Kirkcaldy sisters reveal dad’s secret World War One diary

Sisters  Lily McLeod and Moira Sim with their father's diary from World War One
Sisters Lily McLeod and Moira Sim with their father's diary from World War One

A First World War diary, which might be the only one in existence across the country, belongs to two sisters originally from Kirkcaldy.

Lily McLeod, who still stays in the town, and Moira Sim, who now lives in Cumbernauld, have the treasured family memento that belonged to their late father.

Richard Simpson had kept a secret diary in 1917 while he was a prisoner of war in France and it has been kept in the family through the years.

But now Lily (87) and Moira (91) feel the time is right for it to be passed on to a museum so it can go on 
display for anyone who has an interest in the Great 

Moira said: “Our father was originally from Kirkcaldy and used to live in Bogies Wynd, opposite where the Feuars Arms Pub is.

“He went to Kirkcaldy North School and when he left he got a job in Barry Ostlere’s linoleum factory.

He was 24 when he was enlisted on October 25, 

“He was home just before the new year in 1918. He served as a bombardier with the Royal Artillery. But he was a PoW of war in France for nearly two years.”

Lily said: “During his time in captivity he kept a diary and he managed to keep it hidden in his boot!

“It gave some detail about his time as a prisoner.”

The sisters said they believe he kept a diary to be used as an outlet for his feelings as the conditions were hard.

In the diary he talks about being ‘landed at the cage of misery’ with no coats, and to lie down it was ‘bitter cold’. He also says that food was scarce, with rations consisting of two thin slices of bread per day, one bowl of dirty water for dinner and the same for tea.

He said breakfast was ‘past speaking about. It was terrible’.

Mr Simpson also reveals that he sold his silver cigarette case for bread as well as his ring.

He also mentions starting work which involved making railways and shell humping.

But later he suggests that conditions improved once they started receiving parcels from the Red Cross and were under control of the Belgians.

Moira said: “It must have been hard because he swears a lot in the diary and it was not in our father’s nature to swear.

“He would have had to be very careful not to get caught writing the diary because he would have been shot had they found it.

“It was a risk and he wouldn’t have been able to trust anybody.”

She said that after he returned from war he went back to working at Ostlere’s lino factory where he remained until his death at the age of 42.

Moira continued: “We are getting older and we felt the time was right to pass the diary on to a museum.

“We would like it to go to the Royal Artillery Museum but we have contacted the military museum at Edinburgh Castle and are waiting to hear back from them for their advice.”

She added: “The diary gives an insight into what 
being a PoW was like as our father never spoke about 

“ We think it might be the only World War One diary in existence in the country.”