Diary of William Edward Peach, 1915-1916

Collection ID RCDIG0001558
Parent Collection ID RCDIG0001557
Collection type Digitised Collection
Title Diary of William Edward Peach, 1915-1916
Item count 34
Object type Diary
Maker Peach, William Edward
Place made At sea
Date made 1915-1916

Diary relating to the First World War service of 4272 Lance Corporal William Edward Peach, 7th Battalion. The entries in this diary span the period 28 December 1915 to 31 October 1916.

Peach begins by detailing his embarkation from Melbourne, having enlisted with the 7th Battalion alongside best mate Percy ‘Perce’ Mansfield and several other mates from Beechworth and Alexandra. Having a close connection to both of these towns, Peach, throughout his service, records any Australian soldiers he knows or meets from these locales. Travelling aboard the troopship HMAT Demosthenes, he writes of the voyage to Egypt, including a brief trip ashore at Colombo. After arriving in Egypt and entering camp, Peach writes of his time training interspersed with sightseeing trips into Cairo and to the nearby pyramids.

In March 1916, Peach is sent to France where he enters an isolation camp near Etaples, taking trips into the town to attend YMCA events. He writes of his time in the camp, including one instance in which he and Perce caught a rabbit to make stew. Peach is among those temporarily selected to form the I ANZAC Entrenching Battalion. He writes of such duties as repairing roads in the mud and cold of Belgium.

After returning to the 7th Battalion, Peach writes of the battalion being sent to Albert in preparation for the fighting at Pozieres, remarking on the terrible state of the village. He records the battalion entering the support trenches at Pozieres and seeing dead everywhere, the soldiers being cut up by shellfire, and refers to Sausage Gully as “Suicide Gully”. Peach writes of his participation in an assault in the early hours of 25 July 1916 in which he fights “through Hell”, recalling the chaos and confusion of the attack. Despite being moved out of the firing line, he writes that the murderous bombardment made close supports “another Hell.” Peach writes of the friends wounded and killed during the fighting, the death of Perce hitting him particularly hard. After the 7th Battalion is relieved, he writes of the substantial losses to his own company and the 1st Division as a whole.

In the following weeks, Peach is detailed to be a bomb thrower for his company, and is also formally gazetted as a lance corporal. The Battalion is sent to Belgium where Peach writes of entering mud and water-filled trenches near Ypres. In late September, he is sent first to No. 3 Canadian General Hospital and then Norfolk War Hospital with synovitis of his knee. The entries in his diary conclude with his continuing convalescence in England.