Bloch, Henry (Harry) Scharrer (Gunner, b.1896 - d.1976)

Unit 6th Australian Field Artillery Brigade
Accession Number PR04826
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement 4 wallets: 8 cm
Object type Diary, Letter
Maker Bloch, Henry Scharrer
Place made Belgium, Egypt, France
Date made 1915-1918
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copying Provisions Copying is permitted for the purposes of research and study, subject to physical condition
Description

Collection relating to the First World War service of 8496 Gunner Henry Scharrer (Harry) Bloch, 18th Battery, 6th Field Artillery Brigade, Egypt, France and Belgium, 1915-1918. The collection consists of an original handwritten diary and 79 letters, written fortnightly by Bloch, to his father, mother and sister Marjorie. The diary traces Bloch’s first year in the war, from 19 November 1915 to 29 October 1916. The letters, which begin aboard the troop ship Persic on 17 December 1915, reveal Bloch’s changing sentiments about the war. The early letters express his excitement; he is captivated by the exoticness of Egypt, and full of anticipation about the firing line. As Bloch’s experience on the Western Front becomes grimmer, his disenchantment shows. He becomes increasingly concerned that his younger brother Felix, should not enlist, and if he does, he should seek a safer role than his own; a letter from France dated 22 June 1916, reads ‘… What am I here for? And what is Felix doing at the forts and dying to get away to the war for? …’. Bloch’s final letter is dated 1 April 1918, and begins ‘Dear Mother, to-night I am at a base camp where we have been detained for a couple of days on our way back from Paris. I left to go on leave just before the big offensive started and spent the night at Calais. Next day we went through Amiens and saw one of the most pitiful sights I have ever seen. Refugees from Peronne on the Amiens Station with their comic and pathetic luggage, all they have in the world …’. Bloch’s return trip from Paris distinctly contrasts with his Parisian experience; while on leave in the city he embraced the sophistication, the theatre and the opera, writing at length about this to his mother. After Paris, Bloch’s letters discontinued. His health deteriorated and he was hospitalised in the 39th General Hospital, Havre. Here he disobeyed an order to clean a washtub, a decision which left him court-martialled and sentenced for 12 months. His sentence was suspended after two months, and Bloch was transferred to hospital in Boscombe, England. In August 1918 Bloch’s brother Felix was killed in France; Felix had arrived in France five months previously, ignoring Bloch’s written pleas against enlistment. Bloch didn’t return to France for the remainder of the war; he returned to Australia on 16 January 1919, aboard the Demosthenes. The collection also includes two bound transcriptions, one for the diary, and the other for the letters. The transcription of the letters is titled ‘World War 1 Letters, 1915-1918, Harry Bloch’, and a digital version is available. The transcriptions were compiled by Patricia Bellamy, and self-published by Carolyn Bloch and Beverly Threlfo.