[Transcriber's note: Private Balme, who was later promoted to Sergeant enlisted at age 30 and embarked from Melbourne on the Port Melbourne on 21 October 1916 for overseas. He arrived in Devonport, England on 28 December 1916. He attended various courses in England before proceeding to France and Belgium where he fought with the 29th Battalion, 10th Reinforcement. He suffered the effects of gas poisoning in March 1918 and returned to hospital at St. Albans in England on 26 March 1918. Following his convalescence he attended further courses at Aldershot and finally returned to Australia in July 1919. Attached to a letter to his wife is a section of his diary from 15 November 1917 to 18 December 1917 when he was the Sergeant of a working party on Messines Ridge, Belgium. He describes the work they are doing of building an Observation Post, life in the trenches and the battle being fought around him.]
My Darling Wife
You said in a recent letter that you'd love a peep at my diary.
Well, I have kept a diary of sorts, from the first time I went into action properly – kept it in shorthand, and when I was in the field ambulance at the time of my being gassed I tore out these leaves & have carried them ever since.
Here in England I have copied some out for you and am sending them, as I know you would be interested.
I took 20 men up on Messines Ridge on a working party. We had no Officer, and we lived in a muddy and very verminous old trench for 32 days without a break, and under continuous but intermittent shell fire, and never had a casualty, though other fatigues had them every night; a wonderfully lucky run.