Originally published November 2011 on our Rare Books Online Showcase: Diary of Private Evan Patterson
For the November edition of the Rare Books Online Showcase to celebrate Remembrance Day, the University of Saskatchewan is showcasing our World War I Diary of a Canadian Private Suffering in the Trenches by Private Evan Patterson dated from late May 1915, saving two early entries: December 30, 1914, “Signed on with 3rd Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles at Medician Hat Alberta Canada” and on 2 January, “My birthday, had poor time.” This manuscript is a handwritten diary of a soldier serving in the trenches with the 3rd Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles. On 22 September, he left for France, marked on his calendar for 9 weeks.
The 3rd Canadian Mounted Rifles were raised 15 March 1915 in Medicine Hat and Edmonton, AB from the 21st Alberta Hussars and placed under command of the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles Brigade. However, once overseas, it was found that requirements for mounted units were lower than that for infantry. (from http://www.archive.org/details/CEF_3CMR_1915). The beginnings of the diary include name, infantry division, height, age, complexion, and many other physical details about Private Patterson.
Many of the Diary’s entries are brief – one gets the impression that one would have but little time for reflection, but it paints a realistic picture of life in the trenches. There is excitement, but also concise, curt admissions like “feel miserable” or the mention of injuries and casualties. The diary also contains interesting tidbits regarding the travelling from place to place that was done and it gives a wonderful textual map of his personal war experience.
For more information about Remembrance Day visit the Wikipedia page here or visit the Royal Legion of Canada website here. The symbol of the poppy we wear in remembrance comes from the Canadian poet John McCrea poem “In Flanders Fields.”
In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below…
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields…
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields…
The information contained in the Diary is at times very different from this high literary conception and the historical study of war relies on both forms of textual documents for a complete picture of what happened. To see the diary or other items like it come on up to the 3rd floor of the Murray Library and visit Special Collections.