an insight into the life of an Englishman in Ireland during the early years of the Irish Free State.
Image 5: The final page of Charles’ typed diary, 1926 (Charles Stanley Cuthbert Collection).
He lived in various lodgings in the Dún Laoghaire area before purchasing a home on Cross Avenue in 1948. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown always held a special place in his heart and he was particularly fond of sea swimming at Killiney and brisk walks around the area. Like many war veterans, Charles never spoke to his family about his experiences and it was only after his death in 1988 that his fascinating archive was discovered. The display of this previously unpublished diary and associated objects has brought Charles’ story to the public one hundred years after the end of the war to end all wars.
Image 6: Charles Stanley Cuthbert, 1920 (Charles Stanley Cuthbert Collection)
If you are interested in this collection or any others held by dlr LexIcon, please contact the Archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org
David Gunning, Archivist at dlr Lexicon, Moderator at Irish Archives Resource