Charles Edward Dilkes, Remembering World War One: An Engineer’s Diary of the War
Published by Juliet Publishing on September 15, 2014
Genres: Biographies and Memoirs, Unit Histories
This memoir of a volunteer engineer covers Dilkes’s enlistment, journey to France, and the battles in which he was involved while serving in the 1st Division from May 1917 to September 1919. It is an invaluable source of information on what life was like for an American soldier on the Western Front. It is well written, informative, and, on occasions, even entertaining.
Dilkes’s memoir bears the hallmark of a literary man and is characterized by a refreshing honesty. Dilkes’s joy at the end of the hostilities prompts him to mention AEF commander General Pershing’s admiration for the division: “At this time there is great reason for our jubilee because we knew the feeling our esteemed General John J. Pershing held towards the First Division when on July 17, 1919, at London he delivered a speech from which an extract is here quoted:
‘You will recall that when our First Division entered the battle line and fought the small though brilliant battle—the first as an independent command—at Cantigny, that the success which attended the attack not only set an example for future American divisions to follow, but really had an electrifying effect through the Allied lines and gave new hope to the armies.’”
Dilkes’s memoir is enhanced by the meticulous editing work carried out by his three daughters. The numerous historical context features, under the heading “Living History,” provide valuable background information. Remembering World War One is beautifully illustrated, with maps, pictures of artifacts and photographs. There is an extensive register of notes, a comprehensive glossary of abbreviations, and a useful bibliography of primary and secondary sources, poetry cited, and assorted references. Remembering World War One is unusually detailed, unusually well edited, and, perhaps most importantly of all, very human.
Jane M. Ekstam, professor at Hogskolen i Ostfold, Halden, Norway