In Great Spir­its

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - REG A. WAT­SON

IN GREAT SPIR­ITS The World War I Di­ary of Archie Bar­wick. By Archie Bar­wick RRP $ 27.95

IHAVE read many, many good di­aries of those who served in var­i­ous wars and all have added to a fuller un­der­stand­ing of what it was like. Great Spir­its is one of the best.

How au­thor Archie Bar­wick sur­vived the full four years of World War I, from Gal­lipoli to France, is amaz­ing.

The fact he sur­vived is what makes the work so bril­liant. By do­ing so, he has been able to pass down the hor­rors, con­di­tions and sen­si­bil­i­ties of those who served from start to fin­ish.

It is in­deed rare. The other at­tribute is he was a con­stant and good writer. When­ever he could, he put pen to paper. He makes good use of de­scrip­tive words and his style is graphic and en­ter­tain­ing. He may not have had a good ed­u­ca­tion, but he cer­tainly had a nat­u­ral tal­ent in this re­gard.

“One could see his strength, de­ter­mi­na­tion, courage and in­tegrity, as well as his so­phis­ti­ca­tion of mind,” his son- in- law David Has­sell said.

Bar­wick was a Tas­ma­nian, but en­listed in New South Wales as part of the 1st Bat­tal­ion. At the on­set of the war he was en­thu­si­as­tic and, to his “great joy”, he got a let­ter to “re­port once to Vic­to­ria Bar­racks”.

Bar­wick served with gusto, yet his en­thu­si­asm waned as the war con­tin­ued and the hor­rors mounted. All he wanted to do was re­turn home. For­tu­nately, he did. He ful­filled his ex­pected role with ded­i­ca­tion and never flaunted his obli­ga­tions to his coun­try and his men, and was even­tu­ally pro­moted to sergeant.

Bar­wick’s mil­i­tary ca­reer started on Au­gust 24, 1914, and his di­ary fol­lows his ca­reer un­til he re­turned home in 1919.

He wrote of the land­ing at Gal­lipoli: “We scram­bled up the hill for about 200 yards and then we dumped our packs and started off at a fair pace for the fir­ing line, for ev­ery­one was anx­ious to get up to them ( i. e. the Turks).

“As we were get­ting over the para­pet the man next to me was killed stone dead and on the way across we lost a few more.”

He sur­vived Gal­lipoli, only to be sent to France where he spent the next three years en­dur­ing such bat­tles as Pozieres, the Somme and Ypres.

Bar­wick of­fers an in­sight into many as­pects of war – the hor­rors, suc­cesses, emo­tions, con­di­tions, wasted time do­ing drills, wounds and the rats – yet there were also times of quiet­ness and beauty.

He wrote of his plea­sure of hav­ing leave in Lon­don and Paris, the won­ders of the coun­try­side and the beauty of the English and French girls.

We dumped our packs and started off at a fair pace for the fir­ing line, for ev­ery­one was anx­ious to get up

to them

He re­called the won­der­ful sym­pa­thy and help the nurses gave, for he was wounded sev­eral times.

To­wards the end of the war he also recorded the dev­as­ta­tion of the Span­ish flu, which he con­tracted and over­came. He of­ten thought of why he had not been killed like so many of his mates had been.

“I can only an­swer this by what my father once told me af­ter serv­ing in North Africa … there wasn’t a bul­let with my name on it,” he wrote.

Bar­wick re­turned to Aus­tralia and lived un­til 1966, when he died at 76. He was a great Aus­tralian.

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