Left: Co-owners of the Cracked and Spineless bookshop, Richard Sprent (left) and Mike Gray, with the journal.
A handwritten journal found buried in an Australian bookshop is believed to be a prominent soldier's diary from the Napoleonic wars, writes Paul Carter.
Lt Col Squire was a worldly man, with an interest in history and antiquities. So it's fitting that his writings are now causing great excitement on the other side of the planet, in the colony he'd have known as Van Diemen's Land. At the back of a second-hand book store, at the back of a Hobart arcade, at the back of the world in Tasmania, it appears that one of Squire's journals has been discovered.
The new owners of the Cracked and Spineless bookshop discovered the journal in a pile of old books tucked away in a cupboard. It details the English-Portuguese army's second siege of the Spanish city of Badajoz, which took place in May and June 1811, during the Napoleonic Wars.
The bookshop's co-owner, Mike Gray, said the journal was discovered a couple of weeks ago.
"The previous owner collected hundreds of thousands of books," Mr Gray said. "Some of them were in a cupboard so I sent in someone interested in old books to see if they could find anything.
"They brought out the journal and I thought 'yeah, maybe about $20, but I'll check it'. Mr Gray said the journal could have been in the shop for 20 years, but no-one knew how it arrived. A working theory is that it arrived with the colonists who established Van Diemen's Land.
These works and his supporting role in some of history's great moments have made Squire a moderately well-known figure among scholars who study the era. Gavin Daly, an expert in the Peninsular War at the University of Tasmania, said he believed the journal was a genuine "treasure". A handwriting match could be made with Squire's letters kept at the British Library, he said. Dr Daly said Squire was mentioned twice in dispatches by the Duke of Wellington. "Squire pops up in Egypt in 1801 when the French surrendered Alexandria. He was in South America in 1807. He was in Sweden in 1808. He was in the Netherlands at various stages and ended up in the peninsula," Dr Daly said.