Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Morris diary, 20 December 1915-22 August 1916 / Robert Irvine Morris
Private Robert Irvine Morris, No. 3577, of the 8/18th Battalion embarked at Sydney on H.M.A.T. Aeneas on 20 December 1915. His diary though sketchy in detail covers his journey from Sydney through to Cairo where he arrived on 17 January 1916. He was stationed at Heliopolis for training, although he suffered scalded feet and was incapacitated for some time. He embarked from Alexandria on 28 March 1916 to go to France disembarking at Marseille on 2 April and gives a brief account of the train journey through to Amiens. He describes his various tasks, the parades, exercises, his fatigue duties, lectures and, the fighting in France where he speaks of a particular bombardment as "Just like hell". He is quite graphic, though brief in his description of the devastation surrounding him during the fighting. In this time he moves through Erquinghem to Strazeele, to near Hazebrouck, to Amiens, Warloy Baillon and Albert. The last place mentioned on 21 August 1916 is Sausage Gully near Harpencourt. Pte. Morris was killed in action on 26 August 1916 aged 18. From his Army records at the National Archives a copy of a letter dated 23 August 1934 to Mrs. Annie Morris (his mother) states, "It is noted from the records that photographs purporting to depict the grave of this soldier in Pozieres British Cemetery were forwarded to you in 1920, and it has since transpired that the cross erected in that cemetery was of a memorial nature only and not marking the actual site of burial. Despite the most searching enquiry and investigation, it is regretted that the Commission has not been successful in recovering the remains of your son; and, in common with those of other members of the Australian Imperial Force who fell in France and have no known graves, his name has now been included for commemoration on the National Memorial to the Missing to be erected at Villers-Bretonneux." The records also show that his father on 18 May 1917 requested his sons effects and the letter forwarding these effects includes the diary.]
Pte. R.I. Morris
69 Harris St.
Robert Irvine Morris
8th 18th Batt.
Egypt & France.
Left Sydney 5 p.m. oclock 20th Dec. 1915 S.S. Aeneas. Sea very smooth. Sighted land at Melbourne again at Albury [Albany?] no stops about 2000 men aboard. Concert on Christmas Eve. Very Dry one and a poor feed at that. Buried a man at sea about 2 days sail from Australia on 29th Dec. 1915, 4 oclock. Parade for 2 hours a day. Plenty of fun a board.
31st Dec. Grand concert.
1916 Sporting programme.
1st January 1916
Pillow Fight Cock fight Mop Competition Bun Eating Comp. Tugo-war.
Morris 2nd prize Bun Eating, 10/-.
Very warm for the New Year.
Boxing Tournament 5th Jan.
January 6th Passed the line. Rained very heavy at night.
Boxing Saturday 7th
Church Parade Sunday 8th.
Monday sighted land and many ships Cape Gardarfui. Persia sunk 1st Jan. 1915.
Passed Aden 13th Jan. early morning 12 apostles. Passed several vessels.
Arrived at Suez Saturday night 8.00 Sydney time, 4 oclock Sunday morning. Arrived at Cairo on Tuesday morn 4 a.m. 9 hours on train 80 miles. Camped Heliopolis Aerodrome 2½ miles outside Cairo Aeroplanes noticeable alday. Landed on 19th and arrived on 17th. 26 letters posted up to date.
30th January. Visited Pyramids.
30th Jan. Alarm in camp all Regiments called out. Camel corp passed Camp.
On 4th Feb. scalded both feet went to Luna Park. Treated very kindly. Got about on Crutches until 23 Feb. and from then on - on a stick. Went for a walk to Aerodrome Camp on 24th Feb. first for three weeks. Got many gifts in hospital from Red Cross. Wrote to several of + the workers in Sydney.
25th Given a box of choc. from Cadburys.
26 Went to Virgin Well
29th Got Paid at Aerodrome.
Visited Egyptian Musuem 1st March & Bazaar.
3rd March Discharged from Luna Park Went to Montazah about 120 miles from Cairo 8 miles from Alexandria 3½ hours journey on the Coast.
4th March Wrote letters. Examined by Doctor full Diet.
March 5 Went for a stroll around the grounds, seen a very ancient cave got a bit of Coral and a few shells.
6th Went for a walk to beach.
9th Seen Dentist having teeth attended to.
had a swim in the Mediterraen.
8th A splendid Concert Row in Boat.
10th Finished Dental treatment one tooth out another
11, 12 & 13 Wandering about.
13 - Put in for 14/-. R. Ackett Discharged .
14 - Received pay discharge B Duties.
On 16th arrived at Cairo 4 oclock. Taken to Overseas Base Ghezia. Went to Aerodrome Camp to see about mail.
17th Got up 6-30 fell in names taken had breakfast, fell in names taken about twenty different times then dismissed. Marched to A details camp.
18th Taken to Aerodrome Camp back with same reinforcements met Alick & Murphy.
19th Rained all night wet to skin.
20th Paid 10/3. Sent home silks. Given Sergents Orderly Job, had Photo taken with Alick & Murphy 25 piasters. Wrote Dolly Ralton.
23rd Very warm.
25th Native funeral Washing day. Rumors we are going to be transported on Monday morning. Experience in Cairo.
Monday 27th Revale 2-30 left Heliopolis 5-00 entrained at Zee Toun 700. Arrived at Alexandria 2-00, marched aboard Saxonia 3500 troops on anchored in harbour all night.
28th Sailed from Alexandria 8-00 oclock morning steering zig zag course, alarms for submarines very often Going about with Life belts on.
29th Sergents mess a submarine alarm 9-30 p.m.
30th, Escorted by a destroyer.
31st, Steamed very close to Malta at six oclock morning.
1st April, sea with a swell on.
2nd, Sailed into Marsailles 10 a.m. very beautiful scenery Disembarked 6-00. Camped at Marsailles for the night.
3rd Revalle 5-30 moved off 7-00 entrained at Marsaille nine oclock dinner at Orange 1-00 beef & Biscuits & cigarettes again at 1 oclock in morning beautiful scenery all the way.
4th Women street cleaners great reception all along met Frank Anderson 4618 on same train Rations 5-00 very cool. Arrived at Aemien 6-45 a.m. on 5th disentrained at Etaples 11 a.m., marched to camp issued with rifle & Banonet parade in afternoon issued with an extra blanket very cool.
6th Revalie 6-00 Breakfast 7-45 Beef & Jam Sergents mess Rained all night.
8th Cigarette issue.
9th, Airships going East.
10th, Parade 8-00 musketry Parade 2-30, Rifle exercise.
11th, Raining all day vapor Bath went for a walk to village N.E. Etaples.
12th, Still raining & cold bacon & jam breakfast Route March to Paris Plage very cold.
13th Mess orderly Fell in 7-30 went to Bool Ring Bayonet Charge Company drill.
14th, Went to Bull Ring Bayonet drill Trench Warfare inspected by Lady Dudley
& French officers cold & windy.
15th, Tobacco issue Snow Paid 30 francs Visited Etaples Cemetry 16th Church parade Let down tents.
17th, Bulring Bomb Throwing - Lecture.
18th, Breakfast Round Bread & Jam Route March Issued with 1 Pair sock, 1 Underpants 1 Shirt.
19th, Bulring Gas lecture Baynot fighting Sand bagging Shift Tents Raining & windy.
20th, Hail Storm Parade 8-30 dismissed 9-15 fell in 2-00 Rifle exercise Tea & Rice.
21st Good Friday Parade 7-30, Bulring Baynot Charge Company drill Fine day Raining all night & next day.
No Parade 22nd
23rd, Church parade fine day Vapor Bath, let down Tents.
24th Received three letters from home Picket in Etaples 5 oclock till 930.
25th Anzac day. Church parade March past sporting programme.
Zeppelin Raid dropped 5 Bombs 12-15 at night no damage.
26th Parade 7-30. Boolring Bayonet charge company drill Rapid loading Fine weather warm no afternoon parade Aeroplanes about all night.
27th Route March morning. Received 2 letters from C.F.G. & one from Bob. Route march afternoon very warm all lights out no smoking at all.
28th Parade 7-30 Bulring Rapid Loading Company drill Bayonet charge one Letter from home Tents down & disinfected afternoon wrote to Frank.
29th Paid 20 Francs issued 3 Cigarettes Windy Fatigue party to Etaples.
30th Revalie 5-30, Parade 6-00 Church parade dropped tents 20th Battn. man 12 mts. hard labor insolence.
May 1st parade 7-30 Bulring Jam tin bombs Company drill Lecture on Bombs & Route march Rain Lights still out Revalie 530.
May 2nd Orders read 6-00 Parade 7-30 Bulring. Open order drill Bayonet drill Trench warfare Storm no parade afternoon.
May 3rd Duty Battalion on Boundry picket three oclock till
May 4th Revalie 5-30 Parade 10-00 Fall in 9-00 Route march Fall in 1-45 Lecture on Stokes gun rifle inspection inspected by Major Gener. Brothers.
5th 7-30 Bulring Company drill Lecture Care of arms Rapid Loading Bayonet drill.
Saturday 6th, Route March Cigarette issue.
Sunday 7th Church parade Raining Parade afternoon Gas helmet issued.
8th Bulring Gas lecture sandbabbing [sandbagging?] Disciplin march Bomb Lecture Bayonet fighting issued with chocolate on Bridge picket 4 till 10 p.m.
9th Raining parade 9-00. Parade 1-45. Rained alday.
10th Bulring 7-30. Dismissed from there 11-00 Tents down Received letter C.F.G. Fell in 6-00 a.m. Bulring night attack.
11th Parade 9-00. Route March about 12 miles. Parade 1-45 Route march Tents down.
12th Mess orderly Parade 7-30 Bulring Gas Lecture Obstacle race Sand bagging Bayonet charge. 25 men went up the line.
13th Paid 20 francs cigarettes issued.
14th On Guard in Camp 24 hrs. sent home card.
15th issued with necessaries for firing line.
16th left Etaples 4-00 and disentrained at Steenwerck march 8 miles to Billet Stayed in horse Box for the night.
17th Drafted in A Company 18 Battn. resting. Gas alarm.
18th Went to support Trenches at 4-00 A.M. building dug outs.
19th Fatigue to Front line.
20th Fatigue to Front line.
21st innocculated no duties. Bombardment of Equingham 200 shells. Cigarette issue.
22nd Quarter Guard 24 hours.
23rd Went to Equingham for bath paid 20 francs Fatigue all night building parapets.
24th Rest all day Mess orderly.
25th Fatigue 4 till 1 oclock Dug outs Moved to Supports 2 oclock Fatigue building parapets 8 oclock till 2 oclock.
26th Sleep till 12 oclock, making ready for firing line Relieved 20th Batt. 9 oclock Stand too 2 till 4.
Breakfast 4-30 Sniping post 7-30 till 11-30 Dinner 12 oclock sniping 4 till 8 Ration Fatigue Water Fatigue.
28th On Sentry 12-30 till 2-30 Stand to Very cold Fatigue Building Dugouts till 5 p.m. Tea rest till - Stand to - Exciting aerial Bombardment on post 8-00 till 10-30.
29th May on Post 2-30 till 4-00 Breakfast 4-30. Turned in till 12-00 Dinner 1-00. Fatigue till 5 oclock Tea 5-00. Stand to 8-00 till 9-00. Quiet on all fronts Stand to 8 till 9-30. On Listening Post 9-30 till 2-00.
30th May Stand to 2-00 till 4-00. Breakfast Turned in till 12-00. Dinner Turned in till tea 5-00 Quiet on our front Stand to till 9-30 on Post 10-30 12-30.
31st May Artillery active on our right Stand to till 2 till 4. Breakfast 430 A few shells for fritz received 10 letters turned in till 11-30 Dinner Fatigue till 5-00. Stand to 8 till 9-00 On Post 10-30 12-30.
June 1st Sniping post 3-30 till 7-30. Turned in till 11-00 on again 1130 till 4-00 Received 2 letters The Germans Brought down one of our planes over their own lines Our observation Baloon got loose On Bomb Post 8 till 2-30.
June 2nd Stand to 2-30 till 4-00 Breakfast Turned in till 12 Dinner Fatigue till 5-00 Tea Stand to 8-00 Stand down 9-00 Fatigue till 2-30.
On June 3rd Post till stand down Breakfast. Turned in till 12-00 Fatigue from 4 till 5-30 Tea Fatigue till stand to Germans shell their own Trenches On Bombing Post from 8-00 till 2-30.
June 4th Breakfast Turned in till dinner time Fatigue till 5-00. Plenty of shrapnel about stand to for half hour Stand to till 9-00 On Fatigue till 12-00 heavy bombardment on our right Stand to in case of attack.
June 5th On Fatigue till stand to Breakfast. Turned in till dinner More Bombs on us no casualties On Bombing post till 3-00.
June 6th - Sniping 5-30 till 7-30 more letters.
11-30 till 4 P.M. Bombardment from 11-00 till 12-30 about a dozen Casualties advance on the left 7th Brigade.
June 7th Standing to all night Turned in 5-30 till 12-00 dinner On Fatigue at 2 oclock till 4-30 Tea 5-00 Packed up after doing 12 days in the trenches On fatigue from 8-30 till 12-00 Marched to Billets Just ½ mile from firing line in Support Trenches.
June 8th Slept till 10-00 breakfast Rest all day Went for stroll to Th-- [Thiepval?] Turned in 10-00.
June 9th on Fatigue 5-30 till 12-00 on Fire trench Aerial activity around Bois Grenier Paid 20 Francs.
June 10th Breakfast 9-00 Went for walk to Chappel Darmentiers lost the road Came out at N.Z. Firing line then came to Armentiers and met with terrible wreckage churches etc. On Fatigue 8-30 till 2 oclock raining.
June 11th Turned in 9-00 On fatigue 8-30 till 2-00.
June 12th innoculated cold & raining no duties 24 hrs Bombardment Ypres & Bois Grenier
June 13 Bombardment @ Ypres eased off Raining Packed up ready to move off to 1st line of reserves On Guard 12 hrs.
June 14th Raining Went to Erquinghem for Bath & change of clothes On fatigue for 1½ hrs. Turned in.
June 15th Fatigue 8-30 till 12-00 again 2 till 5 Turned in.
June 16 Fatigue 8-30 till 1-00 On Guard 9-00 till 5 oclock.
June 17th Gas alarm on our left. Bombardment Fatigue 1-00 till 5-00 - aerial activity two German planes brought down.
June 18th on Fatigue 6-30 9.30 Fatigue 1 till 4 Bombardment of Ypres, bois Grenier Stand to from 11-30 till 12-30.
June 19 On Guard 12 hrs 8-30 till 8-30.
June 20 on Fatigue. Shelled our Supports Very close shave.
June 21st, on Guard 8-00 a.m. till 8-00 p.m. Relieved the 20th Battn. 11-00 On Post 12-2.
June 22nd On Sniping 8 till 12-00 & 5½ till 10 Gas alert Straff on.
June 23 Turned in 5-00 till 12-00 on Fatigue 5-00.
June 24th On Fatigue.
Artillery active - June 25th 12 oclock.
Artillery activity all afternoon On Fatigue Brought down German Observation Baloons Arieal activity. Raid on German Trenches Artillery opens fire 11-30 till 1-00 In supports Just like hell Very narrow escapes Captured 4 Prisoners &ct.
June 26th Artillery active all day Raided the German Trenches at midnight under heavy artillery fire for two hours Inflicted loss & Prisoners brought back German Baloons destroyered on our right Raining Very few casualties.
June 27th Turned in 7-000 Relieved by 13th Battn. 12-00.
June 28th Billet near Erquingham resting.
June 29th On Guard at Billet 24 hrs.
June 30th Artillery active on Fatigue for 6th Brigade 7-30 till 12-00.
July 1st Foot inspection On Fatigue 7-30 till 4-30.
July 2nd Inspected by Lieut Colonel Wisdom Ready to move off inspected again by Major Goodsell.
July 3rd Squad Drill & inspection by Goodsell.
July 4th More exercises Raining.
July 5th Bayonet drill Gas alarm.
July 6th Bath Parade afternoon Gas attack.
July 7th On Picket in Erquinghem Paid 20 Francs.
July 8th Parade 7-00 Full pack 1-30.
July 9th Left Erquinghem 9-30 arrived at Strazeele 5-15 14 miles. Foot sore and weary Passed through several villages very warm billetted in a barn just outside Strazeele Moved off at 9-30
July 10th - Marched 11 miles dinner outside Hazelbrook. On Quarter Guard - 40 hrs.
July 11th moved off 12-30 marched about 7 miles. Entrained at Arques 5-13.
July 12th - to Ameains 3-00. Moved Through the town had breakfast on outskirts Beef & Biscuits. Billeted in very small village Dinner Beef & Biscuits 8 mile march.
July 13th Rifle exercises.
July 14th Feet inspection. Route March.
July 15th Foot inspection Rifle exercises Route March.
July 16th Received Letters Ready to March off Left Argouves 12-15 had dinner Ύ hrs. march Arrived at Cardonetes 8 miles at 4-00 had tea only.
17th July working on Pump.
18th July Mess orderly
ready to leave Cardonettes 1-30. People of this village act like dogs Marched 5 miles to Rubempre arriving about 4-30 P.M.
19th July Paid 20 Frances, Sir Douglas Haig &ct. Passed through village.
20th July Ready to move off 9-45 marched about 6 miles to Warloy-Baillon Billetted hear orders to remain hear & await other orders ready for action Pack to be left behind necessaries carried in Haversack.
21st Short Route March morning Fell in Full marching order at 2-45 told we were going to another billetted 3 miles closer to the firing line but went about 10 mile for a route march coming back about 6-30 On Billet Guard from 12 till 3.
July 22nd Heavy bombardment all night wounded arriving every few minutes from Albert front. 1½ loves of bread for 10 men first issue for three days Foot inspection left Warloy about 6-00 oclock. Proceeded on to outskirts of Albert where we bivouac for
the night very cold Heavy Bombardment all night Australians attacked Pozieres village. Bombardment continues on [indecipherable].
July 23rd - Captured same on Bibe Wire lesson.
July 24th Open order drill with full equipment Moved off from Albert about 9-00 oclock. Church completely ruined bronze statue hanging from Steeple Slept in. Captured German trenches arriving hear about 12-00 Artillery very active all the time - These trenches are nothing but a mass of ruin. Dugouts 30 feet deep dead all over the place some only covered over with a bit of dirt.
July 25th Artillery still giving it to them Went up and relieved 1st Division who captured Pozieres artillery active on both sides.
On August 4th at 9-15 p.m. we charged the Germans capturing two lines of trenches and about 800 Prisoners. We held the trenches for 24 hrs. which were shelled very heavy and was relieved on August 5th after doing 12 days in by 4th Divis.
We marched to Warloy where we had a good sleep We lost fairly heavy stayed hear for one day & left following day Camped about 10 miles away left hear on Aug. 9th marched about 8 miles to Halloy Pernois where we are now billeted.
August 10th issued with clean shirt & socks .
11th Paid 20 Francs.
12th Bayonet Drill open order work.
13th Church Parade.
Left Halloy Pernois on 16th August bivouaced in orchard for the night concert .
17th marched on to Vadencourt billetted in a wood about a 12 miles march this day.
18th Bayonet drill.
19th Transferred to Brigade Machine Gunners at Harponcourt.
20th Leaving hear about 1-00 oclock arrived at Brickfield Hill near Albert about 5-30 Stayed hear for the night.
Left hear on 21st marched to Sausage Gully The Gunners went and relieved 2nd Brigade Gunners On Guard over water cart 3rd Brigade captured 3 lines of trenches August 22nd.
Private R.I. Morris
Sailed 20th December 1915
November 20th 1915
Private R.I. Morris
100 25 - 25
100 20 25
200 16 20
200 17 -20
200 13 20
112 300 12 20
16/128 300 9 20
400 16 20
500 13 20
500 14 20
600 14 20
170 - 230
(33 Collingwood St.
12 Rein. 2 Batt.
Sail 28th Dec. 1915
Bert Neasby 13-3
Doug Bercham 13-3
[See images for Egyptian numbers under each number]
Wahed Etnein Talatah Arba-ah
1 2 3 4
Kamsah Settah Sab-ah Tamanyeh
5 6 7 8
Please forward on to
Mrs. R. Morris
69 Harris St.
[See images for possible Egyptian writing]
[See images for possible Egyptian writing]
13 Point St.
"Say Aue-re-voir but not good-bye".
"Toucher" No. 1
112 Miller St.
Gone but not forgotten
Toucher No. 4
Sapper R. Kelly
3rd Rein. 7th Field Coy Engineers.
76 Harris St.
Mrs. A. Morris
69 Harris St.
Mrs. C. Gronham
72 Pyrmont St.
Miss A. Larkin
50 Gipps St.
151 Ernest St.
Mrs. H. Wilson
33 Collingwood St.
Miss Eliza Wilkes
Victor Motor Co.
Maillard & Co.
158 Phillip St.
Private R.I. Morris
8th Rein. 18 Batt.
Robert Irvine Morris
69 Harris St.
Sailed 20th Dec. 1915
169 Harris St
40 Dixons St
Pte. W. Mackrill
7th Rein. 24th Battn.
44 Longmore St
R. No. 3602
Pte. J. Salt
Stoke on Trent
Arnold (Squib) Curtain
P.O. 13 batt.
11 reinf. 13 Batt.
1 Bgde. Pioneers
12 Reinf. 1 Batt.
Rein. to 18 Batt.
March 4th 1916
Mr. Wilson 111
A. Larkins 111
Miss Wilkes 111
Mrs. Gillespie 111
Bob Gullickson 1111111
Mr. Cosgrove 111
Mrs. St. Clair 14111111
Mrs. Gray 1
Bob Wilson 11
Bill Wilson 1
C. McCannes 1
Dick Press 1
Jim Robson 111
Tom Scowcroft 1
Sam Galbraith 1
Alick Kermode 1
Emily Hutchinson 1111
Steve Stack 111
H. Broe 111
D. Halton 11
New Address for France
Pte. R.I. Morris
C/o P.O. S17
Atwell Margaret Coxon
Pas de Calais
Letters Received April 25th
Amiens sometimes misspelt Aemien or Ameains
Argouves possible Argouges
Armentieres misspelt as Armentiers
Bool Ring, Bulring possibly Bull Ring British army training establishment such as those base camps at Rouen, Harfleur, Havre and Etaples
Cape Guardafui misspelt as Cape Gardarfui
Cardonnette misspelt as Cardonettes or Cardonetes
Chappel Darmentiers possibly La Chapelle dArmentieres
Erquinghem sometimes misspelt as Equingham
Ghezia possibly Gaza
Harponcourt possibly Henencourt
Hazelbrook possibly Hazebrouck
Marseilles sometimes spelt as Marsailles
Mediterranean sometimes misspelt as Mediterraen
Zeitoun misspelt as Zee Toun or Zei Toun]
[Transcribed by Judy Gimbert for the State Library of New South Wales]