TIGHTLY packed ­sentences written in neat but barely legible writing tell starkly of life on the frontline in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, when, during eight months of fighting Allied forces were repelled from taking the Ottoman ­capital of Constantinople.

In a brutally frank account, Dumbarton soldier Walter Cormack tells how soldiers struggled to cope with heavy shell fire that slaughtered scores of comrades, witnessed the sea "a mass of ships" and how he "expected my time to come at any time. Enemy position almost impassible."

Not much is known about Cormack, whose short diary extract has been loaned to Clydebank Museum and Art Gallery for their special centenary exhibition examining the impact of the war on West Dunbartonshire communities.

Moira Murray, a West Dunbartonshire council heritage intern who devoted two weeks to pain­stakingly decipher the tiny writing, said they had been given the pages by his great niece, Elizabeth Cormack.

She said: "It's very, very moving. I felt as though I got to know him. I really got to know about how he was feeling.

"It was an awful time. That really got across. The diary gives you a real insight."

The diary begins in March 1915 when the soldier, who it is believed was with the Royal Scots, was leaving Britain.

Museum collections officer Andrew Graham said it covered the trip to Gibraltar, then Malta and the Ottoman Empire when "it really starts to hot up." It finishes in July that year, when Cormack was promoted to Lance Corporal.

He added: "He wrote it for himself, he didn't know it would be read so there's not a lot of information about him, or who he served with.

"It's personal. He didn't think he would survive."

He said they had tried to trace more details about Cormack, who they know survived the war and ended up living in France, but had not had much success.

"We have tried to look for him online but can't find him.

"I thought he was a railway man because he talks about railway ideas but another section of the diary makes electrical references."

Andrew said a lack of detail about those who served in the Great War was a common problem when it came to putting the exhibition together, which includes materials from their existing collection.

He explained: "We put out a public appeal and various people got in touch. But a lot of people don't have objects, or aren't aware if they have. I don't know if people just didn't talk about the war. It's a sensitive subject."

The diary is not the only moving account that features in the exhibition, which covers four rooms in the Dumbarton Road museum.

Extracts from soldiers' letters sent to the Dumbarton Herald are featured on one wall, and postcards and messages from those at home to the soldiers are placed on another, alongside silk pictures sent back to Britain from abroad.

One postcard reads: "Dear Daddy, Just a pc to let you know that Nellie, John and me are well and wish you were home again. We miss you very much but we pray every night that God will bring you home safe. With love from your little son William."

Andrew, who has worked at the museum for six years, said they spent a year putting At War together, with the help of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regimental museum at Stirling Castle, who loaned them some of the exhibits, including the Rams Head Snuff Mull, from 1886, an elaborate helmet which would have sat on the officers table for them to take snuff from.

Other artefacts include the flag from a tank named Dumbarton, a nurses uniform, a telescope used at Gallipoli and numerous medals won by local soldiers.

Information on Clydebank's war effort - from the Singer factory's production of up to 50,000 shell compartments a week - to the area's two Victoria Cross heroes, John Hamilton, from Dumbarton, and Colonel George de Cardonnel Elmsall Findlay, also forms part of At War.

The exhibition, which opened on August 15, runs until November 15.

The museum is open daily from 10am to 4.30pm.

victoria.brenan@ eveningtimes.co.uk