A ceremony was held at 2:30pm on Monday, 2 July, 2012 to formally present the diary of Gunner Norman Pearce to the State Library of NSW.
The ceremony was attended by Alex Byrne, the State Librarian representing the State Library of NSW. He spoke first and introduced John Atkin, CEO of The Trust Company, who have been handling the affairs of the late Miss Mary Pearce, niece of Norman Pearce.
Several descendants of Norman Pearce were present, including two of his great nieces, Joanne Brennan and Jennifer Duncan.
Digital Journal interview with descendants of Gunner Norman Pearce
Digital Journal spoke to Paul Brennan, the husband of Joanne Brennan (one of the great nieces) and his daughter (great, great niece).
The great, great niece informed Digital Journal that Norman Pearce came from Parkes, which is a town in regional New South Wales, about 350kms west of Sydney.
Her father, Paul told Digital Journal about where Gunner Norman Pearce served:
“Initially Gallipoli and then Egypt, then transferred to the south of France, to Marseille and then migrated from Marseille up to the Somme and finally got killed in the Somme.
“He signed up in Liverpool (in Sydney). Initially was in the Field Ambulance and wanted to see more action, so went back to being a gunner and he was serving as a gunner when he was killed as a Corporal in the Somme. So he moved around a bit.”
DJ: How old was he when he died?
“Twenty-five. Twenty-three when he enlisted, twenty-five when he died.”
“So he served for two years.” His daughter added.
Digital Journal asked Joanne Brennan (Paul's’ wife) what she could tell us about Normal Pearce?
“Well I never knew anything about him until the diary became knowledge and that was only this year. And I haven’t really seen all the diary, I’ve only just seen bits of it.”
DJ: What sort of things does he write about in the diary?
“I haven’t read a lot of it, only the exerts; when he left Gallipoli and headed towards the Somme, towards France. And the diary also talked about the dead and dying around the trenches. And that he had a bit of a sense of humour, commenting on the French women.
"So, there isn’t a lot I’ve read yet, so I’m hoping to get a copy and sit down and read it and get to know what he really was like; but I didn’t really know anything about my great uncle Norman until the existence of this diary.
"I suppose back in those days nobody really talked about a lot of family and my Auntie was a single lady – the auntie Mary who had the diary and she never really told us of the existence of the diaries, so there’s not a lot I know."
DJ: Did the auntie Mary keep the diary in a safe place?
"I have no idea. The diary was handed from Norman’s father, Thomas Pearce to my grandmother, who was Norman’s sister, Miss Mary Louise Pearce, who in turn was my auntie Mary’s mother.
"So when my grandmother died she passed it onto my auntie Mary and my auntie Mary lived in a hostel and obviously that diary was kept in her possessions (we never saw it, we never knew where it was) and when she died The Trust Company came in and took over her possessions and took possession of the diary, so the first I heard was when Anya from The Trust Company rang me this year and said we’ve got this diary. We would like to put it somewhere special where everybody can have the most benefit from it. So it was amazing - pretty special really."
DJ: I don’t suppose there are many around now?
"There wouldn’t be many World War I diaries around. I do believe there are other war diaries, but whether they are World War II diaries or World War I? They weren’t meant to keep diaries in World War I. So he did us all a favour I think. It was probably a very special diary. It was good that we can have an insight into what he would have thought."
Extracts from the diary
"All land is now out of sight and we are in the middle of the Mediterranean. It is beginning to work up rough tonight." 7 January 1916
"The sooner we get out of Egypt the better I'll be pleased. I thought that this would be an easy job but it has proved otherwise." 29 March 1916
"I'm very much afraid I would rather be back with the boys. It's a jolly hard matter to leave them and one gets to know a man thoroughly on active service." 3 April 1916
"…So far I haven't been particularly struck with French feminine beauty. There are some especially pretty girls, but on the whole don't come up to Australians." 24 June 1916
"Our boys were terribly cut up in the last charge and thousands of dead and wounded are lying between the trenches …" 21 July 1916
"We had every one of our lines broken last night by shell fire." 29 August 1916