Cecil Coughlan was a bookbinder from Dunedin and a keen sportsman who, in January 1944, was drafted to serve as a war medic in Italy. His diary tells of his excitement and anticipation on the journey by ship via Australia and up the Arabian coast; sightseeing in Alexandria, an attack on the convoy by a German U-boat - and the sense of impending doom as the troops approach the frontline at Cassino. In a mix of reflection on the intimate details of daily life and graphic accounts of the dead and wounded ('Awful sights I'm seeing, dead men haunt me at night. War is awful.'), Cecil evokes the horror and the ultimate futility of war. Garrie Coughlan is Cecil's son. He found out about the diary long after his dad had passed away; his mother passed it on with other precious belongings before she died. Garrie has deciphered his father's tiny writing and transcribed the diary, initially for his daughters to read.