Library and Archives Canada, in conjunction with Veterans Affairs Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), has an online exhibition, Oral Histories of the First World War: Veterans 1914-1918 featuring audio interviews and written transcripts, as well as photographs. The exhibition is organized into seven “interview themes”: Second Ypres, Vimy Ridge, War in the Air, The Somme, Trench Warfare, Passchendaele (Third Ypres), and Perspectives on War.
The exhibition is based on the CBC‘s 1964-1965 radio broadcasts In Flanders Fields, a series of interviews with veterans of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Also online: The Canadian Letters and Images Project, a virtual archive of the Canadian war experience, from the Riel Rebellion and Boer War to World War I, World War II, and the Korean War (one letter). The project began in 2000 at the Department of History at Vancouver Island University. In November 2003 the Project was very pleased to bring in as partners the History Department at The University of Western Ontario.
The following is a letter in the collection written by Flight Sergeant Harry Hansell of Vulcan, Alberta. He was 19 when he enlisted with the RCAF in 1942. He was 20 years old when he and his crew were shot down on a raid over Germany in September 1943.
May 21st, 1943
I received your letter of the 20th and was very glad to have got one. I haven’t received any letters yet for about 2 weeks. I am glad that Mary got my picture. I have never met a girl that could stand up to her yet, and I don’t think I ever will.
I can’t tell you what l am doing, but I am not in the tail, but in the mid upper turret. I might say I am in the front line now, please don’t worry.
I received mother’s letter and got the address but I only had 5 days’ leave and that was taken up by travelling to the next station. I wish mother would send me some parcels. All the lads are getting them but me. I found my kit bag just as I was leaving the other station. So I got all my personal belongings. It’s all just about dirty laundry. I haven’t stayed in one place long enough to get it all done. I have a very fine crew of fellows. They are all Sgt. just as I. There is seven in the crew all together. I hope my picture turned out all right in the paper. I sure want to see it.
I am not going to write to Mary so much because you can’t tell what may happen, but I will nevertheless continue to write very often. I sure am very proud of her. By the way, I would like to know why Ruth is quitting school. I am doing my part so that she can have the privilege to go to school. I wish now that I was still in school. You tell her that she can’t quit school just as she likes. What do you think the war is for? You tell her she just can’t do as she likes along the lines of education. I realized too late about my education and I don’t want her to do the same. Well, there is no more paper.
I will write soon.
Love to all,
Half of Sgt. Hansell’s file includes family and government letters after his death. One RCAF letter three years later finally gives the complete details of the fate of Sgt. Hansell and his crew:
The aircraft crashed on the night of 27th September, 1943 about 1.5 miles South of Eberholsen in a forest. This town is located approximately 22 miles South of Hanover, Germany. The aircraft exploded when it hit the ground and unfortunately individual identification of the crewmen was not possible. Your son, together with his crew, were laid to rest in the Town Cemetery at Eberholsen in a Communal Grave located in the North East corner of the cemetery. The grave is nicely kept and marked by a cross upon which is inscribed the names of the crew.
Previous Farm School posts marking the day: