A COLLECTION of military memorabilia belonging to the grandfather of two Burnham men fetched hundreds of pounds more than expected at auction today.

Private Bert Camp’s harrowing diaries recording the true horrors of fighting in some of World War One’s bloodiest battles, along with other wartime mementos, sold for £1,400 to a trade buyer at an auction in Bristol.

This is The West Country: camp7 Militaria expert Malcolm Claridge at auctioneers Dreweatts told the Weekly News the lot was only expected to fetch £400-£500.

He said: “We are very happy; these sorts of items have been gaining value in recent years, possibly because of the centenary coming up in 2014.”

This is The West Country: camp14 The remarkable diary was unearthed by Pte Camp’s grandsons Roy and Stephen Smith of Burnham inside a cardboard tube in 2006 - exactly 100 years after he first signed up for military service at the age of 17.

It describes Bert's front-line action from Ypres to Paschendaele, Neuve Chapelle and the Somme in breathtaking 'matter of fact' detail.

He tells how the British literally ''murdered'' the Germans at Ypres only to get a taste of their own medicine with a ''baptism of fire'' at Paschendeale.

Bert, a gun carriage driver with the Royal Horse Artillery, was wounded twice when his horses were shot from under him and was wrongly reported as ''killed in action'' - but he repeatedly volunteered to fight again.

This is The West Country: camp10 In some of the most graphic descriptions of a Great War battle, Pte Camp told how K Battery Royal Horse Artillery, attached to the 7th Cavalry Division, confronted the Germans at Ypres in 1914.

Bert, then a 25-yar-old private, wrote: ''We moved off through Ypres until we were right up near Roubaix. There was a force of Germans estimated at 20,000 there and at night the sky was lit up, as the places were all alight.

''We were in action at dawn. At About 8am, the cavalry reported a large force of Germans was coming in our direction, so we 'stood to' by the guns.

''About an hour from when we had the order, we saw them in thin grey masses coming along, a fine target for artillery.

''We started, opened fire on them and as soon as we had got the range, we started sending shrapnel into them as fast as we could fire them.

''It was murder, as we could see the shells bursting from where we were and they were tearing holes into the ranks of the German infantry. Still they came on.

''Their idea was to 'rush the guns.' but nothing doing, as they had no artillery with them. We shortened our range and gave it to them for all we were worth.'' This is The West Country: camp20

In his neat, handwritten diary, Bert recorded: ''The next day we were off again at 5am and went into action at a place called Passendale (sic) and it was our turn to catch it that day.

''We had been firing about seven hours on and off when the British and French cavalry decided to make a charge. They charged and the 1st Royal Dragoons lost heavily but they came back in perfect order, as if on parade.

''The Germans started shelling ... and for two hours we had a lively time of it. Horses were getting killed and wounded, also drivers and gunners.

''One team of black horses and the three drivers were smashed up into a pulp as a shell burst in right amongst them.

''And I shall never forget the sight when the smoke cleared away, you couldn't recognise anybody as the flesh of the man was mixed up with the horse.

''I was wheel driver then of 'A' sub section gun team, my riding horse had his nose blown off and was still alive.

''I shot him and put him out of his agony quickly and put a gunner's horse in his place. Then the hand centre horse of our team got hit broadside and we had to shoot him.

''One fellow, a bombardier, was hit in the thigh and had three fingers blown off and a piece of shell in his head. As I lifted him up all the blood off the stretcher ran down and over me like a spray bath.

''Two more fellows went mad and, in all, we had 17 men killed and wounded and about 30 horses killed or had to be shot.

''At 4.30pm, we had the order to get out of it and we limbered up the guns and got away, some gunners riding astride the muzzle. The Germans shelled us all the way for three miles.''

With extraordinary understatement, Pte Camp summed up the day of horror at Paschendaele saying: ''That was our first real baptism of fire. But I'm pleased to say that every man did his work right up until we came away.''

Pte Camp's artillery battery moved on to shell the village of Whyschate, which had been taken by the Germans.

He wrote: ''The Germans had created havoc in this village. They had taken all the food and all the beer in the place, cut up the children's clothing and, we were told, that they had sent all the men away and had raped the women. In fact, the women seemed half demented with fright.''

But Pte Camp's luck ran out at Zonebeke.

He recalled: ''I was going up to bring my gun out of action when my horse got killed and I was wounded in the arm and leg. I was pulled out from underneath my horse and taken down on a stretcher.

''I woke up in a convent hospital in Ypres. The place was full of wounded, officers and men together. I didn't feel much of my injuries at the time as it was numbed I must either have been stunned by the fall of the horse, or else I fainted.''

After three hours, he was evacuated on a hospital train to Boulogne. Pte Camp said: ''We had our wounds dressed and were told that we were off to 'Blighty,' the best news we had heard for a long time.''

After six weeks recovering, Pte Camp reported for duty at the Royal Horse Artillery depot in Woolwich only to be told he had been listed as ''killed in action''.

He was then assigned to X Battery and, in January 1915, he was back on the front line in France taking part in the bombardment of Neuve Chapelle. After the bombardment, Pte Camp was wounded again when he was hit in the leg.

Nine weeks later, he was back in action and went on to fight at Fleur Baix, Festubert and the Arras frontline at Bray, Albert, Ochancourt and Vimy Ridge.

Pte Camp wrote: ''In July 1917 we went into action in the Mamety Woods. It was action in the open, no gunpits like we had before.

''We were there three weeks and had a rough time of it. We had 30 killed and wounded with two guns put out of action, one was blown to pieces. We stayed there until September when we were relieved after having nine weeks on the 'Big Push' on the Somme. Our total casualties on the Somme were 48 killed or wounded.

''Our battery received 11 awards, DCMs, Military Medals, one Russian Cross and Military Cross, which the Captain received. Our Major already had the French Legion of Honour and a Corporal had the Russian Cross for deeds at Festubert.''

Pte Camp's war ended in November 1917 when his wounded leg became infected and he was admitted to hospital with a fever and a temperature of 105.

He remained in the Royal Horse Artillery until March 1920, before working as a porter at London's Smithfield meat market until his retirement in 1954.

Bert's grandsons Roy and Stephen, in a foreword to his diary, said: ''He was extremely fortunate that he was not permanently physically or mentally scarred, like so many who returned from the hell of 1914-18.

''As kids and later, this man was our beloved granddad who frequently held us spellbound with his experiences and stories and we could never spend enough time with him.

''To us, he was a hero in every way. We still recall our times with him and miss him to this day. He is still frequently in our thoughts and we are grateful to have a hero that returned from where many other heroes did not.''

Yesterday Roy, 63, said: ''Our grandfather was a wonderful man.

''He was born in Islington in London in 1889 and he was 83 when he finally died in 1971. He was a fun-loving character who liked a drink, a smoke and a regular bet on the horses.

"But my brother and I were absolutely captivated when we discovered his diary because his descriptions of the horror and heroism of the First World War are so vivid it seems as if you are almost there on the battlefield."

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