Sunday, 2 July 2017

Bessie's War

Because of a volunteer job I do at a local historical society, every morning I post a tweet from the diary of a front line WWI nursing sister who came from my home town of St. Catharines, Ontario, (pictured above with two wounded Canadians).

Most of her diary entries are amazingly banal: going to the village, attending concerts, flirting with the officers, the lovely countryside and architecture of France, etc.  

After the battle of Vimy Ridge during which over 3,500 Canadian men were killed and 7,000 wounded she notes with chilly satisfaction that everyone is pleased because they were expecting so many more.

She refuses to take you down into the chaos and butchery that surrounded her.

And yet sometimes her words haunt your dreams.

Last week she wrote how 'her boys' often found humour in the grimmest of situations.  One lad laughed and told her that when he saw a pair of legs flying over his head he thought to himself, "If those are mine, I've had a terrible accident."

History isn't what we read in well researched factual books it is found in the voices of those who were there. 

This diary says as much about women and Canada as it says about the 'boys' who fought.

link to Bessie's war


  1. What a wonderful idea to tweet a line per day from the nursing sister's diary! I wonder if her path ever crossed with "my WW1 soldier" Charlie Walker, who was mortally wounded at Vimy Ridge and died a month later. Here's the post I recently put up for him on the 100th anniversary of his death --

    Her remark about Vimy Ridge certainly shows the depth of sacrifice they were prepared to make.

    1. She could very well have met him Debra. I'm also posting pages from her autograph book so I'll watch for his signature but it sounds as if he was likely too sick to write anything. I suppose it shows the sacrifice the men in charge were prepared to make. :(

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    1. Jeesh, I clicked the wrong button and lost your comment. Fortunately i remember that you said you had just returned from BC you lucky fella! Looking forward to more west coast photos on your site!!