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Albert's Diary - January 1918

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Wednesday 2nd

Christmas has been very quiet. The rain came down in torrents on Christmas day. I worked until 3pm. We had a few extras for tea and to a concert afterwards, but i stayed in and dried my clothes with the aid of a Swedish blow-lamp. There are no fireplaces in the buildings around here, not even in the houses. This winter here is the coldest for many years, so the people make fires on the doorsteps and have to come outside to get warm!

There has not been much excitement for some weeks, things are getting rather dull. We can't go into the Holy City without a guide and a pass. We can go into the new town, but it is under Martial Law, and all is in darkness by 8pm, so there is not much pleasure in going.

A German Evangelistic Mission is doing good work here. There is an orphanage with several wings each reserved for the teaching of some trade, such as printing, carpentry, boot making and turning etc. In addition there is a Blind Institute and a 'Krankenhouse' or a hospital for the mentally ill. Also there is a large church with splendid organ - quite as good - or probably better, than many which we see in large towns in England. All scholars in the orphanage are taught three languages and get a thoroughly good education.

Thursday 3rd

Parcels not yet arrived, several tons of Christmas puddings etc. are stranded several miles up the line owing to heavy rainfall resulting in bad roads and swollen 'waddies' (rivers). Hundreds of parcels and thousands of letters are delayed from the same cause.

Friday 19th

Having a rest today after doing 12 hours on guard. Last Sunday had the pleasure of a visit to the church of the Holy Sepulchre which is a very wonderful place - historical majestic and imposing without - and extremely beautiful inside, I might say almost gaudy.

Lamps in all shapes and sizes and with globes of every colour and each lamp perfect in itself, met the eye at every turn. There were hundreds of them - nay thousands. This church is built over the supposed site of Calvary and the tomb of our Lord. The first thing one see on entry is the Unction Stone or place of anointing where Christ was anointed before burial. The actual stone is covered over with slabs of marble as a protection I suppose from vandals. Then the tomb of our Lord is shown. We bend down and enter through a low door. The tomb containing one large shelf or recess of marble beautifully white and shining and containing such a wealth of lamps, candles, gold, silver and precious stones of every kind and size.

The next item is the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea and his family, this is down some steps inside a kind of a cave and is built of plain stone throughout, with no decoration and no lamps.

The choir is visited with its marvelous wooden screen, the product of many years patient toil and superb craftsmanship. Also, the world famous picture of the face of our Lord, the eyelids of which appear to move when you view it. This picture was in the darkest corner of the choir and not shown to advantage. Next we appeared before the supposed actual site of Calvary - here is a full sized cross with the figure of Our Lord thereon with the subscription in various languages. All very inspiring to a good Catholic no doubt - the carvings, paintings, etchings, the brasswork, the candles and the lamps provide a feast for the eyes of all lovers of pomp and splendor with theatrical trimmings. I admit a sense of disappointment here. Here I found no meek and lowly Jesus, no simplicity, no friend of publicans and and sinners - no simple life. I found a most beautiful and elaborately decorated place fit for a king to live in - but my Jesus is not here. He is risen!

We also saw the rock which was cleft in twain when the curtain of the temple was rent on the first Good Friday. The façade and part of the church was built by Constantine and remains of pillars outside were built by the Crusaders.

Thursday 31st

Today received a parcel from Alice and Mother, which was very acceptable and everything in excellent condition. Cake was splendid - chums congratulated me on having a girl who could bake like that!

December 1917 - 1918 February


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