Young Soldiers ‘Somme Memories’ Recorded in Rare Diary Find

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The Battle of the Somme was the bloodiest and deadliest battle in our history to date, with 58,000 allied soldiers slaughtered in the first day alone. Most of us can only try to imagine the horrors and fear in the young soldier’s hearts crouching low among the dead and injured as the battle raged around the trenches. Now when there are no more surviving soldiers of that time to tell us their tale, any firsthand account from those that were there is a rare and precious find.

And that is exactly what we have, a soldier’s firsthand account of the Somme in the form of a diary, rare and precious, as keeping a diary was strictly forbidden for serving soldiers.

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Thanks to a young Australian soldier, Gunner Pearce, who wrote down his thoughts and feelings in the lead up to the battle in 1916, we are offered a literal window into history.

July 15 1916 “A tremendous bombardment going on tonight on our right and that is where we are going. This is the third night. I have had without sleep and poor food. I am beginning to feel the strain and my belt has shortened.”

The diary was left to the Trust Company Foundation by Miss Mary Pearce, niece of Gunner Pearce, who in turn has donated the diary to the State library of NSW.

“I am delighted that the Trust Company Foundation has seen fit to donate the WW1 diary of Norman Lee Pearce to the state library of NSW where it will be a valued and welcome addition to our existing collection of WW1 material,” Dr Tracy Bradford, Head of manuscripts at the State library of NSW said.

July 21 1916 “Our boys were terribly cut up in the last charge and thousands of dead and wounded are lying between the trenches…”

The Trust Company will be presenting the diary in a special ceremony to the library of NSW in May and would like to take this opportunity to ask for other members of the Pearce family to come forward.

“We are in touch with several members of the Pearce family but there are others who we believe live around the Sydney area, that we have been unable to contact,” Mr Atkin, CEO of the Trust Company said.

Mr. Atkin invites any members of the Pearce family to make contact with the Trust Company so that we can formally invite them to the presentation event

April 3 1916 “I’m very much afraid I would rather be back with the boys. It’s a jolly hard matter to leave them and one gets to know a man thoroughly on active service.”

The diary ends the day before Gunner Pearce goes “over the top” where he died of severe wounds. But thanks to his diary, this young soldier of 1916 will never be forgotten and another very human face can be added to the memories of that battle.

June 24 1916 …”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.”

Family members can contact Aine Corrigan at the Trust Company on 1800 622 812

Fiona Hammond is a journalist who graduated from the John Morris journalism academy. Fiona lives on the south coast of NSW Australia and writes human interest stories and opinions, about gardening, sustainability, fishing, the environment and our planet.