Personal diaries in the archive of The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

Archives Hub feature for April 2018

Captain Richard Greville Thonger, Italy, 1895
Captain Richard Greville Thonger, Italy, 1895 [TNG/2]
In 2017 the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre purchased the diary of a British Salvation Army officer serving in Switzerland in 1883 from a rare book dealer [TNG/1]. The cost of the purchase was covered by a grant from the Friends of the National Libraries. Lieutenant Richard Greville Thonger was one of the first group of Salvationists to arrive in Switzerland in 1882 and his diary records the opposition faced by The Salvation Army, including his own imprisonment. You can read more about the diary and its author on our blog.

This diary joins many others already held in our archive, including the diaries of The Salvation Army’s founder, William Booth, and those of members of his family. Among them are three volumes written by his daughter-in-law, Florence Booth (nee Soper), in which, alongside accounts of her evangelical work and raising a young family, are details of her involvement in the campaign to raise the age of consent to 16 via the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1885.

Just as Thonger’s diary gives a detailed account of the work of The Salvation Army in Switzerland, several other diaries in our archive look at the work of other Salvation Army ministers (known as ‘officers’) from all over the world. To take just three examples, we hold diaries written in Sri Lanka, Italy and Indonesia.

Captain John Lyons’ diary, 1 January 1893
Captain John Lyons’ diary, 1 January 1893 [LYO/2]
Captain John Lyons (1860-1940) was originally from Donegal in Ireland but was appointed to India as a missionary officer in 1886. At this time Salvation Army missionaries adopted Indian names and John Lyons became Dev Kumar. He was then transferred to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1888 and the 3 diaries we hold date from this period. At the end of 1893 he returned to Britain with his “health broken” and his diary for that year records his mixed feelings about Ceylon. Lyons shows a deep affection for the country, writing that “with the tall coconut trees […] shading this lovely spot […] my heart is drawn out to God for His goodness & His wonderful works to the children of men.” However in moments of frustration he writes of “all the trouble to our work here in Ceylon” and that “I am sure it must be an abomination to God when He looks down upon this lovely island of ours.” However, his regret at leaving is palpable in the entry for Christmas Day: “I was far away in Ceylon last year in that sunny land; here I am among the cold of England. Everything seems so very strange, few people I know, all seems so changed. I went and seen Captain Stone who has been home from India about 12 months. He loves India as ever.” In 1945 The Salvation Army published one of its series of ‘Liberty Booklets’ about John Lyons written by Arch Wiggins and called ‘Lyons in the Jungle.’

Extracts from the diary of Adjutant Raffaelo Batelli, 1895-1896
Extracts from the diary of Adjutant Raffaelo Batelli, 1895-1896 [DAR/1/2]
We hold copies of manuscript extracts from the diaries of Adjutant Raffaelo Batelli (1870-1941?), an officer with The Salvation Army in Italy (called l’Esercito della Salvezza in Italian). These extracts include details of his early life in Florence and recount that Batelli, originally a Catholic, encountered The Salvation Army on 16 June 1895 and was immediately converted (“conosco l’Esercito della Salvezza e mi converto. Alleluia!”). He befriended Major (‘Maggiore’) John and Elizabeth Gordon who lived in Italy and who had become Salvation Army converts in the 1880s. Batelli referred to himself as their “spiritual son” and regularly travelled with them to Britain in the late 1890s.

Funeral of Major John Gordon, Edinburgh, 1902
Funeral of Major John Gordon, Edinburgh, 1902 [DAR/1/1]
When John Gordon died after a tram accident in Edinburgh in 1902, Batelli accompanied Margaret to the funeral in Scotland. The extracts are in Italian and the original diaries are believed to have been destroyed.

Brigadier Leonard Woodward’s diary, 3-6 September 1945
Brigadier Leonard Woodward’s diary, 3-6 September 1945 [LHW/1/4]
Lt-Colonel Leonard Woodward (1883-1950) became a Salvation Army officer in 1903 and, after serving in the UK and Ireland, went to the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) as a missionary in 1916. His diaries cover the period from 1927 to 1950, during which time he and his wife, Maggie, were stationed in Java and Celebes (now Sulawesi). The early diaries include reference to many days spent on horseback riding between villages in the highlands of Sulawesi, often “very hot [and] hungry”. The diaries also record the years Leonard and Maggie spent in the Kampong Makassar civilian internment camp in Java after the Japanese invasion in 1942. The couple were separated and Leonard alleviated his daily forced labour (‘corvée’) by practicing his language skills: writing a diary in Uma, producing a concordance of New Testament names in Malay and discussing Toraja languages with an interned philologist.

Brigadier Leonard and Margaret Woodward, Java, 1930s
Brigadier Leonard and Margaret Woodward, Java, 1930s [LHW/3]
Leonard and Maggie were released in September 1945 and, when they were reunited he wrote “M. looked very thin and aged, wrinkled and scraggy, which was just the impression she got of me.” They returned to the UK in 1949, bringing with them a large collection of ethnographic objects from Celebes, some of which are now held by the National Museums Scotland.

Salvation Army International Heritage Centre
William Booth College, London

Related

Explore all Salvation Army International Heritage Centre collections on the Archives Hub.

Salvation Army International Heritage Centre website

All images copyright Salvation Army International Heritage Centre and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

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