Diary Readings

Listen to recordings of our 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.

Bill Burrell
Bill Burrell
Thursday 20 September 1917

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.

Duration:
2:50
Ellis Silas
January 1915

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.

Duration:
2:02
Ellis Silas
25 April 1915, on the way to Gallipoli

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

Duration:
3:47
Frank Hurley
16 February 1918
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.
Duration:
3:07
Jack Hutton
January 1917, France
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.
Duration:
5:52
Jim Marshall
13 September 1916
(Part 1) Seventeen year old Jim Marshall describes what it was like leaving his home town of Sydney to sail away to War.
Duration:
2:19
Jim Marshall
13 September 1916
(Part 2) Seventeen year old Jim Marshall describes what it was like leaving his home town of Sydney to sail away to War.
Duration:
2:19
Jim Marshall
24 November 1916, London
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.
Duration:
3:34
Langford Colley-Priest
July 1916
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. All the while living under constant barrage of artillery.
Duration:
3:48
Langford Colley-Priest
November 1916
Stretcher-bearer in the trenches
Duration:
2:54
Louis Vasco
25 June 1917, France
Sharing his love of France with his wife.
Duration:
4:37
Louis Vasco
20 June 1918, England
A study in blues.
Duration:
1:18
Louis Vasco
30 June 1918
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.
Duration:
1:31
Maurice Evans
November 1916
Maurice is serving with the 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance in the Middle East. He writes regularly about his horse, Bernhard who he has grown attached to.
Duration:
2:05
Sister Anne Donell
Sister Anne Donell - Christmas Day celebrations
27 December 1915

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 in January 1918. She embarked for Australia on 19 January 1919.

Anne Donnell describes the celebrations amongst the medical staff and patients on Christmas Day, 1915 at the Third General Hospital on Lemnos Island

Duration:
1:31
Sister Anne Donell
Sister Anne Donell - crossing the equator
February 1919

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.

Duration:
2:39
Sister Anne Donell
Sister Anne Donell - Ypres, Belgium
2 January 1918
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.
Duration:
4:54
The Sydney and the Emden Battle
9 November 1914
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, their descriptions of the events indicate the savage nature of naval warfare.
Duration:
5:54
Wesley Choat
April 1919
Letter to the Principal Librarian.
Duration:
1:26
Wesley Choat
La Belle France
Times in La Belle France.
Duration:
1:54
Wesley Choat
April 1919, Germany
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.
Duration:
2:05
Featured
The European War, ca. 1914-1918 / William Henry Dyson
All’s fair in love and war ...

Don’t know why, but I love this image ... Life goes on despite the weary body language of both the Aussie soldier and the European woman. Both seem sick and tired of their situations; but the eye contact still seems to be intense in the middle of all that mayhem. See pic.

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