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jsfinne1.jpg (12785 bytes) John Spence Finney was my great uncle, the brother of my grandmother Mary Finney.

Born on 22-10-1885 in Castlemaine Victoria, John (called "Jack") worked in the grocery and drapery departments of Swinion and Sons, Warrnambool Victoria for 4 years up to July 1906 before going to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where he had obtained a position as a ticket writer at Thompson, Thomas and Co. "Australian and Eastern Merchants" in York Street Colombo, from August until December 1906.

It is said his father misunderstood the telegram, which was telephoned through to him, regarding the appointment and he gave his approval thinking the request was to go to "Geelong" not "Ceylon."

John was a bad sailor and got off the ship coming back at Fremantle (Western Australia) - the first port of call.

He stayed in W.A. working for three and a half years in the Grocery Department of Foy and Gibson, and then for twelve months as Commercial Traveller for Duncan Preston & Co in Perth and districts. During this period in Western Australia, he was active in athletics, and was Western Australia's sole representative at the Y.M.C.A. Easter Meet in Sydney April 9-14th 1909. He entered 8 athletic events and 2 swimming and diving events. He won a gold medal as 10 mile champion of Amateur Runners of W.A. in 1910 and was a member of, and played with, Highgate (the forerunner of East Perth) Football Club.

During this period, he met Doris Jane Hatch, and wrote in her autograph book "A Good Woman's two arms thrown round a Man's neck: is like a Lifebelt thrown from the Gates of Heaven - Jack (poor Jack) Finney, Perth, W.A. 9:10:10." They became engaged on 22 May 1914

Following the death of his father in May 1911, he returned to the Eastern States and worked between April and October 1912 for F. O. Henry in Strahan, Tasmania. After another 2 years at Foy and Gibsons, he opened his own cash grocery at 156 Cambridge St. West Leederville W.A. in 1916.

He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.) on 2/9/16. In 1918 he was stationed in Belgium and France where he suffered shell shock on 8/8/18 which resulted in him being in hospital until 7/9/18. He served until 17/11/19, and was abroad for 2 years and 112 days.

Jack kept a diary of his time at the front between January and November that year. The document below is a transcript of his hand-written diary. The military terms, slang and spelling of place names are as they occur in the diary.

The original diary is now in the Australian War Museum.

Transcription of Diary kept by
No. 3399 Corporal J. S. Finney,
44th battalion A.I.F. in France
during The Great War.
Period: 16 January - 21 November 1918.

Wednesday 16/1/18

Rained like fun and blew too. Slept thru' it all. No parade first thing. Wet day, this means lectures in huts - about an hour of this and the weather clearing up we went out on parade for an hour, afterwards coming in, finished lecture on Lewis gun in huts. No sports or games in afternoon. Could have played a challenge match, but declined. Got 3 cans of water and had a good wash, then washed my feet and rubbed them with camphorated boric acid. Had stewed rabbit for dinner and tea. Cleaned my equipment and sat down to write to Doris.*  Washed my towel and it wasn't before it was needed, either. Rain clearing off and has appearance of frost which is a good job. Time 7pm - B.N.** wants to make the bed, and I'm agreeable.

* His fiancee                                ** Bert Newton - fellow soldier

Thursday 17/1/18

Up at Reveille as per usual. Too wet to so out. Stayed in huts listening to lectures. Too wet in the afternoon for sports, so wrote to Doris, also Bradbury and Dean. Had a discussion - "Can W.A. support herself with Butter?": I took negative.

Took over the Rifle section of 12 Platoon. Cpl. Currie went off to school. Rolled into bed and tried to go to sleep.

Cleaned my equipment, warned for Mess Orderly tomorrow also to roll out at 6.30 am Working Parade.

Friday 18/1/18

Got up at 6.30 am ready for breakfast. Porridge was served and then filled dixie with water. Went down for Bath - water a bit on the cold side.

Got back found out Bert Newton got annoyed at finding dead chats on his singlet. In fact when I spoke to him afterwards, disgust was written all over his face.

Played A Coy. football - scores were C 2:4 and A 1:2 - good game throughout. Again cleaned our equipment and washed my towel, rolled into bed feeling well satisfied with myself. Received Xmas parcel from Doris. Contents proved very acceptable.

Saturday 19/1/18

Got ready for route march but our Coy. had to go thru' huts for Brig. This occupied about 2 hours. Afterwards fell in and went for route march. Saw one of our balloons break away and disappear in the clouds. Had dinner and opened plum pudding from Doris. It was O.K. After dinner went and saw A.M.C v 9 Coy. at football - a good game - resulted scores does not denote the play whatever viz: 9:15 to 4:5. Came home thru' paddock and picked a turnip and ate it. Had tea and stayed in hut and read W.A. mail, also saw T. All others went and heard "Blue Pierrot". I am waiting for Bert Newton to make bed.

Sunday 20/1/18

Rained once more. Fell in for Church Parade and attended Service in Y.M.C.A. Marquee. Crowded out. Fell in later and did an hours Ceremonial Drill. It was hard going. Stayed in and wrote to Doris and home. Received parcel from Mother, also a letter with photo of Jean * enclosed. She is quite happy. Things are all right at home now. Saw Harvey who was in N.C.O. School with me. He is looking well and is in charge of a small pumping plant. Held a discussion in the evening about Martial Law. Had quite a homely gathering - altogether 5 parcels came into the hut. "Nuff said!"

* Jean Finney, a sister

Monday 21/1/18

Up as per usual - went into Bailleul to get my teeth seen to. Told to come back on Wednesday. Went to Y.M.C.A. found a 0.50 note all covered with dirt. Wandered round all over the place, sanitary arrangements very elementary. Spent part of the day looking round the town. It is a pretty large place, Lunatic Asylum is now turned into Hospital. The sanitary latrines etc. are somewhat embarrassing. Windows full of souvenirs - would want a small fortune to buy some of them. The postcards are very unique. Got back at 2 pm.and had dinner. Went and heard a concert in the evening. Not up to much. A Pommie sang "The Perfect Day" and dropped his "h’s" and put them in the wrong place, otherwise his voice was good. Somewhat tame affair but band more than made up shortcomings.

Tuesday 22/1/18

Up at Reveille and had breakfast. Fell in for C.O.’s Parade, and was told off to the huts for Musketry (bolt manipulation) afterwards Sgt Phillip took charge and put them thru'. B.N. went to Dentist and had his tooth filled, it fell (the filling) out when he was having his tea. Nothing much occurred during the day. Oh! We went down for a bath and got a decent hot shower and had new underclothing issued to us. Coy. on a road party breaking stones down at Dranoutre to (unreadable).

Wednesday 23/1/18

Reveille at 6.45 am, owing to working party having to go out. I went in to Bailleul to have my teeth seen to. I walked all round and saw what there was to see. Had an impression taken and told to report back again tomorrow. Got back at 4 pm. advised there was a concert at 6,30 pm. and pay at 4.30 pm. The latter is the more important of the two. Rolled into bed about 7.30 pm. I was feeling pretty tired but before I rolled into bed bought 1/2 dozen candles and a cake of chocolate. Cpl West and B.N. helped me to eat it.

Thursday 24/1/18

Reveille blew - never heard it. We now fall in on C.O.’s Parade Ground - another new stunt. I was on Dental again. Had a ride this time - wandered round and wrote home at Y.M.C.A. Bought 30 p/cards. Had a look at a piece of work in the Church. They were cleaning cess pits. Phew! what a smell. Got impression taken and told to come back Saturday. Heard we were going into Ploegsteert. Had 2 eggs and mashed potatoes for dinner - cost me 1.30 - that's ls/2d. Saw Platten on his way home, Gave Doris address to him. Disgusted with p’cards shown to me by a M’selle. Started back and got a lift to camp. Had dinner, shave, and rolled into bed.

Friday 25/1/18

Today I went on parade and practised at field operations - after dinner we went on parade at 1.30 pm. and went to football match. It was a tight go as the scores underneath show. Went and heard concert party by 3rd Amm. Div. Col. It was A.l. A young lady (?) had a smile quite infectious fascinating and alluring. Came home well satisfied with things in general.

Saturday 26/1/18

Got up at Reveille and went to get my teeth but unsuccessful

Spent part of the day looking at the carving in the Church. Afterwards had a hot bath. Young lady poked her head in the door and asked if the water was hot enough. Also had shampoo shave and haircut for 2.50 (2s/1d) - Hot bath cost 1.50 (1s.3d) and then had dinner 3 eggs, steak Mashed Potatoes and chips for 5 frs (4s.2d) Glutton, eh! Just been warned to be ready to move off at 9 am. in the morning. To report at Nieppe at 10 am. on Wednesday. Will be able to see this town. Busy writing all evening. Wrote 31st letter to Doris.

Sunday 27/1/18

Reveille at 6.30 am. ready to roll off to Plug St * at 9:15am. - started away at 9.30 am. and reached Canteen farm or Corner about 11.50 am. Got fixed up and hearing that Jack Lilley's ** battery was about 20 min. walk away, I soon found him and had a chat, afterward having tea with him. He is very grey and is just about fed up with the war.

Got back to camp at 7 pm. Boots and puttees in a right mess. Rolled into bed about 8 pm. to be ready for tomorrow.

*   Ploegsteert.
** Jack Lilley, a cousin on his father's side.

Monday 28/1/18

Up at 7 am. Rolled blankets and put pack out ready for Q.M.Store. Told to be ready to move out at 4 pm. so had breakfast and went for a stroll. Seeing some 2nd A.D.T. I made enquiries after Fred Spence * - told he was 10 min. down the road, so soon found him out. First thing I did was to get a new pair of trousers out of him - stayed with him for dinner. Helped to eat his lollies and raisins, leaving about 1.30 pm. Found out Dave * is at Bailleul - could easily have found him out. Had some tea at 3.30 pm. an was then informed we had to get going about 4.45 pm. which we did, getting issued with "7 league boots" and got ride up to "Plug Street" in a "Puffing Billy" - changed boots and walked to line. Then turned the rifle section out as a Fatigue Party for Rations. Got to bed about 11 pm. and slept fairly well. Intend fixing "Hatney Villa" a bit better in the morning.

* probably Dave Spence, brother of Fred, another cousin from Melbourne

Tuesday 29/1/18

Up at 8 am. for breakfast. Slept well until the earlier hours of the morning when I got very cold. Nothing doing all day so I tidied up the dugout "Hatney" I have made it quite comfortable and (unreadable) made up the path immediately in front.

Having done all that was necessary including looking after the men, I commenced replying to Doris' budget of news. Detailed again for Ration Party - had to wait a couple of hours for transport. Here's a sample of the sublime and the real. Seen a picture "Will they never come?" The real - evening very cold and moon just rising. Party of men waiting with shoulders up to their ears, hands in pockets and stamping and swearing. "Will they never come?"

Wednesday 30/1/18

Up at 8 am. and had breakfast. Fritz * put over 3 H.E.'s ** and the mud from the last landed in the dugout, also a man that was easing himself got some. Spargo got a lump on the back of his neck. After this I got out and made the dugout or Hatney Villa still more comfortable. Warned to stand by for Patrol tonight. Fell in at 11 pm. and went out for 4 hours - nothing doing - got back about 4 am. and turned in. Our shells played the very deuce with Fritz lines - walked for yards with duckboards all under water. Finished letter to Doris and posted it.

* The Germans.            ** Artillery shells (High Explosive)

Thursday 31/1/18 to Monday 4/2/18

Passed as the previous day.

Tuesday 5/2/18

Up at 10 am. feeling very much off colour. Seemed to get worse as the day wore on. Warned to be ready to move out 11 am. - moved at 1.30 pm with my section and Mr. Tweedie. He helped me carry my things. Do not know how I would have got on otherwise. Arrived at Romarin Camp at 3.15pm. got into hut at 4 pm. and went into Romarin for eggs. 3 eggs and bread costing me 2 francs. Came back feeling far better, and made my bed and then turned in.

Wednesday 6/2/118

Up at 8 am. made enquiries about dental and was packed off to visit Nieppe. Reached the place in about 112 hour. Terribly knocked about. The Cathedral being simply a mass of ruins. Saw A.C.McCallum and had a motor ride with him to Ponte-de-Nieppe - he afterwards drove me back to Ponte-de-belle where I went to see about the teeth - told to come back Saturday, "Great Stunt - I don't think". Told Dick Maxwell was with 11th Field Ambulance - went down there and was told he was on leave. Got back and had the afternoon off. Changed my boots. Shaved. Had tea, made my bed (worse luck) got paid and rolled in. Slept like a top last night. It’s a treat not to be alongside the guns. Turned in at 7.30 pm.

Thursday 7/2/18

Up at 8 am. Had breakfast feeling off colour still. Turned out on parade and had lectures in hut by Mr Tweedie (Map Reading). Parade for Games in afternoon - marched into Nieppe and could not get any grounds to play on. After a wait for a while, we came back and I went out. Had a hot bath cost 2 francs, afterwards had tea in 2 Eggs and chop (pork) 2fr/40cts - bought some postcards and 1 tin apricots lfr/50cts - had the latter when I got back.

Made the bed and turned in feeling a bit shaky on it. Intend going to see the Doctor in the morning.

Friday 8/2/18

Head aching a treat - afraid temp. is up - feeling hot and cold in turns. Went and saw Doctors and got some medicine and as I was going out on parades was ordered to go and lie down by Yeates.

Lecture in hut by Captain Fowler on Aeroplanes. It was very interesting. After dinner felt O.K. - cold leaving me, I am glad to say.

Received letters from Doris, Home, and Lodge. Went around and saw Newton and Griffiths - they wanted me to come around and see Retchford. He's a back number as far as I am concerned. McLean came the proverbial crank - is evidently none to keen on it. Had a shave and wash and turned into bed.

Saturday 9/2/18

Up as per usual and went in to Dentist - waited all the morning and had my dinner with 10th F.A. - consisted of Beef, Onions, Potatoes, gravy, sago and bread and Marmalade. Sandpapered my teeth and they are a perfect fit and look exceedingly well. Went into Nieppe to see when Dick Maxwell came back. He gets back on 19th. Saw football match 11th v 44th. Former won by 19 points. Our chaps went to pieces. Had eggs and chips for tea and then came on to camp and turned into bed - nothing else to do. Wrote to Mother during my stay at the dentist. Feel O.K. except at the back of my head where it is aching - I can't make it out, perhaps its the cold I have that's the cause of it.

Sunday 10/2/18

Up at 7 am. nose bleeding a treat. Had a good night's rest. Went to Church parade and finished the day letter writing. Our boys 37 and 38th went over on a raid secured 36 prisoners. Went out and had tea at Romarin, came back and got into bed about 7 pm.

Monday 11/2/18

Up at 7 am. had breakfast nose again bleeding, had a wash and turned out for parade. Afterwards had a game of mopping up in the afternoon scores 21 to I. Got back, had shave and tea and then bought chocolates and lollies, and Wallace and I had a great feed. Made my bed and rolled in. Funny thing how you can like the bed over this way.

Tuesday 12/2/18

Up at 7 am. nose again bled. Can't make out what is wrong with it. Parade at 9 am. Mopping up at 2 pm. Game draw 4 played 4. Steve O'Gorman had his wallet stolen. Yarning to the Padre found out that Fred Wray is in London. Got him to get me a tin of Condensed Milk. Will have milk to drink up the line.

Going up tomorrow (Wed) has the appearance of being wet. Orders given no blankets to be taken. Bought some chocolate and made down the bed feeling well fit for it. A bit sore after the game.

Wednesday 13/2/18

Up at 7 am. had breakfast rolled blankets and got away for Ploegsteert at 3 pm. Got into quarters and found I was detailed for Ration carrying. Game up to mud. Just got snugly into bed when we were informed we were not wanted until 3.30 am. Call came at 12 o'clock to roll out and when we got down there was nothing to do so we came back again. The Thermos is no light weight anyhow its got to he done so that's the end of it. Hours for carrying same 4:30 pm, 10:30 pm, 4:30 am. - rest of day to ourselves.

Thursday 14/2/18 and Friday 15/2/18

Same as previous day

Saturday 16/2/18

Sick as a dog. Do not know what is wrong - have a sharp piercing pain in my left side and back of head aches like one thing. Going to see Doctor in the morning. Am going to try and ease my stomach by having bread and milk. Hurts most when I have to cough. Turned very cold yesterday. Fine weather only we get a frost at night.

Sunday 17/2/18

Got up and made bread and milk for myself. The first food I have had for 2 days - feeling ever so much better. Went and saw the Doctor. He reckons I've nothing much wrong with me. Told me to come back again if the pain in my side got worse. His opinion up to mud. Anyhow, I won't go and I fold him so. Evidently thinks I am "swinging the lead" Got a letter from Doris by this mail - am answering it. Fritz has blown in part of the trenches yesterday in his bombardment. Wallace smoked the rats out with cordite. I got two clips of German bullets as souvenirs. Going up to the front line with rations three more days to do yet and I hear today another 8 days. I hope the latter is not correct. Heard while on ration duty J. Crawley got knocked whilst out on patrol.

Monday 18/2/18

Up as per usual and did the front line trip, got back and had fried onions and cheese for breakfast. This lasted me the whole day. I found this does not agree with me. Felt like vomiting the whole day. Did nothing all day but slept. Got a letter from Doris, one from Grand Lodge and two summons. Things very quiet on this sector.

Tuesday 19/2/18

Up and did the C.T. trips and of course had an argument. Bacon this morning, never had any, took thermos back with Harry Wallace and came back, had a wash and then rolled in. Very cold. Got up and made some bread and milk. Felt much warmer by so doing. Fritz put up a bit of a barrage on our left. What for, I do not know! First time I saw a display of his iron works. The boys are having welsh rarebit for dinner as I am writing this and Fritz is putting over some shells uncomfortably close and judging by his last he is lengthening his distance a bit. Evidently having a go at the M.G. post. *  This post keeps on "barking" all night .

* machine gun

Wednesday 20/2/18

Nothing of any importance occurred today. It passed the same as previous ones. Up at the usual times and finished our final carry at 12 noon. I went to Support. After dinner we went and took kitchen utensils back to Le Gheer Dump and Wallace and I went to Y.M.C.A, and had a cup of cocoa. After this we scrambled thru’ a shambles of wire netting looking for Fritz souvenirs, but were unsuccessful. Got equipment on for getting out at about 7 pm. and waited about 20 min and got away carrying our gum boots. To wear gum boots is up to mud. Rolled in about midnight full up of the war in every way - went to sleep almost immediately.

Thursday 21/2/18

Got up in our own time, had breakfast and a general clean up, and had a parade at 11 am. inspection of equipment, rifle and ammunition. Got paid afterwards, drew 15 frs (11/-) had rice for dinner and laid down. Slept for a while, finished letter to Doris and then opened S.T.W.A. mails. Have to turn out 4.30 pm. for working party. We proceed up by train which is a mighty good job.

Friday 22/2/18

Up as per usual and did our fatigue work at night - caught train and waited for about an hour when we were coming back we waited 2 hours for train. Decided we would walk next night. We did two trips tonight. Got home at 2 am. Saturday morning.

Saturday 23/2/18

Roused out at 7 am. for a bath. Not before I wanted one either. Bought some figs at an Estaminet and met a chap from W.A. Do not remember what his name is. Got back about 8.30 am. and had breakfast. Paraded before (unreadable) about the issue and he promised better next day.

Sunday 24/2/18

Up at 8.30 am. notified Church Parade at Nieppe. Marched there and back. Plenty of heads buzzing around. Fell in again at 5 pm. for the usual carrying party.

Monday 25/2 to Friday 1/3/18

Fell in as usual each day and followed routine for carrying to Ploegsteert.

Saturday 2/3/18

Up at 7 am. rolled blankets for putting away also put pack in Q.M.Store. Marched out at 4.30 pm. for 3 days in Ploegsteert, Lancashire Farm.

Hatney dugout knocked out by Fritzs.  Turned in with Geo Smith as bedmate. Detailed on Ration Party. Turned in at 10 pm.

Sunday 3/3/18

Up at 8 am. Had breakfast and turned to fixing dugout. Made it thoroughly comfortable. Had dinner and made brick path in front and then turned out at 5.30 pm. for carrying party. Back at 9.30 pm. and had supper ate 1 loaves between two of us.

Monday 4/3/18

Practically followed out the same as previous day. 9th raid on tonight, on our left.

Tuesday 5/3/18

Up at 8 am. M.O. Had a good feed and wash and shave. Move out today for our 4 or 5 weeks spell. Move out at 5 pm. for canteen corner. Later we moved at 6 pm. for Ingerodl. Took train to Canteen Corner. Got fixed up and blew out candle at 12.5 am. Orders to get up at 6 am. and roll blankets.

Wednesday 6/3/18

Got up at 6.15 am. and rolled blankets and put them in the heap at the road. Turned out for inspection at 10 am. moved off for Sternwecke at 11.30am. Arrived here at 1.30 pm. had dinner and then entrained for Nottingham (Lottinghen) arrived at 1 am. Thursday, waited until 3.30 for blankets, and then turned in.

Thursday 7/3/18

Up at 10 am had breakfast and dinner together. Paraded at 2 pm. for a kind of lecture on what to do and what not to do. Dinner at 4.30 pm, and made bed at 5.30 pm.

Friday 8/3/18

Mess Orderly again. Reveille at 6.30 am. Breakfast at 7, and parade at 8.30. Did my mending and had a general clean up. Generally repaired my coat and sewed the pockets, also up the back pleat. Nothing doing today. Sat in Sun and wrote up my diary. Med. Inspection this afternoon and general clean up.

Saturday 9/3/18

Nothing much doing but went and had a look for Dick Maxwell. Smithie got two parcels and we had a feed at night.

Sunday 10/3/18

Up at 8 am. Had a wash. Church Parade at 10 am. Saw Steve Roots.

Bathing Parade this afternoon wrote home. The day is perfect and the sun is Tres Bien. Went to 11th F.A/ to see Dick Maxwell - was unlucky.

Had better luck later on as I met him in Lottinghen. He invited me out Tuesday evening. Turned in at 8 pm.

Monday 11/3/18

Fell in at 8.30 am. marched to hill for parade ground. The view was splendid. Home again at 4.30 pm. and turned in at 8 pm. Tuesday passed same as Monday. Saw Dick Maxwell and had a yarn. Introduced to Dr Montgomery (Claremont). He's a hard case, also French interpreter and St.S.M.Green (Chemist) Dick and Green saw me part of the way back at 9.30 pm.

Tuesday 12/3/18

Mess Orderly. Reported for being absent from Tattoo. Began making enquiries and found Dick had made things right. N.C.O's and S.M. cannot understand why I was not paraded at Orderly Room. "Nuf said"

Wednesday 13/3/18

Passed same as Tuesday. Had display on how to take a strong point by Divi. Platoon. Played Aussie football in afternoon and we won. Turned into bed at 6.30 pm.

Thursday 14/3/18

Up at 7 am. and went to rifle range and had practice at charging a strong point. We were a wash-out. One half charged and the other half lied down in a prone position. Turned in at 7 pm. We are guard this evening. Do not know what hour I am on yet. Got back at 8.15 pm. to find out I was on from 8.30 to 9.30. Rolled in at 9.45 pm.

Friday 15/3/18

Up at the usual time. Put in for Boulogne leave and was the first name out of the hat. Had a good time visited Quay, Railway Station (Hommes) Fish Markets was shown over shop by a young lady. Got back at 10.30 pm. ready for bed.

Saturday 16/3/18

No parade today. Cleaned equipment and wrote home. Was introduced to Mr Jones of Y.M.C.A. and he turned out to be Ross Jones of Sydney

Sunday 17/3/18

Up at 8 am. Coy. Parade at 9.30 am. Went to 11th F.A. and saw Dick Maxwell who invited me to a Lodge Rehearsal at 7 pm. Put in mind of No. 71. Took the post of J.W. and W.M. next Sunday. Got back about 9.45 pm.

Monday 18/3/18

Drill on the hill. Played Mopping up and was beaten 6 to 3.

Tuesday 19/3/18

Route march and gas demonstration. Got back at 5 pm. wet thru'.

Wednesday 20/3/18

Wet day syllabus. Mess Orderly. Had a good night hardly coughed at all. Cold evidently leaving me. Pay Day today.

Thursday 21/3/18

The morning as usual, only got a decent pair of boots, and in the afternoon had our photos taken.

Friday 22/3/18

Roused out at 4.45 am. to turn out in full marching order to proceed to the front. Entrained at noon and arrived at Eecke at 6 pm. Marched to our billets, went up to village - saw Flying Corps Canteen and some men with mad/selles. Got on wrong track on way back and eventually got back at 8 pm. and made down the bed.

Saturday 23/3/18

Got up at 9.30 am. had a shave and general clean up. Parade at 2.30 pm. and warned to be ready to move off at 1 hrs notice. Parade at 6 pm. and issued with iron rations. Told we are going to move off at an early hour. Turned in at 10.30 pm.

Sunday 24/3/18

Reveille at 6.30 am. breakfast at 7 am. parade at 7.30 moved off at 8.15 am. for our destination. Caught motors at Steinbourg and passed through various villages St Sylvestre - Cappel and other places. Got out of motors at some unearthly place and got on the tramp. Pretty warm in the sun - am writing this at Blaringhem whilst I am having a spell.

Monday 25/3/18

Up at 6.30 am. Thought we would be on the move at an early hour but found out orders had been cancelled. Had a kit parade in the afternoon Believe we move off tomorrow - warned to expect open warfare where we are going.

Tuesday 26/3/18

Up at 7.30 had breakfast ready for parade at 10.30 am. Platoon fixed up and ammunition issued and got on the way for Arques where we are to entrain at 6 pm. Arrived here after passing German prisoner camp and got a train with the usual mess up of the men told off to trucks. We were assigned to trucks again this morning. 13 again hit me in the eye as 13 was the no. of the truck. Had tea bully beef and bread and got ready for bed. It's going to be very cold cold tonight so well to prepare for it.

Wednesday 27/3/18 to 1/5/18

In lines at Sailly-le-sec and in the Marnicourt sector. On lst we came out to La Houssaye. Aussie lingo for the place (Lousy) quite typical - whilst in this sector we were in the neighbourhood of Binnay, Vaux, Heillyp Sailly-le-sec. Weather very cold. Intense artillery bombardment going on. A couple of 6 inchers have just gone long the road. Things are evidently going to move. Saw one of the famous tanks and no wonder Fritz ran when he first saw them. They have a peculiar gait and look extremely grotesque.

2/5/18 to 3/5/18

Working parties building dugout for Battalion Headquarters. Saw a Fritz plane brought down intact by our contact plane. Saw Jack Brown and he came up on Saturday and had a yarn. Wallace bought some chocolates which were quite acceptable also a jar of fruit. Got into bed at 9 pm.

4/5/18 to 10/5/18

In support for 33rd and then out again to Pont Nigelles. Put in 8 days here had a Brigade Stunt which we won. The next day was inspected by Sir D. Haig. The weather is getting warmer saw Wickham had dinner and supper with Ross Jones. Went out Querrieu Daours and Bussy. Also saw Allonville, Montigny and Behencourt. The latter place I went with R.J. and tried to find Ern. He was up in the pits.


Packed up and moved up to Villers Bretonneux. Rather warm walking. Village very much knocked about . Fritz only 300 yards away. On our way here came thru’ Blangy Tronville and saw Lamotte in the distance. Things very quiet on the 21st. Spent the day in bed. Saw some shots fired at a farmhouse - each one was a direct hit. Received parcel G. Nuts on the 19th. They did not last long. Opened up O.K.


Our Anniversary Day. Had a wash, shaved then washed my feet. Wrote Took & S & Co. Had a sleep the greater part of the day. Planes up in great numbers.


Came out of line and went into billets at Villers Brettenneux, living in cellar.


Out into trench at rear of Chateau.


Moved further down trench - working parties in tunnel.


Relieved by 40th. Going to dugouts near Abbey. Heard Tom Mansbridge was killed yesterday.


Out of Abbe de Bois and into dugouts near Blang Tronville. Three in dugout, Geo. Slabb, Fred Lawson and self. Room for 4. Wallace has gone into stretcher bearers.


Came up to Abbe de Bois for anything up to 8 days working parties on Cable


Up to Front Line in outpost at Villers Bretonneux. Last night a gas strafe was on. Evacuated to support line for time being. Don't know how long we are on for but hear it is a 10 day stunt what afterwards I am not prepared to state but believe it is to be a spell. Have been going 3 months solid without a spell or relief.


Out again. Got strafed as we were changing over with 2nd Division. Marched to Allonville.


Spell o’ all day.


Won toss for motor ride to see Tank Stunt. Lost our way got there too late. Came back thru’ Amiens.

Sunday 30/6/18

Nothing doing - reorganising platoon. Yankees are coming in with us.

Monday 1/7/18

Went thru’ stunt for hopover. Billy Hughes addressed us. "piffle"


Moved out for Hamel and stayed all night.


In hop-over. Hamel captured objectives all reached. Tanks of great assistance


Out at night as supply tank guide. Fritz countered but came an abominable crash. Held line 72 hrs until relieved. Was glad when it was over. "'toot sweeted" back to Daours. Got motors there for A'ville. Put in 2 or 3 days and then came to Bank at Daours


Motored as Baggage Guard and came to C echelon on 13/7/18, suffering from effects of Dog's Disease. Taking on running from (Nucleus) to Batt.

14/7/18 to 29/7/18


What is described here as a "do" was in fact a major offensive launched against German lines which led to the conclusion of the war. At the end of the diary is a more detailed account of the "Do".


Saw Arch * somewhere about this time, and had a great yarn. Joined up with Battalion for a few days in Hamel sector. Acted as guide for Yanks and then went out with Dungey to look for Billets in Hamelet prior to hop-over on a non-stop objective.

* Probably Arch Tooker, husband of Doris' eldest sister Clare.


Hopped over under a "snodger"* barrage and reached our objective. Had rather a narrow squeak with one of our own shells. Gave way under strain next day and was evacuated to Hospital, arriving on 9th, only to be an object of great interest to the ward and sisters also Doctors They asked all details about push etc. Was treated the best its possible to be treated. Am the only Aussie in the ward, 14th General Hospital.

* "excellent"


By today's papers the push is going well and great news is expected in tomorrow's papers.


Out of hospital to Convalescent Camp at 1.45pm.


Sent to No.12 Con. Camp but found they would accept army troops of the Allies and British Colonials including Black Men, but on no account would they take in Australian troops. It's about the hottest thing I've come across in France and has a right to be remedied. Anyway I had a trip by motor at the expense of Govt.


Went into Boulogne to draw some pay. Got 40 frs and had a good meal and wander back about 8.45pm. ready for bed.


It’s raining like fun. Have a bathing parade this morning. Yesterday I was graded Grade 11. This means about another week down here.


Evacuated to No.10 Convalescent Camp. Arrived per motor in a most desolate spot. Found things were "up to mud". Tucker a disgrace to the Army. Heard afterwards that the powers-that-be try to save as many meals as possible, otherwise had a good time with the boys.


Evacuated to No.7 Convalescent Camp at St. Martins. Came thru' Boulogne. Had an excellent dinner the best "tuck in " for weeks. Can't help drawing conclusions re various Rest/Con Camps I go thru'. This one being absolutely the best managed as far as tucker goes. Go out tomorrow to Havre to this base.


Marched to Todingthun. Got on train for Havre. Arrived at Base about 1.30 pm. Went to pictures in the evening. Issued with two blankets. Pinched bundle of straw coming down.


In Havre went and got invalidated 48 hrs. Went thru' gas and went off to Havre for train but it was cancelled. Left 30/9/18 for the line. Left Camp at Rouelles at 4 pm. arrived Havre Station at 6.30 pm. Feel very sore. Bought biscuits and tea, also chocolate. Believe we are to have a day at Rouen on our trip. Heard tonight - believed to be official - that Bulgaria has "thrown in the towel"


Left at 4.15 pm. for Havre, entrained and got away at 5.30 am. Got to Pronne at 9 am. and marched to Divi. Wing Camp at La Chattela. Fritz bombed same night - got 16 all told of 37th Land. Stayed there until 3/10/18 when we left and joined Battalion, and heard about stunt at Hindenberg Line. Yanks express their appreciation of Aussies.


Left Camp and came by narrow gauge rail to Gronene. Got on board at 3 pm. ready for our trip to back area for a spell.


Entrained at Longpre for Montieres le Amien to attend Corps Gas School. Arrived at Lt' Rock at noon and roamed round the town eventually number put up in room 30 convent an extremely good billet.


Finished school at Montieres Gas and had day in Amiens.


Put day in at Amiens and spent night at Longpre.


Joined up with Battalion.


Left per foot for Longpre. walked the distance 15 Kilo (9 miles) in 3 hours full pack. Waited at station until 6.45 pm. and came on to Abbeville and then took train to Boulogne or think we have. This remains to be seen. Nothing but Frenchies in compartment. Am thoroughly enjoying it. Heard today we are all leaving France as early as possible.


Time 4 pm on the 7th August 1918.

There are four of us sitting in a "dug-out" otherwise what was once a pig-sty. We were talking about the "hop-over" that was to come off on the morrow.

"Finney, you're wanted" says the C.S.M.
I answer " What's up now!"
"Get your gear and report to C.H.Qrs. at 4.55. There you will get a shovel and report to Capt. Fowler."
"I haven't had any tea" I say.
"That doesn't matter. You can have it right away and take 48 hours rations with you."

So off I started but just before I got away, they (the other three) lit 3 cigarettes with the one match, and it was the last word I said to two of them as two were killed in action and the other was wounded 3 days later.

I got going with encouraging words of "Good-luck, I’ll see you later." I report to C.H.Qrs. only to be told to report to Rear Batt. H.Qrs. There I found out I was to lay the tape for hopping off in conjunction with L/Cpl Fat Mountain Vernon Gilbert.

Whilst waiting orders to proceed a chap came up and asked me if I would swap jobs. Not knowing his, I asked him "What he was doing" He informed me he was to cut the wires - an even more precarious job than mine.

5 o'clock we set off up thru' the shell stricken village of Hamelet. We are told our path to follow the pickets marked "C". On our way up we cry a halt.

We now have a yarn to some Artillery chaps who offer us a mug of tea and the talk naturally turns to the day ahead of us, and many are the encouraging words that are spoken, with "Good Luck, Digger" and "Give him one for me."

It is now one is able to grasp the magnitude of the struggle that lies before us. Snugly and cosily hid among the fast ripening crops can faintly be discerned the small and carefully camouflaged humps which denote a gun waiting as if on silent guard, ever ready for the oncoming fray. Altho' only out of the line for 72 hrs. a marvellous change has been wrought. As far as the eye can see there are these silent sentinels of all calibres and sizes.

Arriving at Forward Bat. H.Qrs. we are told to wait until it is dusk before we move forward. Off comes our gear and we stroll along to the YMCA dugout only to find nothing doing, not even a drink of water to be had. Dusk arriving we set off over practically the same ground as we covered on the morning of the memorable 4th July 18.

Having reached the front line we were soon put to work laying the tape with Capt. Fowler and Lt. Kilgour. This had to be done in as silent a manner as possible, and everything had to be done by signs. Occasionally up would go a Fritz Very Light and everything we were doing would have to remain in abeyance and it was absolutely necessary for us to remain in whatever position we were in at the time the light went up if not for our own safety for the safety of those who were out either cutting the wire or assisting us in laying the tape.

At times we would hear the muffled snip of the wire cutters. The snip that seemed like the crack of a whip. We knew then that another stumbling block in the form of a wire was cut.

It was now Fritz took it into his head to give us a Good-night salvo and over came his iron rations. We got down at full length in the nearest shell hole and patiently waited (as there was nothing else we could do) until he considered he had done enough. On this ceasing he traversed a machine gun two or three times and then settled down for the night.

After waiting a few minutes, we soon got going again and was not long in getting the job thru'. Our job being over for the time being we sat down, but before doing this the Capt. came along with a chap in tow. He found him following up the tape. After a few searching questions, he was sent out in charge of an escort.

This being over, we had to make ourselves as comfortable as possible until the Coy. came along. They were to leave Hamelet at 12 midnight 7-8th August. We finished our job at 11.30 pm. so had to wait until 2 o'clock until the crowd came alone up.

I have never yet found the time hang as heavily. It seemed the time would never go. During this time Fritz was simply "towelling" the Tommies and the Yanks on the left side of the Somme.

At last the welcome sound comes "Finney! Are you there?" It is the Platoon Officer Lt. Tweedie. I was soon up on top and acted as guide for the platoon. 7 of us Cpl Dingey in charge of 6 of us. The Sergt. Sam Dowsett was then attached to us. Now think of this, 8 of us. Our nearest section on the right was 40 yards away and on our left, 30 yards. A Fact!! Getting into position, I got into a shell hole and with 2 blankets I had previously purloined I was comfortable and warm as we had fully an hour to zero time. Lt. Tweedie then came along and asked me if I managed to get a few minutes sleep. I had hardly any the previous night as I was out on another job, and none practically this night and I was not feeling in any way the worse for the worst of it. I must have had a few minutes as he told me there was only 3 minutes to go. We were all on the alert at once. Our tape was 200 yds behind the S.O.S. line where our barrage was to fall, so as to minimise the casualities from our own shells falling short. 10 seconds before zero, the Tock Emmas Trench Mortars started and almost immediately afterwards came a peculiar whirring pulsating sound tearing the air into a turmoil and then down came that wall of steel smoke and flame as if a curtain had been suddenly dropped from the heavens.

It was a magnificent sight as far as the eye was able to see on the right and left it was raining that peculiar muddy red flame. Intermingled in this was Fritz Very Lights in all colours making a vain call for a counter barrage but it was evident the call was unheard as we found out when we reached his objective, either all his guns and crews had been knocked out at the first burst.

The barrage waited 4 minutes before jumping 200 yards. Our eyes were on the Sgt for the signal to move. It came, off we went. Look out!! there's a tank. Down the trench 8ft deep, 10ft wide at this spot we followed in its wake only for a few moments. It was soon swallowed up in the fumes and smoke and fog.

We now shout to make ourselves heard, but what's the use - the din is awful and added to this is the rat-tat-tat- of the machine guns on the planes overhead and what we the droning of the engines the screaming and bursting of the shells. It's a thing once heard is never forgotten as long as memory lasts.

A cry rings out - we can just faintly hear it. At last we get nearer:
"Kamerad! Kamerad! Mercy!!"
"Get ready Boy! and don't trust them!" shouts the Sergt.

One! two four five! eight! nine! - but there is no fight left in them A hurried search and we direct them to Hamel, and away they go at the run, only too glad to be out of it all.

We still move on following the barrage. A small unit working out the scheme all on its own but like a tooth in a cog wheel all fitting in each grove and so making the wheel complete therefore making the whole machine go round.

It is now we have a spell for a few moments but not for long as there is more work ahead and we like to follow close on the barrage.

"Who are you?" is heard out of the smoke and fog.
"You are out of your course. Get over to your left 500 yards"

And away we go.Suddenly there looms out of the fog the form of a tank. We pull the tank up and ask our way. They are steering by compass. It’s No.9 platoon's tank, we are in 12 platoon. The O.C. points our direction and its here I had the shell that shook me up.

At last our objective is reached. Tired? Yes!! but game to the core! What care we. Fritz is going like fun and already we are making the ground secure by digging in.

The 43rds now go thru' and dig in 500yds ahead.

Suddenly a rabbit appears and down goes all tools and we have a course but bunny is too fly and he gets away.

The barrage still thunders on and then the world goes forth. What oh! The tanks and then the 4th Div. They are to carry the attack further and how they succeeded is already known as at 3.30 pm. they were 2000yds beyond their objective and had made all secure.

After the war, Jack married Doris and worked as a commercial traveller representing Drew Robinson, Burford and Sons and, later, Bushells. He was with Shell, when he was retired at the age of 60 years. His employment with Shell took the family to Bunbury and Bridgetown for several years.

Being ever active, in his late sixties, he resumed working part-time for the Beam Bus Co. balanced the takings and ticket sales of the previous day. He later became an agent for Masonic regalia, and went to his office in the city until into his eighties.

He was active in Freemasonry throughout his life, joining Commercial Travellers' Lodge No. 71 W.A.C. in 1911, becoming Master in 1920-22 and rising to P.S.G.W. in 1950 after a number of years as District Grand Inspector of Workings.

He entered in the Perth-to-Adelaide sector of the Car Rally held as part of the South Australian Centenary celebrations in 1936, and won Second Prize. After the Rally, he drove on to Melbourne to visit his Mother and relatives before driving back to Perth. Two years later, he drove across to Melbourne again, this time, taking his family for a week stay in Victoria, for their first meeting with Victorian relatives.

In his semi-retirement years, he took a great interest in growing roses, and served as treasurer of the Rose Society of W.A. and resumed his hobby of Philately, to which he devoted much of his time.

John and Doris lived at: 77 Lawley Crescent, Mt. Lawley (1920 - 1929); 1 Oakley St. Bunbury (1930-1931);
Roe Street, Bridgetown (1931-1935); and 60 Forrest Street, Mt Lawley until their deaths.

Jack died on 22nd May 1971 at the age of 86.

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