“sheets and a bed – glorious”

“sheets and a bed – glorious.” So describes Wilberforce Newton’s delight in his hospital accommodations on 12th November 1915. Plagued by suspected bronchitis whilst serving with the Royal Medical Corps on the Western front, Newton’s simple joy illustrates the conditions that became the new ‘normal’ experienced by servicemen and women during World War One.

Outside, group shot of the 58th Brigade of the 19th Division of the Royal Army Medical Corps.
Men from the 58th Brigade of the 19th Division of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Wilberforce Newton is standing on the far right. University of Melbourne Archives, Newton Stephen family collection, 1980.0146 item 5/6/2

Newton’s diary is just one of such valuable items digitised by the University of Melbourne Archives (UMA) to commemorate the anniversary of the First World War. Over 20 diaries and notebooks of individuals serving in the war are now available from UMA’s Digitised Items Catalogue. Researchers are able to remotely access over 1,700 pages of personal accounts of ‘the Great War’; from a tunneller’s account of the campaign for Hill 60 to a medical officer’s description of the landing at Anzac Cove, these items represent a range of service and experience. Many describe their journey to Europe, the months waiting in training camps in Egypt, and finally their call to action at Gallipoli and onto the Western Front.

Conserving and digitising these treasured items not only minimises the effects of handling but allows greater access for local and international researchers, historians and genealogists.

The following is a list of those whose records have been digitised and are now available through the Digitised Items Catalogue;

Oswald Benjamin (1989.0062)
Alan Rowland Chisholm 2002.0029
Alfred Plumley Derham (1963.0024)
Harold Clive Disher (Strathfieldsaye Estate 1976.0013)
Edwin Huck (1994.0124)
W R Keast – (1972.0025)
Rowland McCure (1979.0133)
Willberforce Newton (1980.0146)
Alfred Edward Rowden White (1963.0004)
Oliver Woodward (1982.0140)

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