Doreen Annala transcribed the WW1 diaries of her great-uncle

Doreen Annala transcribed the WW1 diaries of her great-uncle

VIDEO: Sharing a soldier’s stories

Langley woman treasures written recollections of her great-uncle – a veteran of the First World War

Jesse Butcher helped treat the wounded during the battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917 — a battle that claimed the lives 3,598 Canadian soldiers.

He wrote about his experiences in a small black diary, one of several that he filled, in defiance of military secrecy regulations.

Many years later, his great-niece, Langley resident Doreen Smithson Annala, came into possession of the diaries and transcribed the cramped, hard-to-read entries.

“He never spoke of what was in them,” she said.

ButcherButcher (pictured standing with pipe next to brother-in-law Thomas Smithson) was a seminary student at St. Chad’s College in Regina, studying to become an Anglican minister, when he and many of his fellow students enlisted.

He did not approve of smoking, drinking or cursing and he would not carry a gun.

Annala describes her uncle as a “man of peace,” whose conscience would not allow him to fight, but still wanted to serve.

Butcher worked at the main “dressing station” during the battle of Vimy Ridge, a military field hospital, when four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force launched an attack on German-held high ground.

“Canadian Troops went ‘over the top’ at 5:30 this morning,” Butcher wrote .

“Wounded began to pour in abut 10 a.m. About 1400 cases up to 4 p.m. I went up the line at dinner time as guide to No. 13 Imperial Field Ambulance. ‘Twas an awful sight to see our wounded men lying in fields & on roads awaiting clearance by Motor Ambulance. Bitterly cold.”

He returned to work all night treating the injured.

“Some very bad cases, blinded, nose & eyes off & out, legs & feet off, arms & legs smashed. Lots of chest & abdominal cases,” Butcher wrote.

On April 12, the Canadians reached their final objective, a fortified knoll located outside the village of Givenchy-en-Gohelle, forcing the Germans to retreat.

The Germans continued to fire shells day and night at the road leading to the dressing station.

“Dead horses and men laying all over the road,” Butcher wrote on April 17.

“I made five trips with stretcher cases this evening. Road congested with fallen horses, overturned guns, timbers, service wagons.”

The diaries are full of matter-of-fact descriptions of the horrors of war like this entry for Nov 13, 1918:

“Yesterday a shell burst amongst a bunch of men, tore arm off one soldier.

“I helped bandage him & also cut off the arm with my pocket knife.

“Quite a number of civilians hurt also.”

When Butcher returned to Canada, he became a priest and eventually Rector of St. Michael and All Angels Church in Moose Jaw.

Just Posted

Langley Mustangs high jumper Aiden Grout, seen here in McLeod Athletic Park in Langley in 2019, has just qualified for several top international competitions, including the Olympic trials. (Photo courtesy Vid Wadhwani)
VIDEO: With one jump, Langley Mustangs high jumper Aiden Grout has qualified for three international competitions

Maple Ridge resident records new personal best at McLeod Athletic Park in Langley

A local letter writer would appreciate if cyclists would think more about safety while riding in the area of River Road in North Langley. (Black Press Media files)
LETTER: North Langley route popular with cyclists but letter writer urges caution

A road user has concerns about some of the cycling habits she’s seeing in the area of River Road

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole spoke to members of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce via a Zoom chat with chamber CEO Colleen Clark on Friday, June 11. (Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Conservative leader talks tourism, trade, SkyTrain with Langley Chamber

The virtual fireside chat included talk about childcare and the budget

Deeba Mostafaie-Mehr, Setare Maleki Rizi, and Olivia Chen Xu from R.E. Mountain Secondary are recipients of three prestigious scholarships. (Langley School District/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley STEM students shine as recipients of prestigious scholarships

Three students from R.E. Mountain Secondary recognized

The new Langley Memorial Hospital emergency room opened for its first patients on Tuesday, May 4. (Government of B.C./Special to the Langley Advance Times)
LETTER: Aldergrove woman underwhelmed with new hospital ER

New ER is nice but needs adequate staffing, local woman writes

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read