Diary of William Edward Peach, 1916-1918
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Diary relating to the First World War service of 4272 Sergeant William Edward Peach, 7th Battalion. The entries in this diary span the period 1 November 1916 to 7 May 1918.
Peach begins by detailing his continuing convalescence in England, having been moved to No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield, and records the various Australian soldiers he encounters during his recovery. After being discharged in December, he writes of his sightseeing trips to London and various cities and towns in Scotland, spending Christmas Day with friends in the small Scottish town of Lenzie.
In January 1917, Peach is sent to Worgret Camp of No. 4 Command Depot in preparation for his return to active service. He writes of the training and the various Australians he encounters in camp, including mates such as David ‘Dave’ Collis who he left Australia with, and other local boys from the Beechworth and Alexandra areas. During this time, Peach records a particularly memorable trip to the beach with Australian and British troops.
After returning to France at the end of February, Peach enters camp near Etaples. In early April he attends the 1st Australian Division School and writes of Anzac Day 1917, participating in several sporting events on the day. In July, Peach is sent to the 2nd Brigade School where, as acting platoon sergeant, he writes of one particular incident where Richard ‘Rex’ Finch, another Beechworth man, was accidentally shot during a live Lewis gun demonstration. After celebrating his 21st birthday, Peach is promoted corporal and writes of his final examinations. In August, having returned to his battalion, he writes of route marches in the wet and rain near Hazebrouck, and on 19 August 1917 remembers his best mate Perce’s death at Pozieres one year prior.
In September, Peach writes of his temporary role as company sergeant before taking part in the Battle of Menin Road on 20 September 1917, remarking on the death of fellow 7th Battalion soldier Major Frederick Harold Tubb. Despite being designated to attend I ANZAC Corps School, he instead decides to fall in with the 7th Battalion soldiers heading into the line, not wanting to miss the impending assault. Peach consequently participates in the fighting at Broodseinde Ridge on 4 October 1917, which he calls “a day never to be forgotten by those who took part in the stunt.” Shortly after he is forced to leave for the I ANZAC Corps School near Aveluy. Peach writes of taking the opportunity to visit nearby Pozieres in an attempt to find his mate Perce’s grave, but is unable to due to the thick and high grass that has overgrown the old battlefield. While at school, he writes of participating in sports, winning a potato race.
After returning to his battalion, Peach writes of the wet and cold weather of November. That same month he writes of his promotion to sergeant and his award of the Military Medal for his actions at Broodseinde Ridge. Peach records Christmas in the trenches, writing of the big snow fall and basic rations. He is shortly after hospitalised suffering from the effects of a gas attack launched just before Christmas, and writes of being unable attend the award presentation at which he would have been presented his medal by General William Birdwood.
After first being evacuated to No. 55 General Hospital at Boulogne, and then to Queen Mary’s Hospital at Whalley, Peach is finally sent to No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield, writing of his recovery throughout. He is discharged in mid-February 1918 and writes of his sightseeing trips to London and Scotland. Peach also writes of Anzac Day 1918. The entries in his diary conclude with his marching out to return to active service.