History Matters || Report from the trenches of WWII

On the frontline: Colonel Percy Phipps Abbott's diary entries provide a first-hand account of the conditions of trench warfare in World War II.
On the frontline: Colonel Percy Phipps Abbott's diary entries provide a first-hand account of the conditions of trench warfare in World War II.

Solicitor, soldier and later politician, Colonel Percy Phipps Abbott was Commander of the 12th Light Horse Regiment in World War I.

His horse had been a gift from the Colin Campbells of Rangers Valley.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography notes: "he joined the 4th Infantry Regiment in 1898 as a second lieutenant; he transferred to the 5th Australian Light Horse in 1903 and in 1905 to the 6th.

He was promoted to captain in 1908 and major the next year; from 1913 he commanded the fifth Light Horse.

Appointed lieutenant-colonel in the Australian Imperial Force in March 1915, he sailed for Egypt in June in command of the 12th Light Horse.

He was awarded the CMG in 1917 and in 1919 the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration."

His diary entry 14/10/1915 read: "shrapnel for breakfast - a glancing bullet struck Major Scott in the back and glanced off leaving big bruises.

"This happened at my dugout entrance.

"In the trenches last night the lice were very troublesome, intend using plenty of insecticide, luckily I bought a tin.

"Big bombardment by the Turks on Walkers a mile away.

"The enemy's artillery is splendid, they pick up the range so accurately and we only have a general idea where the guns that shell us are placed.

"Our artillery is unable to locate them.

"Our padre (Captain Makeham) who is in Egypt, sent us some comforts, sardines, cocoa etc., very acceptable. Big home mail tonight.

6/10/1915: "We are excavating terraces on the side of the hill with sandbags. Walls for the men as sleeping places and protection against shrapnel, it is very unnerving stuff and we get it so frequently.

"One of my men hit today in two places - luckily he had his web equipment on and the bullet struck it where there were three folds, bruised him badly but he had a lucky escape.

"General Chauvel inspected my trenches today.

"Plenty of frozen beef the last two days, also bread which is very acceptable.

"We sent two men to Imros 15 miles away and they have returned with a lot of salmon, sardines and coffee essence etc".