In June 2015, State Library staff travelled north to Cairns to conduct a conservation workshop, and to talk with residents and members of the local heritage community about sharing their First World War materials online. Attending the workshop was Donald Lawie, son of #153 Private Charles Lawie, who served as part of No.2 Platoon, A Company, 25th Battalion. Donald brought along his father’s paybook and diaries from his time in the AIF, and staff discussed their conservation and possible digitisation.
Born near Aberdeen, Scotland, Charles Lawie moved to Australia aged 18 in 1913, and enlisted in the AIF on 1 March 1915. He trained at the Army Training Camp, Enoggera, Brisbane, then embarked from Pinkenba Wharf on board HMAT Aeneas A60 on 29 June 1915.
With 25th Battalion he fought at Gallipoli, then proceeded to the Western Front and fought in France and Belgium. In May 1916 he was admitted to hospital suffering from bronchitis, then on 5 August 1916 at Pozieres Heights he received a bayonet wound in the abdomen, and recuperated in a hospital in France before returning to his unit.
On 6 February 1917 Lawie was wounded again during a front line relief just north of the village of Le Sars, near the Butte de Warlancourt. He suffered gunshot wounds in the leg and back. These injuries were much more serious, and he was transported to England. From the 2nd Birmingham War Hospital he was transferred to the 1st Auxiliary Hospital in Harefield to recover. There Lawie was declared medically unfit to continue in the trenches and was placed on the non-effective list on 10 September 1917. After a long seven-month convalescence in England he returned to Australia on the HMAT Ulysses A38 on 13 November 1917. His service record indicates that he briefly returned to duty on 31 January 1918, and was discharged in Sydney on 2 March 1918.
After the war, Lawie lived and worked as a farmer in northern New South Wales, and married Mona Annie Ward in Murwillumbah in 1936. By 1949 he and Mona had moved north to a farm at Deeral near Babinda in Far North Queensland, and by the mid 1960s were living in Atherton.
The 29922 Charles Lawie Diaries 1915-1917 comprise five diaries, a soldier’s pay book and a family narrative detailing his active service in the First World War. The diaries cover Private Lawie’s embarkation with 25th Battalion, his voyage to and arrival in Egypt, his service at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, and his return to Australia in November 1917.
While the digital copies of these items are now available via State Library’s One Search catalogue, the original copies have undergone some conservation treatment and have been safely returned to the family. Many thanks to the Lawie family for sharing their treasures so we can make them accessible to everyone.
Robyn Hamilton – QANZAC100 Content Curator, State Library of Queensland