Campbell Diary

The Finely Illustrated Diary of Private William Campbell of the Liverpool Scottish, 1916-1917

Exhibition (by appointment only) at the Artists Club, 5 Eberle Street, Liverpool L2 2AG
Your invitation - 20 September to 19 November 2018









For the first time, anywhere, in a century, the Liverpool Scottish Regimental Museum Trust is able to exhibit, in central Liverpool, images from the important illustrated diary of Private William Henry Campbell. He served on the Western Front with the Liverpool Scottish [1st/10th Bn., The King’s (Liverpool Regiment)] from July 1916 until killed in action at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge on 31 July 1917 near Ypres. Surviving diaries are unusual: a diary illustrated to this standard is a considerable rarity. Campbell drew, in pencil and coloured crayon, nearly 70 images, both in the front line and rear areas. He recorded his thoughts, deepest doubts and fears, his difficulties in coming to terms with people and environment in nearly 20,000 words, often seeking the support of his religious belief. We are displaying 26 of these images reproduced on watercolour archival paper at roughly A5 size, professionally mounted and printed and simply but elegantly framed (at 16 inches by 12 inches). They are on sale at £30, available at the end of the exhibition, collection to be arranged from the Artists Club and possibly from a limited number of points in the Merseyside area (for which there might have to be a small charge). The Liverpool Scottish Museum Trust invites its established friends and others who might be interested to view the exhibition (without any obligation to purchase) during the following Wednesday viewing mornings between 11 am and 12:45 pm (last access at 12:30 pm). It is hoped to deliver a short talk (10 minutes) at 11:15 am and a museum volunteer/trustee will be available throughout to answer questions. Please book through the Museum Trust using the codes in the ‘Booking’ section below and not, please, through the Artists Club.


Opening – Private Artists Club Members’ Function 19th September

Further Viewing - Limited Availability – 11 am to 12:45pm

26th Sept, 3rd Oct, 10th Oct, 24th Oct, 7th Nov - (14th Nov to be confirmed)


A 48 page, A4 colour booklet supports the exhibition with nearly 70 images and about 7,000 words of annotated diary text (original transcription - Mrs Brenda Giblin) with a 1500 word introduction by Ian Riley. The ‘exhibition price’ is £5 (plus postage, cost to be confirmed if applicable). It may be purchased without visiting the exhibition – contact putting QR 2690 Campbell Booklet Purchase in the subject line providing a name, postal address and phone number.


Booking a Viewing

See Below






 Campbell Diary and Sketchbook Exhibition - Booking a Viewing

The Artists Club is a private club and we need to limit total attendance during any session to around 25 visitors. Consequently, those wishing to view are asked to book a place in advance through Major Ian Riley TD (Hon Secretary) either by email (preferably) or telephone – booking should NOT take place directly through the Artists Club. It is always possible that the Artists Club is asked to organise a gallery function (eg a lunch) at short notice and unfortunately we have reserve the right to postpone a visit at correspondingly short notice. In this unlikely event, every effort would be made to arrange an alternative. In view of the nature of the venue, those attending are asked to dress reasonably smartly with no denim or working clothes – smart casual would be a guideline – ‘Royal Ascot’ not required. Eberle Street is pedestrianised and access is from Dale Street or from Tithebarn Street via Tempest Hey. A lift is available to the Gallery. It is not intended to provide refreshments (water would be available) but, with some prior notice, coffee or tea could be arranged for small groups at a charge of around £2 a head through liaison with Ian Riley.

Please email (preferred) giving name)s and telephone number (in case of any need to postpone because of Artists Club requirements) or phone 01925 766157. Use the email subject header shown below and it would be helpful to add your own name. A confirmation email with access details will be sent. Payment details for those wishing to purchase have yet to be confirmed. Small groups (about half a dozen) can be accommodated; if a larger group wishes to view please contact us using the ‘General Query’ header.

 Date (Subject to availability)
To be quoted in email subject line when booking 

Date (Subject to availability) QR 2689 Campbell General Query
Booklet Purchase (Postal) QR 2690 Campbell Booklet Purchase
View 26 September QR 2691 Campbell Ex 26 Sept
View 3 October QR 2692 Campbell Ex 3 Oct
View 10 October QR 2693 Campbell Ex 10 Oct
View 24 October QR 2694 Campbell Ex 24 Oct
View 7 November QR 2695 Campbell Ex 7 Nov
View 14 November As Yet Unconfirmed

Private William Henry Campbell was a volunteer. He served with the Liverpool Scottish on the Somme and in the Ypres Salient from July 1916 until he was killed in action at the age of 25 on 31 July 1917, the first day of the Passchendaele campaign, at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge. It was in this battle that the battalion’s Medical Officer, the double VC winner Captain Noel Chavasse was mortally wounded. Campbell was a ‘house painter and decorator’ by trade; he had attended art school. Over a year, he recorded his thoughts and observations both in miniscule handwriting and vivid drawing using crayon or pencil, often actually in the front line. A man removing lice from his kilt, men around an ornate stove in a rear area, different types of shell burst seen from 300 yards or simply the contrasting landscapes of war, either thronged or empty of men, are all subjects found in the book, often with haunting footnotes. After a century and for the first time, nearly thirty images from this unique survival, an important historical document, have been selected for display. They are reproduced on watercolour paper and accompanied by interpretation of the text. Additionally, about 7000 words of the diary have been transcribed and, accompanied by almost all his illustrations in colour, have been included in a substantial booklet. The diary is not an easy read: Campbell often seems highly depressed, suffering sharp mood swings and often has difficulty in coping with the range of personalities and social backgrounds he encounters amidst the stress of war. At other times he is highly positive. However, although his account is atypical in its intensity, he deserves to be heard and his art, often drawn in a dripping dugout by the light of a candle shaken by gunfire, deserves to be seen.     

Previous page: The Centenary Year
Next page: Commemorations 1917 -2017