Readings from the World War I diaries

Our diaries are rich in contemporary detail and emotion, both documenting and providing insight into significant events and the minutiae of daily life. As we commemorate the Great War, the Library is collaborating with artists and performers to share stories from our collections through recordings, performance and other media. These recordings bring to life stories from our diaries and letters.

Jack Hutton: January 1917, France

Jack Hutton
Jack is serving in France. He has seen the horrors of trench warfare and suffers through one of the coldest winters France had ever experienced. Despite this he maintains his laconic humour through these darkest of days.

Frank Hurley: 16 February 1918

Frank Hurley
Official photographer, Frank Hurley goes up in an aeroplane for the first time with pilot Ross Smith in the Middle East. They fly over the Judean Hills and then the Dead Sea. Hurley is 'enraptured' by the experience.

Wesley Choat: April 1919, Germany

Choat Diary

Choat was taken prisoner during the battle of Bullecourt in France. After the war, Choat wrote up his account of being a prisoner of war in Germany and of his successful escape into Holland.

Choat was taken prisoner during the battle of Bullecourt in France. After the war, Choat wrote up his account of being a prisoner of war in Germany and of his successful escape into Holland.

 

Ellis Silas: January 1915

Ellis Silas

Painter and illustrator Ellis Silas enlisted in October 1914 and was made a private in the 16th Battalion, C Company. His unit landed a Gallipoli on the evening of 25 April 1915 where he served at Pope’s Hill, Quinn’s Post and Bloody Angle until 28 May 1915 when he was evacuated to Egypt suffering from shell shock and fever.

On the troopship, Ceramic, January 1915 — Artist Ellis Silas is having trouble adapting to military life and the routines on board a transport.

On the troopship, Ceramic, January 1915, artist Ellis Silas is having trouble adapting to military life and the routines on board a transport.

Wesley Choat: La Belle France

Choat Diary
Times in La Belle France.

 

Ellis Silas: on the way to Gallipoli

Ellis Silas
Ellis Silas, signaller in the 16th Battalion lands at Gallipoli. After a few days, he is one of the few signallers still alive.

Sister Anne Donell: 2 January 1918

Sister Ann Donnell
Anne Donnell begins a new diary for 1918 whilst serving in a casualty clearing station at Ypres in Belgium. She is homesick and very fearful of the German bombing which is going on in the skies above the hospital.

Sister Anne Donell: 27 December 1915

Sister Ann Donnell
Anne Donnell is a nursing sister with the 3rd Australian General Hospital. Starting at the field hospital in Lemnos on 12 October 1915, Anne later nursed in Egypt, England and France before being sent for convalescence in England after falling ill.

Sister Anne Donell - crossing the equator

Sister Ann Donnell
Anne Donnell is finally heading home after three long years at war. As her ship crosses the equator, Anne recognises the Southern Cross in the skies and knows she is almost there.

Langford Colley-Priest: July 1916

Langford Colley-Priest
Langford was a stretcher-bearer in the 8th Field Ambulance. In 1916 he served at Fromelles and on the Somme. He describes daily life in the trenches; receiving packages from home and watching aeroplanes battle in the skies.

Jim Marshall: 13 September 1916 (Part 1)

Jim Marshall
(Part 1) Seventeen year old Jim Marshall describes what it was like leaving his home town of Sydney to sail away to War.

 

Jim Marshall: 24 November 1916, London

Jim Marshall
Jim is on leave in London. He and his mates visit all the famous tourist sites and prove to be a bit of an attraction to the English ladies.

 

Langford Colley-Priest: November 1916

Langford Colley-Priest
Stretcher-bearer in the trenches

Maurice Evans: November 1916

Maurice Evans
Maurice is serving with the 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance in the Middle East.

Louis Vasco: 25 June 1917, France

Red Cross sketch
Sharing his love of France with his wife.

Bill Burrell: Thursday 20 September 1917

William Burrell diary page
Bill Burrell is a stretcher-bearer with the 17th Battalion and he is at Ypres, struggling to survive the artillery barrage. His bravery on this day is rewarded with the Military Medal.

Louis Vasco: 20 June 1918, England

Louis Vasco
A study in blues.

Louis Vasco: 30 June 1918

Louis Vasco
Louis has been evacuated out of the trenches with a spinal injury and is in hospital in England. He writes one of his last letters home to his wife.

 

The Sydney and the Emden Battle: 9 November 1914

Emden Battle
Franz Bordeaux, a German and Rupert Vowles, an Australian, each wrote an account of the Emden/Sydney battle in the Indian Ocean. Whilst neither man was an actual eye-witness to the battle.

Wesley Choat: April 1919, Letter to the Principal Librarian

Choat Diary
Choat includes a letter with his submission to the Library.