The John Oxley Library recently received a wonderful collection of material relating to a young World War I soldier from Queensland. The Victor Owen Williams collection includes two diaries. The first covers the period 31 July 1917 to 14 January 1918 and was written during his voyage to England and while training at Codford Camp in Salisbury. The second diary (20 August 1919 to 9 October 1919) describes his voyage home from England to Sydney. The collection also contains photographs, postcards and negatives, as well as wartime ephemera including a rare program for the 4th Divisional Race Meeting held near Allonville, France, on July 22, 1918.
Victor Owen Williams was from a farming family from the Plainby area of the Darling Downs. Like many young men he was eager to enlist in the great adventure of World War I but had to wait until he turned eighteen, joining up in April 1917.
He was assigned to the 10th Reinforcements, 47th Battalion and left Australia on the troopship ‘Mitiades’ on the 3rd August, travelling to England through the Panama Canal which had opened in 1914. Victor was very impressed with the canal and provides a detailed account of its workings in his first diary. After training in Codford Camp in Salisbury, England, Victor arrived in France in January 1918. During the second battle of Dernancourt (5 April 1918) he suffered gunshot wounds to both hands and while convalescing was struck down with influenza. After recovering he joined a new battalion, the 45th, as the 47th battalion had been disbanded. A month after this he had a severe case of dysentry and did not rejoin his battalion until after the Armistice of 11 November 1918. Victor spent about four months on the front line. These injuries and illnesses may have saved his life by keeping him away from further conflict.
After the end of the war, Victor like many young Australians, spent eight months travelling and studying in Europe and England. As part of Australia’s demobilisation effort training was provided to soldiers and Victor studied wool classing in France and later at Sutton Veny in England at the Agricultural Training Depot. He had his own camera during this time and took many photographs to record his experiences. Victor’s photographs include shots of the Triumphal March of the Dominion Troops through London on 3rd May 1919.
The collection also contains many postcards which Victor acquired during his travels.
Some items from the collection, including several photographs and the racing programme have been digitized and will appear shortly on our catalogue. In the meantime the collection may be viewed at the John Oxley Library, Accession no: 28939, Boxes 17448 and 17486 O/S.
Lynn Meyers – Original Content Librarian, State Library of Queensland