Diary of soldier on the Western Front

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The heart-rending diary of a British soldier was sold at auction yesterday, 90 years after it was written in the mud of Flanders.

James Beatson described life on the Western Front after finding the tattered journal of a German officer that had somehow found its way into the British trenches in 1915.

In the months before his own death on the Somme, he conducted an imaginary conversation with the author, and penned his own descriptions of the horrors of the First World War.

In one passage, Beatson, from Edinburgh, wrote: "Are you dead Heinrich? Fate has labelled you a Prussian and me British, but I would do a long pilgrimage to lay flowers on the grave that holds your body." Of the second battle of Ypres, he said: "The ground is full of dead bodies of rats... the fellows had some furious fun at night baiting the rats. There is a plague of the repulsive vermin... slow, fat, waddling monsters.

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