Soldiers’ Thoughts in an 1916-1918 Station Visitors’ Book

Visitors’ books, while bursting with creativity potential, often feel like a mere registry of names and locations – with the few occasional sentimentalities. They are condemned to live in the present and, as such, their true value is usually underestimated.

Rare is the chance to come across a Visitors’ book that has long lost its counterpart, or that has seen the sands of time from their yellowed pages. What got me thinking about these two pages I saw while visiting Rheinfels Castle near the Rhein in Germany. They were exhibited in the Castle’s museum:

Rheinfels Visitor’s Book: 1914-1915, Hotel Schneider
Rheinfels Visitor’s Book: 1907, Hotel Schneider

We seldom get to see the books of the past. What happens to them? Where do they go when we can’t see them by the counter any more?

With this in mind, I set up to find more books. Although it took me a while to unearth the right keywords, I was greatly surprised when I run into this one: Peterborough’s railway station book, online for anyone to flip through its pages:

I won’t spoil it for you, not too much. Soldiers passing through a train station, waiting and writing in its Visitors’ book. Luckily for us, each page can be clicked for details (a transcription of the text). Here is a couple of facing from 6th July 1916, just the first couple of ones I opened. you should definitely go ahead and theck the rest out in the website.


And the transcripts:

My ink is pale my pen
is blunt for you my
love will never fail
with the best of luck to all
who reads this.

Here’s health to me and all my pals
and ———- old Kaiser Bill
Lets hope his head will never stop aching
until we have given him a ———- good shaking
Pte F.M. Harding. Sheffield. R.G.A.

10 Men on board a Steam drifter
were boarded by the Crew of a German
Submarine – which took them on
board the Submarine & sunk their
fishing boat. The enemy treated
them humanely & spoke kindly
to them – & landed them near
Shields having blown up their
ship – 5 of the Crew were
killed 19 of the men that
were saved stayed at the
Rest Home for an Hour

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