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The diary of a WWI Jersey soldier has been discovered

Chris Stone explores the Ahier Diary with extracts read by Matthew Price

Clarence Percy Ahier was from Jersey, born in 1892 and served as an artilleryman at the Somme and Ypres in the Great War.

Many of those serving during the war recorded their memories, some became famous accounts, and others were locked away in cupboards and lofts.

The war diary of Clarence Ahier falls into the second category.

This everyman's tale of an artilleryman serving in horrific conditions was donated to the Societe Jersiaise.

It was discovered in a loft in Jersey and was handed to the Societe in a plastic carrier bag.

The diary, telling his story from first enlisting in 1915 through to the return to his island home in 1919 is a typically understated British tale.

Clarence Ahier diary
Clarence speaks of finding Jersey very peaceful and quiet after returning for leave

In one section Ahier tells of returning home to Jersey in September 1917 on leave, and being struck how little people knew of the war.

"I found little Jersey very peaceful and quiet after what I had been used to.

"It struck me very forcibly how little people over here realised what war was really like."

Although many British servicemen kept a record of their time at the front, it was a court martial offence.

The Ahier diary appears to have been taken from notes originally sketched while serving and then written up later. It's not known if the original notes still exist.

The diary has been described as a very important find for Jersey as few service diaries from islanders exist.

But more than that, very few diaries and stories from artillerymen exist at all.

Ian Ronayne from the Channel Islands Great War study group said that until now it has been very difficult to research World War I from a Jersey perspective.

Clarence Ahier diary
The diary was given to the Societe Jersiaise after being found in a loft

"The first World War in Jersey is an area of our history that is relatively un-researched and unknown.

"A lot of that is to do with the fact that there are very few primary documents, there are very few publish articles or academic work on the First World War.

"In trying to find out about the First World War a book like this, a diary like this suddenly producing the story of a Jersey man during that period is very important and very significant," said Ian.

The diary is a simple old exercise book with a hard black cover and yellowing pages.

Inside in careful old fashioned handwriting Clarence Ahier has written up the diary he kept while serving in the trenches.

It is now in the care of Societe Librarian Anna Baghiani and she said that it was the human element that struck her most about Ahier's writing.

"The most touching is the human element. He was a obviously very compassionate man, one dreadful incident he helps a fellow soldier in a trench who thinks he is just basically injured.

"As the moments elapsed he realised the poor mans limbs are hanging off by a thread of skin and the man dies in his arms."

Clarence Ahier photo from Jersey Heritage

This story had such an effect on Anna that she decided to track down the family of the injured soldier to tell them their ancestor didn't die alone.

"The reading of that brought me to tears and I was able to go on to the Commonwealth War Graves website and did a search on a couple of internet sites and find the relatives of Hoiland.

"Not knowing much more than the fact that they were Hoilands and had obviously lost him as part of their family group.

"I transcribed the section that related to his demise and said quite candidly that the evidence was there that he didn't die on his own, that he was in the arms of a soldier who cared for him even in his last moments," said Anna.

The journal is a fitting memorial for Clarence Ahier and the men who fought and suffered with him in the trenches.

And this is surely a better tribute than his only other memorial, an unmarked grave at Mont A L'Abbe cemetery.

Photos of Clarence Ahier were taken from his Occupation ID card and are supplied by Jersey Heritage. Archive images of the Somme from PA.

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The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.


Mr A.D. Hare

I think that it is very sad that this ex soldier has an unmarked grave. If any subscription was started to provide a suitable tombstone, I would like to contribute to it.

Suzanne, St Ouen

A brave old soldier without a headstone, how sad!

I wonder if the auspices of The Royal British Legion could be prevailed upon to rectify this omission.

The Future

I have to ask as an amateur historian will I be able to see and use the images and text for free or will there be a charge and is this what the donor wanted for local amateur historians to be charged to use this document.


Clarence Ahier ID card photo from Jersey Heritage Diary of a Jersey soldier found
The diary of a Great War artillery man has been uncovered.
Ahier Diary Great War diary
Look through images relating to the diary of Jersey born Great War soldier Clarence Ahier.
Extracts from the Ahier Diary
We take a look at the diary of Clarence Ahier with the Societe and CI Great War Study group and read extracts from the diary.
Amy Harris looks at the Diary
Amy Harris from BBC Channel Island News looks at the Clarence Ahier Diary in the Societe Library.


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