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Alec Riley’s First World War diaries

by Alec Riley, edited by Michael Crane & Bernard de Broglio

Alec Riley was a signaller in the British Army’s 42nd (East Lancashire) Division.

When war broke out in Europe in August 1914, Alec Riley was 27 years of age and working as a clerk in his merchant father’s salt warehouse in Manchester. Riley was also a part-time soldier with nine years’ service under his belt.

As a volunteer with the Territorial Force, Riley was not obliged to serve outside the United Kingdom but when asked to volunteer, he came forward to sign Army Form E.624, the Imperial Service obligation. By war’s end, the Territorial Force had fielded 25 divisions on foreign soil. The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division was the first to embark for overseas service. Riley sailed with the division from Southampton on 10 September 1914.

During his time in Egypt, and subsequently at Gallipoli and in hospital in England, Riley kept detailed notes, which he later compiled into three diaries. Collectively, they offer a unique window into the experiences of a pre-war territorial soldier, before, during and after Gallipoli.

Egypt Diary 1914–1915

A territorial soldier embarks on Imperial service.

Gallipoli Diary 1915

Helles in war — and perfect peace.

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