Friday 14 July 1916: “Tonight I shall have been a year in the army! How much longer is this nightmare going on? News from the front is good on the whole and we are certainly pushing them back to a certain extent but at a great cost.”
In Lowewood Museum’s collection are a set of five diaries written by the British soldier Stephen Warner during the First World War.
The diaries offer a first hand perspective of war, in a field hospital and on the front line. There are stories, drawings, pressed flowers, photographs and much more contained in the diaries, which bring Stephen’s experience to life.
Lowewood Museum has begun a research project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, based on the diaries. As part of the World War One Centenary celebrations, the findings will be part of an exhibit in May 2018. The Museum's team will be working with the local community to produce an illustrated novel and some short films. There will also be a series of events linked to the exhibition, including a conference.
More details coming soon - look out for updates on the blog page which regularly posts passages from the diaries and other aspects of life at the Museum.
Local Importance and Family Connections
Stephen Warner was the great grandson of John Warner who owned Lowewood Museum when it was a domestic residence. The Warner family were well known locally and there are several institutions named after them, such as The John Warner School and The John Warner Sports Centre in Hoddesdon.
In the First World War, Stephen Warner served the majority of his time at the St John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Étaples, France. He went on to serve with the Essex Regiment on the front line. Warner joined the 3rd Battalion of the Essex Regiment and fought on the front line in France, going on to receive the Military Cross for his work.
Thursday 28 February 1918
"I have had a proud day. A letter has just come from the adjutant telling me that I have been awarded the military cross! I do not feel that I did anything very wonderful, but I suppose the standard to gain the award is lower than it used to be.”
Warner survived the war but was reported wounded in April 1918. After the war he graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford with an Master of Arts (MA). He had a keen interest in history and architecture and later published books on various historic buildings in England including Lincoln College.
In 1928 he moved to Alton, Hampshire and became the honorary curator of the local museum. The museum still has a significant number of artefacts and books that were donated by Stephen and by his wife after he died in 1948.
His diaries offer us a personal interpretation of life in the war from a unique man. Warner had a keen interest in the flora of his local area and pressed specimens in his diaries.
Throughout the war and especially when he had days off from the St John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital, Warner wandered through the countryside and villages, talking knowledgably about the landscape and flora. He also showed an interest in the local agricultural practises, comparing them to those in England.
Warner was an intelligent man and took an interest in everything he came across. In his diaries he wrote detailed articles and notes about operations, and described infections, illnesses and treatments that were being carried out in the hospital. He had a close-up view of these things when he worked in the surgical theatre as an orderly.
Thursday 13 January 1916
"The chief feature is the church, which had a finely vaulted chancel and transept of late 1450. Nice carving on the pillar capitals including acanthus leaves and ivy with berries.”
For more information about this project please contact the museum by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01992 445596.