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1. Unique wartime diary makes the journey from Australia back to Derbyshire

From the Derby Telegraph, Thursday 07 May 2009 www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk
THE memoirs of a wartime hero whose ship was bombed during the Second World War have been returned to the county after being unearthed in Australia.

Charles Barton Mann, who lived in Derby, kept a diary chronicling 10 years of his life, during which he went from being a staunch pacifist to serving in the RAF.

In one entry, Mr Mann described how his troop ship came under heavy enemy fire and was damaged by a bomb en-route to India.

The tattered A4 diary was taken to Australia in the early 1970s by Mr Mann's daughter, Gillian, and was found buried in a box by her son, Julian, years later.

It has now been donated to Derbyshire County Council's record office and archivist Margaret O' Sullivan said it offered a fascinating snapshot of wartime life.

She said: "Wartime diaries are not uncommon but what makes this one special is that it shows Mr Mann's transformation from a pacifist to a soldier.

"He seemed to be a very active pacifist in a group called No More War, then as circumstances changed and the Nazi threat in Europe grew, his own position changed.

"He was in his 30s when he was conscripted to the RAF and that probably gave him a different viewpoint on the war compared to the younger soldiers he was with."

Mr Mann vividly recorded day-to-day life on board the SS Strathmore troop ship during its journey from Liverpool to Bombay via Gibraltar and the Suez Canal.

His entries include an attack on the ship as it sailed through the Mediterranean.

Dr O' Sullivan said: "In November 1943, the ship came under fire from the air and bombs were dropping all around it.

"But from then on, he just recorded the daily events on the ship until it reached its destination, at which point it tails off and ends."

During his time in the city, Mr Mann worked as a journalist at the Derby Telegraph and Dr O' Sullivan said his background as a reporter may have inspired his diary-keeping.

She said: "He may have started the diary with the intention of one day having it published but that never happened.

"His handwriting was awful but at least we can be thankful he didn't keep the diary in shorthand."

The diary will be available for viewing at the record office, in New Street, Matlock.

Dr O' Sullivan said: "It's fantastic we have these records. Julian was clearing out his late mother's estate when came across them and he decided to see if we wanted them.

"They could very well have been thrown away."

Source article: http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/news/Unique-wartime-diary-makes-journey-Australia-Derbyshire/article-967863-detail/article.html

Next: 2. Waiting in a dark hangar, laden down with painful backpacks

jules mann,
18 Jul 2009, 06:17