Extraordinary Professor Laurence Wright, from the NWU Research Unit for Languages and Literature in the South African Context, launched his book, The Wartime Diary of W.D. Terry, A ‘Safrican at Cambridge’, with Selected Letters (Print Matters Heritage, 2017), at the National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown. The subject of the book, David Terry, had strong Potchefstroom connections. A Wits graduate, his first teaching post was at Potchefstroom Boys High under the legendary F.G. (‘Sammy’) Tyers, followed by a temporary lectureship in the English Department at the Potchefstroom University for CHO, then headed by Professor R.M. (Rico Martin) Titlestad. From there he won an Elsie Ballott Scholarship to Cambridge – only to find his studies disrupted by the political contention and confusion of the early years of WW2.
He was 21 years old, and the book captures a young man’s interpretation of the War, his engagement with civil defence, religion and romance, as well as his travels to France, Ireland and the United States, where he becomes friends with the prominent American broadcaster and journalist Lowell Thomas, the man who put Lawrence of Arabia on the map. His diary and correspondence, vividly alive to the historical moment of writing, have been retrieved from repositories in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. They are studded with contemporary references to historical events and to people: international wartime figures, British and South African families, friends and acquaintances.
Wright’s Introduction, ‘A Voyage Round David Terry’, explores his life and career before and after the War, to his early death in 1965, contextualising a unique voice from this troubled period of South African and international history.