Start of WW1: Excerpts from the diary of Woodman Leonard

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:08 PM ET

Londoner Woodman Leonard commanded an artillery unit in the First World War and kept a daily diary of life on the Western Front and during several major battles. Sun Media is publishing excerpts of the diary each week.

Upper-class and loyal to the Empire, Major Woodman Leonard volunteered to serve in the First World War as soon as he heard Britain had declared war on Germany Aug. 4, 1914.

Leonard ended up leading an artillery brigade through some of the most harrowing battles of the war.

The week the world went to war saw Canada hurry to get men, equipment and, of course, horses to England.

Life for Leonard turned into a mixture of preparing for war, helping to run the family foundry and enjoying the last moments of a comfortable lifestyle that would soon be shattered.

Diary excerpts from the first week of the Great War

Aug. 4, 1914 (London, Ont.)

At the office all day attending to details and correspondence . . . Col. MacDonnell announced at 8 p.m. that Britain declared war against Germany . . . and I wired the department that all ranks of Battery ready for service if called upon.

Aug. 5, 1914

Did not feel very fit, but went to office, but very little doing there . . . Received the following wire from Ottawa, “Your offer of the 6th Battery for service is noted and is much appreciated.” Heard that our Battery offer reached there at a psychological moment. Discussed the situation with . . . some of my intimate friends.

Aug. 6, 1914

Very hot and close. No special news regarding the war, except that Canada is proposing to sent 20,000 men. Family very comfortable at Muskoka.

Aug. 7, 1914

Received wire from Adjutant authorizing me to secure names of Volunteers for overseas contingent. Had a meeting of officers at noon and decided to get as many names as we could. Ordered some posters calling for men. Went to Armouries and secured over 51 names. The 7th Battalion paraded, and there was a lot of cheering and enthusiasm.

Aug. 8, 1914

At office, but no orders coming in. Put in a busy morning and spent some time also at Armouries and added a few new names. Tried to play tennis, but it was too hot. Added a few more men in the evening.

Aug. 9, 1914

Very hot, but we played a few rounds of golf . . . Came in for tea and others called, and all talked about the coming war.


Canadian men report for military duty as the world embarks on war. (National Archives of Canada Photo)

This week in the war

Aug. 4., 1914: Germany invades Belgium, whose neutrality was guaranteed by a treaty. Britain declares war on Germany.

Aug. 5: Montenegro declares war on Austria-Hungary.

Aug. 6: Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia. Serbia declares war on Germany.

Aug. 7: British Expeditionary Force arrives in France. The series of clashes called the Battle of the Frontiers begins in France and Belgium.

Aug. 9: Togoland campaign begins. France and Britain invade German colony of Togoland in West Africa. Germany surrenders colony Aug. 26.


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