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Long Before Daybreak

The rediscovered WW1 memoir of an art student’s survival in the trenches


In 2019 a box was discovered containing a handwritten account of a soldier’s life at the front line in WWI. Albert Clayton’s remarkable autobiographical story in 20 chapters remained hidden for decades, unknown to his family, until its chance discovery along with several photographs from the same time.

Albert story takes us with him through the ravaged landscape of northern France from July 1916 to May 1917 when he was drafted into the 29th and 8th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. He details the vivid scenes of front line warfare, the banter of his comrades, and the  raw intensity of ‘going over the top’ – which he did on several occasions.

Despite all the hardship and adventure including several brushes with death, his was an experience that many on the front line of war have lived through but few have recorded with such comprehensive narrative. We are thankful he did, for his rediscovered legacy is a personal and engaging story that brings  sharp focus to places and events which are fading in the memory of a passing generation.

This aim of this website is to support the book and provide a platform for readers to take Albert’s story further, a forum for further research helping to fill in more detail on the lives of those he served alongside, what happened to him in the years after.



  1. Richard Grange Richard Grange

    A truly fascinating book – packed with tiny details of the lives of WW1 soldiers that might otherwise have been lost.

    Albert Clayton is a natural storyteller, with an eye for telling detail and writes about terrifying and terrible experiences without a shred of self-pity.

    Perhaps that is the book’s greatest strength – capturing a sense that for many soldiers it was simply a job, that were just doing while hoping to see the end of each day.

  2. Peter Brooks Peter Brooks

    Very rarely start and finish a book but I could not put this down. I felt utterly bereft when the book came to an end. I really wanted a second book on his time in the POW camp at Ingolstadt. So sad that there is no chance of a sequel! I’m now reading it to my 10 year old son who loves it. This book really deserves to be widely read.

    • Site Host Site Host

      Thanks Peter, I share your feelings! I hope this website will be an opportunity to pool research and help to add some detail to his life as a POW.

  3. Jacqueline Lynch Jacqueline Lynch

    I have so enjoyed ready Long before Day, I have laughed and cried, so emotional. My paternal grandfather ” Blackall ” as mentioned in the book, Oh how I miss him and his stories of the WW1, my regret is not listening to him more. I have a few of his things and writings and going through them now. I grew up around him, such a big part of my life, a proper granddad to me and my sisters.

    • Site Host Site Host

      Jacqueline I am so pleased you have found the book and what an amazing connection to make! Albert and your grandfather obviously got to know each other really well and lived alongside each other. Of all the commrades mentioned in the book I was hoping to find some one who may be related to Blackall especially as there is the photograph of them both and the story of how they had it taken by the French photographer when they were there. So pleased you have enjoyed the discovery and I’m sure there will be many more.

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