It’s hard to imagine what it was like during the First World War. There was no Internet or television to show the daily comings and goings of Canadians 100 years ago. But these few personal items that survived the destruction of time provide a glimpse into what life was like as soldiers died and those still alive coped with surviving the war.

The diary of Sir William Otter, who directed interment operations in Canada during the First World War. His diary reveals his role in administering the operation and sheds light on life in the camps, daily rations and inspections. (Canadian War Museum, George Metcalf Archival Collection, CWM 19910162-154.

A letter from King George V to George H. Cairns, expressing regret on the death of his son. The letter is written on black-edged mourning paper and advises that Sergeant Hugh Cairns received the Victoria Cross. (Canadian War Museum, George Metcalf Archival Collection, CWM 19900069-003.)

A letter from the Canadian Red Cross Society stating that Corporal Charles Benjamin Fairley was admitted to the hospital with shellshock, which affected his speech. Approximately 10,000 Canadians were diagnosed with shellshock during the First World War. (Canadian War Museum, George Metcalf Archival Collection, CWM 1993012-002.)

A letter from the chaplain at the 44th Battalion to Lieutenant Howard Pawley’s mother explaining her son’s death and place of burial. (Canadian War Museum, George Metcalf Archival Collection, CWM 20030064-010.)

A letter from Captain F.A.C. Scrimger, V.C., a medical doctor who was awarded the Victoria Cross at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. In his June 16, 1915 letter, he describes a violent artillery bombardment. (Canadian War Museum, George Metcalf Archival Collection, CWM 20050021-001.)