ANTHONY Jones is feeling mixed emotions of sadness and pride as the 1915 war diaries of his great uncle, John Christian Stephenson, are published in The Daily Advertiser, for the last time on Saturday.
Sergeant Stephenson, from West Wyalong, kept a diary of his experiences training for war in Egypt and then fighting against the Turks after landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.
Mr Jones brought a typed copy of the diary to the Advertiser in January and it was decided to publish the entries regularly as part of the newspaper’s tribute to the region’s World War I soldiers during the centenary of the 1914-18 conflict.
“It’s been a great tribute to him and all the boys who were there,” Mr Jones said.
As far as his family knows, Sergeant Stephenson did not write in a diary from December 26, 1915. He was killed in action at Pozieres on the Western Front on June 26, 1918. Younger brother Harold was killed on September 1, but another brother, William, survived the war.
“What I don’t understand is why he did not keep a diary in France,” Mr Jones said.
“Whether he was sick of it, whether it was too terrible to write about, I don’t know.”
But recently, the family came across a letter from Sergeant Stephenson published in The Wyalong Advocate and Mining, Agricultural and Pastoral Gazette on July 7, 1917, that gives an insight into how the abattoir that was the Western Front changed him.
The letter, written after fighting in an un-named town, reveals a much harder man than the one who signed up for war as an “original man” in 1914.
“We lost a large number of men in taking the town, but we had the satisfaction of killing a lot more Germans,” he wrote.
“I ran into seven, put a bomb into them, which killed five and wounded two. My mates finished them off. Taking prisoners is not the way to finish the war. After finding an old friend outside Bapaume with his throat cut, I reckon that I will take no more prisoners. The seven Fritzs that I got had a machine gun going until I was 15 yards off, and then put up their hands. Not for mine. They joined the R.I.P. mob very quickly.”
Mr Jones said he thought Sergeant Stephenson’s diary would be valuable in informing people today about the living conditions of soldiers at Gallipoli as well as the fighting.
The full copy of the letter can be read at: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/108603338
The Advertiser on January 1 will reveal two WWI features that will be published on our website throughout 2016, including a new diarist for the remainder of the war.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.