Soldier’s diary with remarkable story donated to Heritage Centre

Published 02 June 2009

diaryThe small diary of a Dangarsleigh soldier killed in World War I is now in the keeping of the University of New England Heritage Centre.

The diary (pictured here) of Corporal Alfred Perrott was donated by Margaret Perrott – a descendant of Alfred’s brother Robert Perrott, who survived his World War I service. Ms Perrott travelled from Wollongong to make the presentation to the UNE Heritage Centre late last month, having decided with her family that the diary represented an important piece of New England heritage.

“The history of this small document provides a poignant subscript to the construction of the Dangarsleigh War Memorial by Alfred Perrott senior and the Dangarsleigh community after World War I,” said Bill Oates, the University Archivist.

“Corporal Alfred Perrott was killed in action on the 28th of October 1917 while serving in the 6th Field Artillery of the Australian Imperial Force,” Mr Oates explained. “Alfred Perrott senior dedicated a portion of his property ‘Chevy Chase’, and proceeded to design and construct a memorial to his son and his fellow soldiers. This memorial stands today in its quiet rural setting.

“To add to the distress of his family, the personal effects of the young soldier were lost at sea from the ship Barunga as the Army attempted to return them to Australia. This makes the survival of the diary and its subsequent return to the family all the more special. Alfred had entreated casual readers of his diary – be they ‘a stranger or a friend’ – to return the item to his mother should it be found. Someone heeded this request. ”

Ms Perrott also donated to the Heritage Centre the World War I discharge papers and medals of Robert Perrott.

Attending the donation on Friday 22 May, along with Heritage Centre staff,  were Judy Grieve, President of the Armidale and District Historical Society, Bob Holloway of the Armidale Returned Services League and his wife Jan, local historian Graham Wilson, and Dr David Roberts from UNE’s School of Humanities.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of the diary displayed here expands to show the first-page inscription: “Should ever this be found by a stranger or a friend, grateful would I be if they would kindly send it to my mother . . . .” A hole caused by shrapnel is visible towards the bottom of the book.