A miniature 1917 pocket diary kept by a World War 1 airman, Corporal Gordon Tucker, is on display this month at Wye Heritage Centre despite containing an initial impression of Wye as ‘an awful hole’.
Tucker, who it seems was not in a very positive frame of mind on the day in question (16th December 1917) and who is likely to have been describing the aerodrome on Bramble Lane rather than the actual village, goes on to state ‘No houses! No shops! No girls! Grub Awful! Weather vile!’
The diary is one of four, covering the period 1916-1919 each of them measuring just 3”x2”, which detail Gordon Tucker’s experience as an air mechanic and rigger during World War 1 and which are now being put on display by Wye company Funder Films CIC.
The diary has come to light as a result of a Heritage Lottery World War 1 project entitled Wye Chilham Chartham: Scene from the Train 1914-18 which aimed to discover what was happening in the three villages during World War 1.
While there were copies of short extracts in Wye Historical Society’s archive, the whereabouts of the original diary wasn’t known until volunteer researcher and Wye resident Delia Copland set about trying to locate it.
A quick search on Ancestry UK revealed that Tucker had two surviving sons, one of whom living in Ashtead in Surrey was in possession of the diaries.
“We were staggered about how small they are,” said Copland, “And also about the amount of personal detail really on a day to day basis.
“He was carrying the diary around in his pocket, recording incidents at the aerodrome, but also meetings with girlfriends and friends in Wye.”
Gordon’s take on Wye is not the only example of his plain-speaking. Throughout the diary he expresses his opinions about his superior officers, various types of aeroplane, dances that he frequented (some of them in Ashford), and, most intriguing of all, the numerous women who he dated at the time.
Extracts from the diaries have now been compiled into a small exhibition, part funded by Ashford Borough Council, which will start off in Wye Heritage Centre on July 6th and July 20th (between 10 and 12 noon), before visiting other places where Gordon served: Beaulieu and Hounslow.
Gordon’s son Michael, 83, is over from Australia and will be a guest of honour at the exhibition. He describes the diaries as ‘a goldmine of information’.
As well as the four miniature diaries, Gordon Tucker’s VPK camera, personal photo albums, uniform and detailed handwritten rigging manuals can also be seen at the exhibition. Some of the exhibition boards will also be displayed in the window of Number 9 Church Street in Wye throughout the month of July.