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state library of queensland
John Oxley Library

Private Treacy

By Marg Powell, Specialist Library Technician, Metadata Services | 26 May 2015

Private Thomas Francis Treacy, #17232

A small but very valuable collection held by the State Library of Queensland, consists of the diary of Private Tom Treacy which he kept during the First World War.  It records his journey from Cairns, which he left on Saturday 29th January 1916 and details his activities whilst serving with the 15th Australian Field Ambulance overseas - the last entry is dated 16 January 1919.


Thomas Treacy was already an Ambulance Officer when he enlisted at Cairns in 1916, he was living at the time with his widowed mother Katherine in Grimshaw Street. When Tom arrived in England he was invalided to Parkhouse Military hospital for 20 days with mumps.

When he was fit he embarked overseas as a stretcher-bearer to France. The diary entry for that time, details the conditions they travelled in via a Horse-Transport ship to Rouelles, where they joined their unit near Ypres, Belgium -
"We were aboard a rotten stinking filthy Horse Transport, we were given Horse stalls to sleep in, they were full of Horse Manure, urine and everything else that was filthy".

The 15th Field Ambulance served in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable, in the front lines, trying to retrieve the wounded without themselves being injured. In April 1918 after the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux 1918, Private Treacy picked his way through the ruins of the St Jean de Baptiste church and picked up a set of holy cards, which he posted back to his mother in Cairns.

The image above from the Australian War Memorial, shows the sheer devastation and ruin of the church.

The image above from the Australian War Memorial, shows the sheer devastation and ruin of the church.

Private Treacy was evacuated to England later that year with Gas Poisoning and was returned to France just days before the Armistice was declared in November 1918.

His diary was donated to the State Library of Queensland by his descendants in 1996, and as part of the State Library of Queensland’s commitment to make accessible material that relates to the First World War, it has been digitised and made freely available - along with a transcript - via the library’s catalogue.

One of the religious cards that Private Treacy had picked up in the ruins of Villers-Bretonneau, was returned to the church on the 90th Anniversary of the day, in April 2008.

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Marg Powell


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