‘Well I have been to gay Paris and all I can say is it is wonderful…Melbourne is like the smallest of bush towns compared with it, wishing that dear old place no harm.’

So writes Graves Detachment soldier Willam McBeath from France during World War I. McBeath’s diary begins with his voyage from Port Melbourne in 1918, traces his service in Europe and extends to his final leave in Edinburgh in 1919. Rather than dwelling on the distressing nature of his work, McBeath writes to his mother describing daily life, European cities, games of football and cricket, and the provincial towns he passed through. You can read his full diary online.

Shows many Australian soldier spectators watching Australian Rules football match in France during World War I.

Watching the football match [Le Havre, France], H85.55/160/134

If you are interested in reading more first-hand accounts of the war, try searching our catalogue for the subject World War, 1914-1918 — Personal narratives, Australian. This search brings up 481 more items like McBeath’s diary in our collections, including many that you can read online.

Written by Paul Dee
Librarian, Australian History & Literature Team

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