Wednesday, 24 December 2014


"Preparing for war”

The diary of Alphaeus Abbott Casey (1895-1916, soldier, Sheffield) (MS 312) is held in Special Collections, University of Sheffield Library

Dates: January-March 1915, July, September, November, December 1915-February 1916.

Alphaeus Abbott Casey (Private, 12/69) was a student of the University of Sheffield who joined the Sheffield City Battalion (12th Bn. York and Lancaster Regiment), which was formed in September 1914, partly at the behest of members of the University of Sheffield, and recruiting from both university and commercial men. He was killed in action on 1st July 1916 at the age of 21 at Serre (on the Somme), along with many other members of the Battalion. The author John Harris, in  A covenant with death, his fictional story of a recruit in the Sheffield City Battalion, describes the battle thus: “Two years in the making. Ten minutes in the destroying. That was our history”. Casey is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 14A and 14B).

The diary covers January to March 1915, when the Sheffield City Battalion were being trained at Redmires, on the outskirts of Sheffield. Written in pencil, it details daily events, training routines, family visits and leisure activities. There are short entries in July, September and November 1915 noting the Battalion’s movements between various camps. It also includes very brief entries (under the date of March 19th 1915) for the Battalion’s posting to Egypt between December 1915 and February 1916. At the beginning of the diary are personal details, addresses, notes from 1914 and the words of Casey’s school song. The rest of the diary is taken up by a handwritten  alphabetised index of Arabic/English vocabulary. Tucked in the back cover is a newspaper cutting dated 29th October 1914 of an English translation of a German poem “of hatred against Great Britain”.

[Notes compiled partly from Richard A. Sparling, History of the 12th Service Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment (Sheffield: Northend, 1920) and Paul Oldfield & Ralph Gibson, Sheffield City Battalion (Barnsley: Barnsley Chronicle, 1988)].

The University of Sheffield Library also holds a framed memorial scroll of Alphaeus Abbott Casey. These scrolls were presented by the King to the nearest relative of each service man and woman who gave their life during the First World War. (AR 13).

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