This image shows a World War 1 recruiting march at Bonville Bridge.
This image shows a World War 1 recruiting march at Bonville Bridge.

Rare State Library WW1 artefacts coming to Coffs

EXTRAORDINARY World War 1 artefacts drawn from the State Library of NSW's renowned collections are heading to Coffs Harbour for a special curator talk and preservation workshop.

"This will be the first time these remarkable and historically significant items, which are held in the Library's rich collections, will be shown in Coffs Harbour as part of our World War One Touring Program," NSW State Librarian and Chief Executive Alex Byrne said.

"For almost 100 years the State Library has been collecting the personal stories of soldiers - their diaries, letters, photographs and drawings - and we're thrilled to be sharing their moving first-hand accounts with the communities in which they resided."

The Harry Bailey Memorial Library will host a free public talk with the State Library's WW1 curator Elise Edmonds who will talk about the material and share the fascinating story of how the Library acquired its first collection of soldiers' diaries - a collection that was recently inscribed in the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.

At the end of the war in 1918, the State Library embarked on an extraordinary collecting drive for soldiers' diaries, spearheaded by the forward-thinking principal librarian William Ifould, who recognised their historic value.

The State Library has been adding to this collection ever since with diaries, letters, maps, photographs, artworks, posters, books and other objects.

The State Library has also just completed the digitisation of its collection of some 1,200 WW1 diaries, thanks to the support of the NSW Government, and recently released over 50,000 digitised pages for the public to help transcribe using the Library's purpose-built transcription tool.

"Visitors to the Harry Bailey Memorial Library can read some of the powerful excerpts from John MacNamara's diaries," Ms Edmonds said.

The curator will present her talk at Coffs Harbour's Harry Bailey Memorial Library on Tuesday July 21, at 10.30am and a Conservation Care Officer will present the Preservation Workshop at 2pm.

Entry is FREE, but people can secure a place by visiting the Library website or by calling 6648 4900.


John Patrick MacNamara was an agricultural student of Coffs Harbour when he enlisted at Casula aged 19, on February 2 1916.

He embarked from Sydney on board RMS Mooltan on August 19 1916 and served in the 1st Light Horse Brigade, and later as a wireless operator with the first squadron, Australian Flying Corps.

He was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in action before returning to Australia and being discharged in 1919.

His diary is filled with details about the destruction and terror caused by the new technologies of war.

MacNamara describes bombs as the most "demoralising" weapons, "as apart from the damage they do they play up with one's nerves so you see a plane above you and when he drops a bomb you hear it whistling…and are sure that it is going to fall on your own head."

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