Soldier’s diary is a top Lancashire archive treasure

Neil Sayer the Archive Access Manager at Lancashire Archives with the Atkin family papers, including a diary from Galipoli
Neil Sayer the Archive Access Manager at Lancashire Archives with the Atkin family papers, including a diary from Galipoli

You came, you saw, you voted ... and it’s a very special diary which took your fancy.

Lancashire County Council has now unveiled the people’s choice - the 75th treasure from its Lancashire archives to to earn the accolade of being selected for exhibition to mark the 75th anniversary of the much loved county archive service.

It is none other than the war diary of a Lancashire soldier, Charles Cecil Atkin whose record of Gallipoli and other exploits in 1915 was the popular choice, receiving 66% of the votes cast. Other shortlisted items included an autograph album from the 1940s, Robin McGhie’s watercolours of designs for church furniture at St. Mary’s Church, Leyland and the only known surviving images from a 1915 silent movie.

Charles served as a sapper with the Divisional Engineers of the Royal Naval Division. His diary records a two week voyage to the Dardanelles, around Gibraltar, Malta and Alexandria and time fighting in the Gallipoli campaign, including being under shellfire himself a number of times.

Julie Bell, Lancashire County Council’s head of libraries, museums, culture and registrar’s service, said: “The pockets of the average soldier in the trenches of the First World War couldn’t hold many personal effects, and this small diary and purple pencil recorded some extraordinary experiences.

“We learn about some of Charles’s personal experiences of fighting in the Gallipoli campaign,including building bridges and blasting trenches. Fortunately he survived Gallipoli and made a further tour of duty in France with the Royal Engineers. For us, this diary is especially poignant in that it was left with us during our anniversary open weekend in 2015, which was also exactly 100 years since the first landings at Gallipoli commemorated now as Anzac Day.”

Photo shows Neil Sayer, Archive Access Manager, with the Atkin family papers and diary