Medic's Western Front diaries for sale

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A soldier's account of life during the Battle of the Somme will be put up for auction this month after his diaries surfaced in a descendant's basement.

The unpublished journals of Sgt Hubert Harding, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, run through the First World War from April 1915 until 1919 and describe how he risked his life on an almost daily basis at Loos, the Somme, Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge and Cambrai.

On the first day of the Somme offensive, July 1, 1916 - a day on which Army losses exceeded battle casualties in the Crimean, Boer and Korean wars - Harding, believed to be from the Brighton area, wrote optimistically: "Lovely morning. Many aeroplanes about. Great offensive starts... very heavy shelling... Very good results obtained so far."

But by the following day - his birthday, probably his 19th or 20th - his mood had changed. "Commence collecting [casualties] at 6am. Very busy morning with bad stretcher cases. Find out that 8th Div very badly cut up yesterday. Snatch a brief rest during afternoon.

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