An ‘honourable Englishman’ left glimpse into life at French camp

editorial image

Cricket, country dancing, basketball, film shows, white wine and good food are not the first things associated with World War One combat.

But a diary kept by trooper Albert Badger gives a glimpse into the life of the soldiers away from the French front lines.

For a few months in 1918, Mr Badger kept a day by day account, written in pencil, of his life in a camp outside Boulogne.

Physical jerks, training sessions and what he did in his time off are all listed.

“... curious training session, they have country dancing. I should imagine it is very good training but it looks almost absurd. The band always plays the same tune,” was one of his entries.

He also recorded an event on August 4, 1918. “Today I attended one of the finest ceremonial parades I have ever seen, about 6000 men all picked from the First Army arrived here for a service in commemoration of the completion of the fourth year of war.

“The ceremony was perfectly wonderful, 6000 men from all 
over the world, including American, French, Portugese, Belgian and Italian were represented.”

His time at the camp was trooper Badger’s, Regimental number 2000, second stint in France. Born in Birkenhead in 1897, he was 17 when he first signed up – heading to London with a letter of recommendation from his then employers, an insurance company – to join up.

“I think that was immensely brave,” said his daughter, Ursula Badger, who lives in Prince of Wales Terrace, Scarborough.

He was invalided out after sustaining a leg injury.

“But being my father, being brave and not wanting to be left out of it he tricked his way back in,” said Miss Badger, who is now retired and a huge supporter of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the town.

“He was not supposed to be allowed back,” she said. On his way to France in June 1918, Mr Badger contracted flu, had to hitch a lift on an ambulance and was confined to hospital. He was discharged in July.

“I have had a rotten time, poor food etc. The sisters were very nice,” he wrote.

When he first signed up at the age of 17, he was in the Horse Guards and his horse was called Wyn. After recovering from his injury and conning his way back to France he was assigned as a servant to an officer and his duties were clerical – including issuing tickets to a visit by the then King, George V.

“I am glad they gave him lighter duties. He was rather glad of the camaraderie,” said Miss Badger.

She has kept the diary and photographs of her father in uniform. Mr Badger was discharged in 1919 on 5s 6d a week pension.

He also received a letter from Lieut Colonel Geoffrey Glyn thanking him for 
his service. You take away with you the priceless knowledge that you have played a man’s part in this Great War for Freedom and Fair Play.

“... You have played the game; go on playing it and all will be well with the great Empire which you have helped to save.”

Mr Badger returned to Merseyside where he 
became a member of the 
Liverpool City Police. He died of cancer aged 57 and is buried in Birkenhead. His daughter intends to have his grave refurbished this year, the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.

“I am telling his story in his honour and remembrance, in memory of him to show people what we need to thank them for,” said Miss Badger. She sold his medals to a collection and sent a copy of the diary to the 
Imperial War Museum, so they would “live on”.

“My dad joined the 
police and carried on his good work. He was what was known as an honourable Englishman.”