It contains cartoons, messages and poems scribbled down by soldiers and gives a unique insight into life during the First World War.
And this autograph book belonging to Gladys Harvey will go on display at Shugborough Hall Museum next year to mark the centenary of the conflict.
Gladys was a volunteer in her early twenties in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), working in the canteen on the Brocton Camp in Cannock Chase between 1917 and 1918.
While there, soldiers would regularly make entries in her book. Examples of these include a cheeky cartoon depicting Gladys picking blueberries, as well as caricatures of soldiers.
It is also filled with humorous poems and rhymes. One reads: “The happiest moments of my life were spent in the arms of another man’s wife (my mother).” This was left by a G Mainland on December 12, 1918. A more melancholy entry is a poem left by Gladys herself in October 1917. It says: “I walked by myself, talked to myself, and that very same self said to me, look after thyself, take care of thyself, as nobody cares for thee.” The book was donated to the county of Staffordshire by Gladys’ son-in-law in 1995 following her death.
Development officer at Shugborough Museum, Helen Johnson, described the book as “unique in bringing the whole conflict to life.” She added: “This is such a unique object in our collections at the museum.
“It is a fascinating piece of history telling us about one individual’s experiences working at the Brocton Camp. It’s full of quirky poems and pictures and some quite emotive notes from soldiers who wrote in it. It’s a terribly fascinating item which we really treasure in our collection. It brings the whole conflict to life by having something which you can hold and read.”
The First World War training camps over the Chase were the biggest in Europe, with thousands of men travelling there from across the UK and further afield to prepare for life on the front line.