First Pages: The Diary of Patrick Andreas Ohlstrom, 1915-1916
Patrick Andreas Ohlstrom enlisted in July 1915 and served with the 32nd Australian Infantry Battalion until the end of the war. Read more about his story, or view the original diary pages. We would like to acknowledge the Robertstown RSL sub-branch for generously allowing us to digitise and share the manuscript of Lieutenant Ohlstrom's diary.
Diary by Cpl. P. A Ohlstrom from day of Embarkation to be returned if possible to Mrs M A Ohlstrom
Transport A2 Geelong
Sailed at 11.15am magnificent send-off. 4.0pm. Steaming down gulf everyone happy.
Heavy swell on. Majority boys sick, rest doing well.
Weather continues fine. Sea legs making themselves prominent. Mail steamer over-hauling us fast. Some excitement caused by an albatross falling on board ship, he was eventually thrown overboard again. R M T Mongolia passing on our starboard side.
Sunday, Weather still very fine although there is a roll on the ship, which to some is very uncomfortable. Otherwise first Christian Service this morning on board ship which was very interesting.
Passing coast of W. A. Weather still fine. Disappointment on board because not stopping at Albany or Fremantle but it is better that we go straight on. Several whales have been seen round the ship.
Nothing of interest to narrate except that we have seen the last of Australian shores. We are now settling down to work.
Our 6th day out weather breezy wind recurring with no . (stop)
An amusing incident happened this morning when one of the orderlies on coming down the stairs with a large dish of stew had the bad luck to fall stew and all. Of course he looked silly.
I got my first ducking today by getting in the road of a wave that came on board. No damage done however.
Not much to write. Whales seen last evening. We have
not sighted a boat of any kind since leaving W.A. shores.
We are still rolling along same old sometime every day
Have been allotted to command of No. 3 Section of No. 5 Platoon. Weather still beautifully fine but getting warmer each day now. Some of the boys thought a Tin Fish was close handy this evening as a strange lightning seen astern, but it was nothing more dangerous than a Phosphorescent light off a life Buoy which was dropped overboard.
Nothing unusual happened this day.
Church Service very instructive this morning. Weather continues fine but hot nearing Equator.
Practiced today repelling a submarine attack which was very interesting, the crack of rifles and machine guns creating a great din.
Boxing bouts are now the after tea attraction and are very willing.
Nothing to enter.
Sea still like a Mill Pond. Weather awfully hot and
getting worse daily. At 10pm we sighted our first ship since losing sight of Australia on 22.11.15 and then we could only see the lights on board: but this morning early we saw a steamer in reality.
The majority of boys sleep on deck these nights and at 3 a.m. this morning we were rudely awakened by heavy rain. By the time we collected our senses, blankets &c we were all more or less wet through.
Some excitement on board today owing to presence of large steamer a few miles from us, which turned out to be the Transport “Wiltshire” with our Artillery on board. She was still to be seen the next morning.
Boat lost us in a few hours. Sea still calm with a cool breeze blowing.
Passed large “River” sailing towards Australia. All thoughts were sent home with her. We passed the “River” about midnight nothing happened to mark the event.
Still going strong in fine weather we expect to arrive in sight of land (Africa) about Tuesday next.
Weather funny this morning, raining and sunshining at intervals, wind coming from all directions. Boxing competitions commence tonight.
7.12.15 (9 a.m.)
We have a sad ceremony to morning to perform. One of the boys from W. Aus named “Bridges” having succumbed this morning after boxing last night. It is believed he broke a blood vessel. Everything is glum on board.
11 a.m. Burial service over. It was very sad and we do not want another.
“Land at last” at day light. This morning all on board were up gazing intently at the mountainous cliffs rising sheer out of the sea of North East Africa. It is a most desolate looking country. We were welcomed by showers of rain which were quite refreshing. We passed a steamer in the straits this afternoon & of course we were inquisitive as to what she was. Anyhow she was not a German Gunboat so we were contented.
Passed Aden about noon. It is a queer looking place, what could be seen of it.
We did not call in. There are some remarkable rugged islands in the Red Sea, such as I have never before seen. A Russian Warship picked us up late in the night. And we passed a ship from which loud ‘coo-ees’ came; there were Australians on board her sure enough.
Everyone up early to see the ships passing us. Our escort is still on our port bow, about 2 miles off. The English mail boat also passed. The islands still continue in their weird formations with a lighthouse on the very top point. Weather fine but hot.
Everything bustle on board in consequence of arriving at Suez on Monday evening next. But we do not disembark until Tuesday morning. We will not be sorry as things are monotonous on board now.
Sunday everything quite on board. Still passing queer looking islands & plenty of steamers. Had a windy night last night. Church service to-day, very good as usual. Had an excellent concert last evening in which all concerned appeared to advantage.
To-day will be our last day on board. Everything bustle in
consequence. Those historical jagged peaks continue on both sides of us, as we are now in the Gulf of Suez steaming at reduced speed. A feature to be noticed in this country is the splendour of the sunsets. They are simply glorious, and the one tonight was the most beautiful of all. It requires a more vivid pen than mine to do it justice in description.
Our last concert on board was held tonight which was the 4th since leaving. The night is beautifully fine with a bright moon. Africa and Asia on either side of us. I wonder if we will gaze upon the scene again. “What is to be will be.”
9 a.m. Arrived Port Suez at daylight. Struck heavy fog just as we dropped anchor. Harbour full of transports and small boats.
Last night coldest on record. All sleeping on deck got a bad time including myself, just about frozen. 11 a.m. Fog has cleared; beautiful day. Reminds one of home. 2 warships can be seen in Canal. Hospital Ship “Madras” with wounded Indians on board has just gone past bound for India. Three hearty cheers given from each ship. We do not know if we disembark here or not.
Have to stay on board until 17th just when we take train for Ishmalia
a place on the Canal which is expected to be attacked in 2 months as some fighting will soon be ours. Natives here are funny and greate cadgers.
My birthday to-day. Am not having a party as there are not enough girls to go round. Weather here gloriously fine so far.
Everyone ready to disembark last moment order cancelled. Uproar followed as we all wanted to get busy. We expect to go straight into firing line.
Disembarked this morning travelling in Cattle Trucks, left at 8.0 a.m. First station Geneifa. Have arrived safely at Ishmali place alive with Troops, mostly Indians who are very fine chaps and sociable. We expect to go into trenches on Tuesday next 8 miles eastern side of Canal. Nothing but sand here as far as the eye can see.
Went down town this afternoon. First day out for a month. Native quarters filthy but the European part of town simply great. Everything up–to-date. Natives great cadgers and very cunning.
Working hard now. Sand something awful. Aeroplanes flying over our camp very interesting. Had a night on Picquet in Town did more sightseeing afterwards.
Had a service To-day in Canal. Very fine. Shifting camp for our trenches across canal. Everything in right bustle. Indian Transport mules with their drivers taking our baggage. Very interesting they are. Looks like rain today.
Shifted into trenches guarding eastern side Canal. Had a most trying climb up sandy banks of canal fully 100 ft high. One sinks in up to knees at every step & having to carry our packs weighing over 70lbs up this bank was hard work and made many of the boys knock up. Passed my first night on guard in trenches which was interesting. Had an alarm turn out for practice. Sand is the only nuisance here.
Had a long tramp today over desert. First shot fired tonight caused some excitement no damage done.
Xmas day in the trenches. Things going good. Had a swell dinner & tea. Most glorious day. Many thoughts for home.
First mail from Australia. Everyone eager to know the news. I was among the lucky ones. Had our first service Sunday in trenches.
More mail today. Received 6 letters & 1 parcel. Still leading quite life.
Commemoration Day at
home & here we are far from that best of all places. Preparing rifle ranges today also sports programme for New Years Day.
Very quite (sic) today nothing doing. I did my washing. Had enjoyable Sing Song in evening.
Practicing for Sports Meeting on New Years Day. Expect to have some Fun. Am writing this while on outpost duty in a “dugout” along canal. Expect to have another dreary cold night.
New Years Eve. Had an awfully cold night out last night, absolutely freezing, captured some hostile Arabs last night. My Section have put in curd, we are going to have some pig New Years Day Feast tomorrow. Our sports meeting eventuates tomorrow.
New Years Day. We had a few songs to sing the old year out, but on the whole everyone quiet & thinking of home, New Years Greetings plentiful. Sports postponed on account shooting going on. Hope to hold them tomorrow.
Sports a great success & awfully funny. Did not win any events but had some fun.
Had some shooting today and made good practice. We are being moved along to Headquarters tomorrow. We are all sorry as this place called “Ridge Post” has been very enjoyable.
Did not move yesterday as thought but do so today. Weather now turned
very cold. Our woollen goods are mow very much appreciated. Our food rations are not too plentiful, and are the cause of much grumbling amongst all.
Arrived at our new post. “El Ferdane” about 20 miles south of Port Said. Sand blowing something awful and is most trying on the eyes.
“Stand to Arms” now each morning at 4.30 which is not too nice the cold mornings. Great preparations going on here to repel any attack by the enemy & if they succeed in driving us out of this they will deserve their success. We had news today that our troopship the “Geelong” has been sunk through a collision. No troops were on board at time.
Am doing plenty of hard work here in fact it is nothing but work, which of course the lazy ones object to. We do not hear much war news here.
Am in front line of trenches on sentry lookout. It has been raining all night but is now fine & clear. Mail from home expected soon.
Weather much more decent which is appreciated. Endless stream of transports filled with soldiers of all kinds going down canal towards Suez.
Drill continues in all its monotony & we are all fed up with it but it must be done.
Am out on Precinct portal in desert & am going to have a rotten night as the nights are awfully cold here some of the fellows are down with pneumonia.
Nothing to report since last entry. Am expecting to shift to Ishmailia again in a day or two.
Since last entry only note of importance is that we have moved to Ishmailia and am now enjoying a comparatively easy time; our only work being drills of all kind. I visited Tel-El-Kebir on the 27th inst. The scene of the great battle in 1882 with plenty of my pals.
Since last entry have moved to Tel El Kebir & a very interesting place it is. We can see the old entrenchments of the ’82 battle where all the big men are buried. We dig up bones & c on the field & some gruesome sights are to be seen. We are having a good time here now. Plenty of good food & c. I am back at Hd Qrs office for a while which enables me to have a bit of a spell.
Have moved to Ferry Post back on Canal only for a few days when we go right out into first line of Defences. Have been to Cairo which is a wonderful place. Had a most enjoyable stay at Tel El Kebir. But all good things come to an end sooner or later. Have been promoted to full Sergeant.
30.3.16 Am now at a place called “Duntroon Plateau” it is named only for identification purposes being right out on port line of Defences.
It was awfully hot & hard work marching out with full kit on. Water being scarce on arrival the men were that thirsty, they were drinking any old water that happened there. One man drank the water that a dozen men had washed in, and said it was good.
Had a ride on a camel, it was very weird.
Dysentry & c has broken out in camp, every man is down with it, including myself.
Have been slogging along, plenty of hard work. Sandstorms have been plentiful the past two days. Last night, nearly all our tents were blown down, it was awfully funny but just as annoying. A lot of important papers in my tent blew away.
Back again at Ferry Post, but not on Canal banks. Work now harder than ever. We are up nearly every morning at 0230 (2.30 am) out on Divisional or Brigade stunts. Our Light had some fun at Jif Jaffa giving the Turks a huge surprise. I wish they would have a go at us.
Hard work continues. I get about 2 hours sleep in 24 hours but it must be done I guess. A lot of Russian troops have passed up Canal on their way to France. We hope to be with them shortly.
We leave here at 0230 tomorrow for Moascar Camp. We have finished our hard
training & our Brigade is now classed “fit for anything”. Well it is time, for we have done more work in Egypt and under more trying conditions than any troops from Australia, not even excepting the 1st contingents.
Have arrived but what a time we had. We marched 7 miles without a stop. The hard roads played up with our feet after so many months in the sand. The Colonel was good enough to carry my rifle the last few hundred yards. Awfully decent of him. We are right next door to the Aerodrome. Aeroplanes of all kinds are common to us now.
Hustle is now the order of the day, preparing for our early departure for France.
News to hand of a huge sea fight. Details very meagre. Actual results eagerly anticipated.
News of death of Lord Kitchener caused a big stir. At first it was not taken seriously, but on confirmation arriving, everyone laid his ears still further back and made vows to avenge his death at some future time.
Visited Port Said today and enjoyed it very much. It was quite strange to get a meal served up decently.
Are awaiting more orders for we are at last in our final
days in Egypt. We leave Moascar at 2045 tomorrow 16/6/16 & expect to arrive at Alexandria a 0445 following morning. Our Transport is H.M.T Transylvania, 27000 Tons. There will be just on 3000 men on board.
Entrained at B 10 last night. Arrived Alexandria at 3.45 this morning. Travelled in 1st class battle trucks. Am now on board “Transylvania”, a fine ship indeed. We expect to sail at 6.0 o’clock tomorrow morning. No one sorry to wash dust of Egypt off them.
Left Alexandria at 0810 today in beautiful weather. We have decent beds on board, but there is a great scramble at meal times.
Passing the islands of Crete, which has caused more wars in its time than Bill Kaiser could ever hope to. It is very much like Kangaroo Island but more rugged. A tricky little Torpedo boat picked us up this morning and it is amusing to see her porpoise like movements around us.
Everything as usual, weather still fine. Things on board going smoothly.
Passed Malta at daylight this morning. Hosts of mine sweepers all around us now
as the locality is rather dangerous. Wind freshening somewhat this afternoon.
Passed a French steamer this morning with her engines broken aboard. We “wirelessed” for assistance for her. Am now 240 miles from Marseilles (noon) so will arrive tomorrow.
Arrived Marseilles this morning. It is a very fine Port, teaming with shipping and quite different to Egypt. Saw our first glance at German prisoners working on wharves. They are fine big men but awfully sleepy looking. Left today at 2.0 pm for Hazebrouche 16 miles from Armentieres on the France-Belgian frontier. Marseilles is a decent spot and very similar to Wellington N. Z. France is a magnificent country. I have never in all my travels seen anything to approach it. All the boys are unanimous in their opinions of the country and its people. We receive a great reception all along the long.
Lyons at day break this morning. Tis a very large and beautiful city. Our admiration grows for everything we see.
Still travelling but no one tired. The excitement keeps us alive. Plenty of nice girls here to make a fuss of us. One cannot realise there is a war going on, but there is a look of sadness on the faces of the people in spite of their cheery attempts to look happy.
Arrived at our destination at 12’0 o’clock last night, dog tired but cheerful and move here to our camp. Was just 12 months yesterday since I passed medically fit for active service and here I am within sound of the guns in France. Awoke this morning to hear rain pattering down the first we have seen for months. Christening our arrival I guess. Went into Hazebrouche this afternoon. Very quaint place with magnificent Church. The children chase the Australians all along street and insist on hanging on to one & being carried. Got wet through coming back to camp.
Raining all day long. Not overworked here.
Still drizzling rain. Gen. Birdwood; the “Soul of Anzac” paid a surprise visit to camp today. He is a fine man and the boys think no end of him.
Witnessed our first aerial raid today, though the machines were a considerable distance away. It was very interesting one being brought down. We do not know whether they were enemy machines or ours but they were certainly stickers and game. Heavy bombardment tonight.
Have moved into Billets, which are much better than camp. We can cook all “extras” on our own account.
Practicing with gas helmets &c. Terrific bombardment all night air fights galore.
Have orders to hold ourselves in readiness to move up into firing line. Tomorrow not much work doing.
Still doing well sent letter off today.
Nothing much of importance happened. Only plenty of work. We move out nearer firing line at 0900 tomorrow. Had a late 2400 before we finished.
0830 About to march out. Drizzling rain falling.
1800. Have arrived at Esteires. A hard days march. Roads found feet of men soft after so long in sand. Large numbers falling, including ‘Yours truly’. Am told we move on again at daylight. There will not be many fit to go I am afraid.
Spent a decent night in billets with the best of good people. We move on again tomorrow to Erqwinham.
Have arrived at our Billets amongst big gun batteries, which kick up no end of a noise. Shells bursting in front of us searching for a Battery that has been causing trouble to the Germans.
Not much to report
Artillery duels all day long. Tons of work here to be done going overnight until 12’o’clock.
Germans trying their hardest to get our Batteries. They shifted them once, but the gunners went back in the evening and started talking again. Raining tonight. Tons of flares yet along front line tonight. Finished work at 1-30a.m. Tired as a dog.
Continued heavy shelling all day and night. We send over about 20 shells to the Bosches. Our trench repairing parties were heavily shelled tonight.
Moving 1 ½ miles south of our position tonight to Fleurbaix. Heavy German shelling along our route.
Arrived last night and had a stable dealt out to me to sleep in but thought I could sleep better in a room with a real bed in it. With a little manoeuvring I found both & slept the sleep of a tired soldier. Two shells landed near us tonight killing two of our chaps.
Into trenches tonight ready for big attack tomorrow afternoon. Our Battalion is allotted honors of going over the Top first. All cheerful.
Attack postposed for 48 hours owing to some minor details not being fixed.
Have been shelled continuously since our arrival in trenches. It is not too nice at all but I suppose we will get
used to it. We have had a few casualties but not serious so far. A bally Machine Gun and a sniper were giving us beans when we were coming into trenches.
We go into action tonight. The 61st Division on our right are attacking with us.
Have passed through a night of Hell on earth. It was awful the noise and the sights of dead & dying men. The boys took three lines of German trenches, easily but after hanging on all night were compelled to let go and fall back on our own line. Every devilish invention was used against us including liquid fire and gas. I never want to go through another dose of it. Our casualties were very heavy but no worse than theirs. Our Battalion mustered 152 men & 7 Officers.
Back in our Billets again. It is like heaven, but shells when they drop near, which they are still doing make us all jump out of our boots. We are a very sad few. All our best pals gone. It is damnable.
We go three miles further from firing line to Bac St. Maur tonight.
Quite a treat to be away from the shells. The Billet we left last night was blown up by a shell half an hour after we left. Talk about luck. It is marvellous.
Having a spell now, although I have to work early and late on casualties.
Moving back tomorrow nearer firing line. Batteries all around our Billet, which is not healthy for the Germans in trying to locate them with. Their guns lob very often too close to be comfortable to our billets.
Continued quite (sic) despite being sent into front line again. Our Adjutant was sniped on 1st just not serious. We received 147 Reinforcements yesterday. We need 800 altogether. Am expecting a strafe tomorrow from “Fritz” Anniversary of “Declaration of War”. Weather gloriously fine.
All quite (sic)
One of our Planes brought down last evening. It was with ‘8 others flying over the [country of Lible] about 10 miles over the enemy lines. It received a direct hit from a shell & had to descend but managed to land in our lines. It was simply marvellous the way the Pilot got through. Gameness is out of date with those fellows.
Have seen the M. O. tonight with an old complaint of mine. Have had enough suffering with it so am going to see if the hospital can cure me. I go down sick for the first time since enlistment.
Leave for Hosp in the morning.
Arrived down at 15th Field Amb.
Am being transferred to Divisional Rest Station
which is a useless place to send me for I am not in anyway in need of a rest. I am ill internally.
Have arrived at Rest Station at Doulieu where the Germans on the 14 October 1914 burned their dead and wounded by firing them with petrol and straw in the Church. The latter is now standing in a grim and awful relic of the barbarity of the Bosche.
Each day passes off alike. Have been having a nice holiday but am not any better.
Am returning to Battn today not one iota better in health than when I went to Rest Camp.
Am back at unit where long looked for letters awaited me. They were savagely devoured by me. Doctor is going to send me back to Hosp. tomorrow. He was terribly wild to know that I had been sent back for duty uncured.
At 15th F A again
At Casualty Clearing Station Estaires. Am going on to Boulogne tomorrow.
Am on board Amien Marys Hospital Train, which is a splendid thing for wounded and sick.
Arrived at Boulogne at 9.0 pm last night and within 5 minutes was on my way per Motor Charabanc to the 3rd Canadian General Hospital. It was the slickest thing I have seen, was the way they get rid of casualties.
This is a swell
Hospital. Everyone is kindness personified. It is a treat to once more be in clean sheets and on a soft bed.
It has rained heavily since I have been here and I pity my poor pals in the trenches.
Doctors giving me a good examination but appear to be a little uncertain as to my trouble. A lot of wounded from the Somme came in tonight.
Am being sent to “Blighty” tomorrow.
Am on board Hospital Ship “Newhaven” bound for Dover. It is terribly fast this boat & we will do the strip in 1 ½ hours. Very interesting leaving harbour. Two Seaplanes and an Airship flying overhead and two Submarines flitting around on the surface. The day is very smooth and everywhere one looks there is nothing but ships of all kinds, beautiful white Hospital ships going to England, other ships bringing back troops to take the place of the sick & c. Patrol boats, trawlers, transp, torpedo boats, cruisers & c. It is all very different to the trenches.
Arrived at Dover 3.30pm and was much impressed by the business like appearance of arrangements for catching the Fish & c. I have never seen such a large number of ships on the move at once. For coming down the channel was a seeming endless line of all kinds of boats and as we had to cross through the line it was rather exciting at times.
Of course what the eye took in first what the grandness and old time strength of ‘Dover Castle’ standing high on the hills overlooking the harbour. It is now a Barracks.
Did not keep us long before we were aboard the train for Northampton. Leaving Dover at 5.0 p.m. we were in bed at the War Hospital Husten, Northamptonshire by 11.0 pm. Had a fine trip up the country certainly very much surprised me for it is every wit as pretty as France. No wonder Shakespeare loved his Merrie England.
People were awfully good to all of us. England certainly looks after her wounded & sick.
“Zepps” were out last night and it was very funny to see how careful all were not to shew any lights in the Hospital. In fact all along the line is as dark as the grave. “No Man’s Land” very bright with lights in comparison.
This is a huge Hospital an Asylum it used to be. I am not in the Padded Cell yet.
Have had since, last entry, a very fine time here, making hosts of good friends who have done their best to make the time pleasant. Tonight a concert takes place under my management which promises to be a success. Have received orders for transfer to Aus. Hosp at Dartford. Kent.
Concert a huge success. Am leaving tomorrow.
Have arrived at my
new home, and don’t like the look of it much. It is too Military looking.
Place not so bad, Of course it is Australian so one must forgive a lot. Snow fell today. Weather simply awful. God knows what the trenches are like now. Today 12 months ago we sailed from home. We have about 200 left alive now out of the original 1000 comprising our Battn.
Am going on 7 days sick leave today and intend revisiting Northampton.
Arrived last night at 9.30 and it was heaven itself to have one more a real bed and to know I could get up when I pleased.
Have had a most enjoyable time. My birthday today and it was been easily the happiest I have ever spent. Returning to hospital tomorrow.
Back again in Hosp. It is pretty miserable after a week’s recourse. But needs must I suppose.
Xmas Day. This morning indulged in my first snow fight. It was the best fun I have had for years. Xmas Dinner a huge success. Quite like home. Had a quaint experience tonight. A pal and self making ourselves known to a family because we could not find a restaurant open and we were hungry. People thought it a huge joke and gave us a royal time. Altogether this Xmas has been one of the best.