Two pages from the reprinted diary of Lismore-born Frederick Joseph Cahill. Photo: Rob Craft
Two pages from the reprinted diary of Lismore-born Frederick Joseph Cahill. Photo: Rob Craft

Do you know the history of mysterious WW1 diary?

THE discovery of diary laying among some dusty books has given a valuable glimpse into the life of a World War 1 soldier.

Rob Craft said he was cleaning out his aunt and uncle's Wellington home when he discovered the diary.

"When we were cleaning we found this envelope tucked away between some books and inside was this diary," he said.

"There are around 21 pages and they all seem to be in the first person by this man from Lismore."

Mr Craft said it seemed someone had typed out the soldier's notes, which outlined his experiences on the Western Front, ending with his return to Australia.

 

Two pages from the reprinted diary of Lismore-born Frederick Joseph Cahill. Photo: Rob Craft
Two pages from the reprinted diary of Lismore-born Frederick Joseph Cahill. Photo: Rob Craft

 

Mr Craft said he has researched the soldier, Frederick Joseph Cahill, who is listed as being born in Lismore before moving to Muswellbrook, but has been unable to find any living relatives.

"I've tried calling various people in Lismore with the same surname, I've looked into war records," he said.

"If there is someone out there who is related to Mr Cahill, then I want to find them.

"I just want to be able to return this to them, to give them a piece of their history back."

In one excerpt from the diary from 1918, Mr Cahill talks about arriving at a camp for training, which he describes as "one foot into France".

He talks about the aggravation caused by an "amateurish" system of deploying lots of men, and the merits of a good sense of humour in coping with the prospect of war.

Mr Cahill recounts some of the antics.

"Left camp and wended my contemplative way to No 8 camp, where meeting Dick, was immediately "camouflaged" as a sergeant with the aid of one of his spare tunics for the purpose of dining in the mess of these celebrities, nonentities or whatever other category one chooses to place them in.

"Having satisfied the wants of the "inner man", continued my rambling, eventually reaching my "cobbers hut" in my old home in No 5 camp."

Mr Craft said part of what makes the diary discovery so special is the mysterious origins of the diary.

"My aunt and uncle were both teachers, so maybe one of the kids brought it in and they've somehow held onto it," he said.

"But we really just don't know where it came from. Neither of them were really into collecting war memorabilia or anything. It's the only war-related thing in the house."

Mr Craft said he was struck by how "down to earth" the diary was, and said he hopes to find a new owner for it.

"It's rather interesting, and it really makes you tingle when you think about it," he said.

According to Australian Defence Force records, Frederick Joseph Cahill enlisted from February 17, 1916 to June 12, 1919 and served in the 35th Australian Infantry.

You can contact Rob Craft on (02) 4739 3914 or 0411 640 767.



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