28th October 1916.
Oh a soldier’s life is a beauty in such weather but as soon as we get back into dry billets we forget all the hardships. It’ powerful in what good spirits the boys keep. They laugh and joke over it all, as if it was the fun of the world.
Archibald Albert Barwick was 24 years old when war broke out in 1914 and he joined the AIF. Leaving his job as manager of a sheep property in NSW, he trained with the expeditionary force in the 1st Battalion and travelled first to Egypt, then Gallipoli and later the Western Front. Along the way he rose to the rank of Sergeant, was injured three times and was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. Significantly, he also wrote prolifically, filling sixteen diaries over the course of the war, detailing his experiences and insights.
In Great Spirits: The WWI Diary of Archie Barwick offers Barwick’s diary to contemporary readers. Condensed from the initial 400 000 words to around 130 000 words in order to make it manageable, the writing is otherwise only lightly edited, so that the sense of Barwick’s personality shines through, managing to be humorous, honest and heart-wrenching by turns, so that the reader can journey with him in a very personal way.
Of interest to historians of all levels, this is also a valuable read for any Australian to get first hand insight into Australia’s involvement in World War 1 and its impact.
In Great Spirits: The WWI Diary of Archie Barwick
Harper Collins, 2013
Available from good bookstores or online.