Feature

Diary of Anzac soldier written on toilet paper, rags

FIRST written on toilet paper and bits of rag a century ago, the diary of one young Anzac is being used to help tell new generations about the battle of Lone Pine at Gallipoli.

Hervey Bay's Wendy Essery inherited the retyped and preserved diary from her mother in 1980.

It was written by Private Reginald L. Donkin, an infantryman who served in the 1st Battalion in the First World War.

Ms Essery has given a copy of the extraordinarily detailed diary to Hervey Bay RSL and it will eventually be made available to the public.

Private Donkin wrote almost daily from October, 1914, until his last entry on August 14, 1915.

He was killed the next day, at the age of 24, at Lone Pine.

Ms Essery, whose grandson served in Afghanistan and uncle served in the Second World War, said the diary showed the bravery of men like Private Donkin and their ability to keep going even as their friends died in battle.

"He says all the time 'six men went out and two came back'," she said.

"He was a sapper, they used to dig the trenches."

Private Donkin's diary came to the Essery family through Wendy's aunt Alma Smith, who was being courted by Private Donkin before he went to war.

"Alma was deeply in love with him," Ms Essery said.

Alma was given the scraps of paper that made up the diary by Private Donkin's mother before passing it on to Wendy's mother.

The original scraps and Donkin's detailed maps have been lost but copies of his diary have been given to schoolchildren and RSLs.

Excerpts from the diary of Private Donkin

May 25, 1915

"Have been in charge of four men on guard all night, down in the gully where the 1st Battalion is camped. Morning, I don't feel too lively. We cut brushwood all the morning, for the engineers to make barbed wire entanglements. we witness the sinking of the Triumph (HMS Triumph, a British battleship. It was torpedoed by a German U boat) just out from the point.  A terrible sight it was. A submarine got her, and she made for the beach but turned turtle. The great ship sank and exploded and we did not see many men saved. Many small pinnaces went to their assistance but she was down under when they got there. She let off her guns at the Turkish forts even as she sank. We will no doubt have all details later."

July 29, 1915
"My cobbers pass remarks about my homemade diary. There will be fighting done soon. Had some chocolate and more Turkish delight this morning, at exorbitant prices. Thank goodness we are getting some good food from the engineers. Prunes and figs formed part of our menu today, bread and gooseberry jam - what more could mortal wish for. We had steak and egg for breakfast, though we have to dodge the shells and such things getting firewood. But that is very common these days, must be a war on somewhere. Sapping as usual. Few shells kicking around, otherwise I report, all fairly quiet."

August 9, 1915
"We have lived under fire for 15 weeks now, a thing never heard of at the European front. Surely our reward will be great. The pile of cast-off equipment grows bigger and the grave-diggers still dig, and men still wait patiently for whatever is to come to them. The men who get home finally ought to take a ticket at Tatts and they must win too. I feel a relief to write this rubbish but I hope it will find its way home to be read there, so they may know their boys have done something here. But I hope to take the old diary back myself. God grant that I can."

August 14, 1915 - his last entry
"Finish at 7. Breakfast 7.30. Must get some sleep. No, I won't, I'll shave and go down to Jimmy Rowe to the old sappers' possie for a game of 500. Poor old G Company still suffers. Our old comrade Archie Hood killed on Lone Pine Hill yesterday. How long, oh Lord, how long will we have to suffer thus. Rumour says we are to be relieved on 28th now. At the rate we're going, there'll be no one left to relieve. Enemy 75 guns playing havoc with us today and fragments are tearing perilously near me as I write. Our Navy still banging away around at the Salt Lake Bay and still shelling Achi Baba. This job is one of the most costly ones the war has seen."
 

Topics:  anzac-centenary, anzac day, eda, gallipoli, lone pine



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