An Interrupted Note

The War Diary of Morpeth’s Harold Maynard

It had been a long day on the road in central France for Lieutenant Herbert Harold Maynard, when he habitually took out his pencil and scribbled an entry in this diary; ‘Left Berles au Bois 26th for Senlis’. It was 26 March 1918, and the young man from Swan Street, Morpeth had carried this diary with him throughout World War I, using its lined pages to meticulously document his postings and movements.  

Harold Maynard (1893-1918), the only son of Frances Anne Maynard and Morpeth’s bootmaker, Thomas Maynard, was known by fellow soldier George Mitchell as a ‘thoughtful, dependable chap, who spent his nights studying textbooks’.

Harold’s diary entries were brief and unemotional, tracing his journey on the train from Morpeth to Newcastle to enlist, training in Cairo, landing on the beach at Gallipoli, evacuation to Egypt, transfer to the battlefronts in France, respite in London and return to France. But occasionally Harold added a note, such as ‘Dreadful marching weather B [bloody?] – Hot’, in Egypt, and ‘Had to sleep in Snow’, in France. He also added a humble note on 27 June 1917 – ‘Military Medal’ – received for tending to the wounded incessantly under heavy fire at Messines.

On 27 March 1918, Maynard appears to have been expecting another transfer, writing ‘Left Senlis 27th for … ‘, but his note was incomplete, as if interrupted, and the following page remains blank. There in Senlis, Harold’s battalion met resistance and remained longer than expected. On 5 April, Harold was killed in action.

This diary was likely one of the ‘notebooks’ listed in the inventory of Harold’s belongings, which were returned to Thomas and Frances in Morpeth, in April 1919.