Letters & Diaries of the Great War

Considering Historical Perspectives

We can better understand the people of the past if we …

Remember there is a difference between current world views
and those of earlier time periods. 
Avoid imposing present ideas on actors in the past.
Know that the historical context helps establish
perspective of people in the past.
Take the perspective of historical actors, meaning we infer
how those people felt based on evidence.
Remember that different people have
diverse perspectives on the same event.

By reading and thinking about their words,
what can we learn about the experiences of
these four Saskatchewan individuals
who all sacrificed while serving their country
-- each in his or her own way --
during the Great War, 1914-1918?


Victor N. Swanston 

– Canadian born single man in his 30’s when enlisted

Victor's Voice:

"When you hear a moaning whistle
Very quickly drawing near,
And you tip your old tin hat towards the sound,
Then, when that shell breaks o’er you,
Looking like a wooly bear,
Well!  You have sneaking feeling for the ground."

Click here for more of Victor's words and story...



Gladys Matheson

– Canadian-born and trained nursing sister, caring for wounded soldiers in a front-line hospital in France

Gladys's Voice:

"Oh we are busy.  Have 6 gangrene gas cases. They mean so much work.  Poor lads."


Click here for more of Gladys' words and story...




Charles Douglas (‘Dick’) Richardson

– Canadian born single man, university educated, age 24 when enlisted

Dick's Voice:

"Perhaps you have heard something about the time we have
been having.  I hope I never have to go through it again.
It was simply Hell!"



Click here for more of Dick's words and story...




James (‘Jim’) C. Aitchison

–  recent immigrant to Saskatoon from Scotland, dedicated husband and father of 9 children, age 40 when enlisted

Jim's Voice:

"I am also sorry to see that you are taking our separation so badly...
God knows I miss you too, but I always try to keep smiling."

Click here for more of Jim's words and story...