WWI digger’s diary tells of trench hell

The handwritten diary of a World War I soldier is being handed over to the State Library of New South Wales today to be preserved as a personal piece of Australian War history.*

The diary of the then 25-year-old Gunner Norman Pearce gives his account of life on the frontline before he died from severe wounds in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

The diary was left to the Trust Company Foundation by his niece as part of her estate.

The head of the Trust Foundation, John Atkin, says the neatly-written diary details the gruesome reality of what the young soldier faced in the lead up to his death.

A excerpt from the diary dated July, 1916 reads: “our boys were terribly cut up in the last charge…and thousands of dead and wounded are lying between the trenches.”

But it is also clear from other excerpts that war was not the only thing on Gunner Pearce’s mind.

“So far I haven’t been particularly struck with French feminine beauty. There are some especially pretty girls but on the whole don’t come up to Australians,” his diary reads.

John Atkin says soldiers were generally banned from writing diaries, but many secretly recorded their thoughts and feelings during battle.

“It adds to what I suspect is already a substantial collection at the State Library,” Mr Atkin says.

“I think it’s significant because it tells the story of someone who’s given up their life for their country,” he says.

The State Library of New South Wales says the diary is in a remarkably good condition for the distance it has travelled.

* See the full article and video from the ABC’s  Lateline program  at www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-02/gunner27s-diary/4104214?section=nsw