Horowhenua farmer Leslie Adkin kept a diary for 40 years from 1905, recording a huge amount of information of early 20th century New Zealand life, through war and peace. Te Papa is calling for volunteers to transcribe Leslie’s dairies from October 1917, just after he was conscripted to serve in the army, through to the end of the conflict in November 1918.
If you’ve been following Leslie Adkin’s WWI experiences through his Twitter feed or via ‘Life 100 Years Ago‘, you will know that 3–5 September 1917 were three tense days for Leslie, his wife Maud, and infant daughter Nancy.
This was because Leslie’s name was one of the 15,000 drawn in the 10th conscription ballot, which meant he was selected for compulsory military service. The ballot occurred between 21–23 August.
After the paperwork was checked by clerks at the Chief Statistician’s Office, things moved rapidly for the men who were called-up.
Leslie received the fateful news on 3 September – the next day he visited a lawyer to check his options, and on 5 September he went to Palmerston North for a military medical examination, which he had to pass before he could be accepted into the army or appeal his conscription.
Leslie wrote three pages in his diary about this experience, which included a visit to the Palmerston North Library before he got down to business:
“At 2pm I stripped to trousers + socks + had my height, weight (10 stone 6lbs), chest measurements, normal 34 inches + expanded 36 inches, colour hair, eyes etc + religion taken….Stripped naked, had eyes + hearing tested, sounded (heart + chest), arm exercises + hopped about.”
I’m not going to give the game away by telling you the outcome, except to say that Leslie received five shillings for attending the exam. You can read the full account here on Collections Online.
The transcription of many of Leslie’s war-time diaries, including these three uncertain days, has been completed largely through the huge efforts of a voluntary transcription army (but unlike the New Zealand army during WWI, no one was conscripted!).
You can read about the start of this project in 2014, and the achievements of the first ‘contingent’ that transcribed Leslie’s diaries – 18 months’ worth of diary entries (6500+ separate entries) in four weeks.
As we head towards the final 14 months of war commemorations, we are calling for another big push to transcribe Leslie’s diaries – from October 1917 (the Battle of Passchendaele) to November 1918 (the Armistice and the Influenza pandemic).
It’s easy to sign up to join Te Papa’s ‘transcription army’ – and you don’t need to pass a medical. Just go to Collections Online and search using a date and the keyword ‘Adkin’ – e.g. “25 December 1917 Adkin” – then scroll down to the heading ‘Topics’.
Click the matching thumbnail and you will find a diary entry ready for you to transcribe. You will also find these ‘how-to’ instructions will help with abbreviations and style.
Once you’ve done your duty, wait to see what Leslie tweets, when the date that you transcribed comes around – 100 years later!