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Suggested Activities

Wartime Diaries

Herbert Burrell wrote in his diary on 30 May 1917, "One wishes for something to read or do. You are liable to go bughouse lying hour after hour on your back gazing at the chalk roof of your funk hole." Soldiers often kept diaries of their wartime experiences, in part because it gave them something to do. More profoundly, diaries also allowed soldiers to reflect on their experiences.

When we look at these diaries today, they provide us with records of unique, personal experiences that can help us understand how soldiers cope with war. Ask students to consider/discuss the following:

Instruct students to read the diary entries from the Collections. Students should then write a diary entry as a soldier using these as inspiration. Ask students to consider the following when writing their diary entry:

  • What are you seeing and experiencing?
  • Why are you involved in the war?
  • How is the war affecting you?
  • How is your family affected by your participation in the war?
  • How will your participation in the war impact the future, locally, nationally and internationally?
  • What is the difference between what someone writes and what he or she might actually feel?

Have students share their diary entries with the class and discuss their responses to the questions above.

    Date created: October 27, 2006 | Last updated: October 7, 2009