Battle of the Somme: Bullet-scarred notebook reveals soldier's tragic love for sweetheart

Lt Woollatt's body was never found, but another soldier discovered the notebook on the battlefield Credit: PA

A lovelorn First World War British Army officer's bullet-scarred notebook has offered an insight into the lives of the men who fought and died at the Battle of the Somme.

Second Lieutenant Philip Woollatt was among the first of thousands of young men who were killed in France during the misguided 141-day offensive which ended 100 years ago today.

The 21-year-old officer was killed in the fighting, but his leather-bound pocket book was recovered and its yellowed pages tell the story of a man whose heart was broken upon hearing that his sweetheart had married another.

The book, nearly torn in half by a bullet or a piece of shrapnel, reveals how he never told his love, Alison Robertson, of his true feelings for her.

By the time he had enlisted at the start of the war, it was already too late and she was engaged.

"I now realise how much I love her and what a topping girl she is," he wrote. "I was not good enough for her anyway."

At some point a bullet pierced the book Credit: PA

Ms Robertson would later write to Lt Woollatt, who had been a bank clerk from Surbiton before enlisting, and a copy of one of her letters was found tucked inside the notebook. It recounted a trip to a cinema.

At some point a bullet pierced the book, stopping a few pages from the back cover - telling either of a close brush with death or of the violence of Lt Woollatt's brave end.

The young officer, one of four brothers and sisters, died on 14 July 1916 leading his men.

Lt Woollatt's body was never found, but another soldier discovered the notebook on the battlefield.

In the back was a note in pencil asking anyone who found the diary to return it to his mother's address.

One of his sweetheart's letters was found tucked inside the notebook Credit: PA

An officer who sent the book on to his mother Edith Woollatt, wrote to tell her: "I am sorry I am unable to give you further information but the book was found alone in a shell hole."

Just days after the book arrived home, his older brother Claud Woollatt, a captain in the 8th Battalion of the Queens' Royal West Surrey Regiment was also killed in the battle.

His mother had lost both sons to the Somme in the space of just two months.

Lt Woollatt's name is recorded, along with his brother's, on the war memorial of the Shrewsbury House School in Surbiton, where both had been pupils.

Amidst the carnage and loss of the war, he had continued to love Ms Robertson and in his will, fixed in the back page of his notebook, he left all that he had of value, a collection of books by Sir Walter Scott, to her.

He wrote the books would to be "a token of remembrance to my dear friend Alison Robertson".

Over a million people were killed in the Battle of the Somme Credit: PA

Lt Woollatt's will is among 278,000 last wills and testaments of soldiers killed in Britain's wars which are being preserved for future generations by archivists at Iron Mountain on behalf of Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service.

The ageing and disintegrating records, kept under lock and key in a secret environmentally-controlled facility in Birmingham, have been digitised and can be accessed through an online database.

Dee-Ann Craddock, the wills account manager for Iron Mountain, said: "He left his collection of novels to his sweetheart Alison, even though she had broken his heart."

She added: "It just goes to show how much she really did mean to him."

Over a million people were killed in the Battle of the Somme, with almost 60,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers killed or wounded on the first day of the offensive.