DISCOVERY OF GUNNER PEARCE'S WAR DIARY

Perpetual’s history

Gunner Pearce’s diary - a fascinating and humbling discovery for Perpetual

Perpetual’s history as a trustee dates back to 1886. That rich trustee heritage means there is always the possibility of a surprise discovery of important historical records. One such discovery is the diary of World War One digger, Norman Lee Pearce.

Gunner Pearce’s diary was discovered by Perpetual employees (then The Trust Company), Áine Corrigan and Tim Bestelink, while administering the estate of the soldier’s niece, Miss Mary Pearce.

“The diary was found in a shoebox under the bed with some old photographs and letters. We knew it was a hidden treasure, so we took it back to the office to ensure its safe keeping”, recalls Áine. 

The diary of the then 25-year-old Gunner Pearce describes the thoughts and feelings of the young soldier in the lead up to the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The diary ends the day
before the soldier goes ‘over the top’ for the battle where he died of severe wounds.

In tiny pencil writing the diary gives a fascinating insight into the day-to-day lives of Australian soldiers serving overseas in World War One.

“Contacting the family to let them know about the diary was probably the most significant phone call I ever had to make. The reaction was a mix of joy, shock and bewilderment. They had absolutely no idea the diary existed and were fascinated to hear of its contents” Áine said.

Aine knew an item of such historical and family significance needed to go the best possible home. Perpetual sought representations from a number of organisations interested in taking the diary.

The diary is now housed at the State Library of NSW. Copies of the transcribed diary have been donated to the family.

Perpetual is proud to honour the memory of Norman Lee Pearce and to have recovered his fascinating diary.