Lake Macquarie History

Dunbar Diaries

Amongst the accumulated treasures in the library's records area, a marvellous discovery was unearthed, shortly after the launch of this website in 2013. A closer inspection of an anonymously donated shopping bag yielded far more than what was originally thought: a number of old postcards.

photo: john jackson dunbar

Staff were amazed to find two wonderfully preserved Great War diaries, memorabilia (including a bottle of sand believed to be from the Middle East), photographs as well as the postcards! This timely find coincided with planning for the commemoration of WWI on Lake Macquarie History Online.

Work on the diaries commenced early in 2014. Each page was photographed and the faint, cursive handwriting was painstakingly deciphered and transcribed. As part of the project, Community History carried out research on the author, John Jackson Dunbar, Sergeant Acting Warrant Officer 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance.

In November 2014, the team discovered an article in the Newcastle Herald, published in 2009, that provided some intriguing clues around the journey of the diaries. The article described how in 2009, seven stolen WWI medals were returned to John Allenby Dunbar, son of John Jackson Dunbar.

Community History staff now suspected the diaries may have also been stolen and worked through a list of Dunbars in the phone book. Staff made contact with the widow of John Allenby Dunbar and returned the diaries to the Dunbar family. Mrs Dunbar generously allowed Lake Mac Libraries to keep the diaries to finish the digitisation project and share them with the community online.

The two diaries are now back with the family of John Jackson Dunbar, Sergeant Acting Warrant Officer 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance.