30 Monday May 2016
Transcribing Lieutenant Percival Carl Minifie’s diary.
In February 2015, I joined the Gold Museum’s back-of-house volunteer team.
I was given the task of transcribing the World War One diary kept by Australian soldier Lieutenant Percival Carl Minifie. Lieutenant Minifie was 26 years old when he enlisted at Surrey Hills, Melbourne on August 18, 1914. He was a railway employee.
Lieutenant Minifie embarked on October 19, 1914 on the HMAT Benalla A24 from Melbourne. He was killed in action near Passchendaele in Belgium on October 4, 1917. At this time he was a Lieutenant in the 2nd Australian Machine Gun Company.
The story evolving in Lieutenant Minifie’s diary had me hooked. The writing in the diary is in pencil and it is closely written. Some pages are missing and many are smudged so they are difficult to read. When I first started to transcribe the diary, I found it very difficult to make out some of the words. As the year progressed, I was able to more easily transcribe what he had written.
Lieutenant Minifie’s diary begins in early April just before the Gallipoli landing. Lieutenant Minifie wrote several entries before he headed in to battle at Gallipolli where he described in detail the landing and life in the trenches. Lieutenant Minifie seemed to be upbeat in these entries, although he kept longing for a bath and good food. Throughout the diary he remarked in detail about what he had eaten. Sleeping conditions were also often noted.
Lieutenant Minifie then went to France where he mainly fought in Belgium around the Ypres, Hill 66 and Passchendaele areas.
Unfortunately the diary ended in September 1916. My interest in the diary has led me to do further research by looking up Lieutenant Minifie’s war records, plus researching his family on the National Library of Australia’s Trove service.
I knew from looking up his war record, that he would live for another year fighting on the battle front and I was eagerly looking forward to transcribing the next part of his story. However that was not to be. His other diaries were destroyed, leaving the Gold Museum’s journal the only surviving account of Lieutenant Minifie’s wartime experience.
Written by Denise Grant, Gold Museum Society volunteer. Denise is transcribing the museum’s collection of historical letters and diaries.