Bright Things #3: My Grandfather’s WWII Diary

One of the themes of The Memory Collectors is our relationship to physical objects — the memories, emotions, and power they hold for us. Every week leading up to the book’s release, I’ll share the story of an object that’s special to me.

Since we’re a few days away from Remembrance Day here in Canada, it seemed fitting to share this one today.   There’s not a lot of detail in the entries spanning from 1942-1945. I know that my grandfather was stationed in Italy, that he was a high-ranking officer and not on the front lines.

He would have to have been very careful about what he wrote, so honestly, it’s a lot of talk about the weather:  

November 6, 1943: Sat. Quiet day. Dull and cold. Got light fixed up for tent. Works well.  

But there are darker entries as well, written in a dense, tiny script:  

October 15, 1943: Town shelled sporadically. Went to pl with rations. All near Campo Bassi. 6 pl had close ones while 2 was [indecipherable]. Town shelled again all night.

The diary is a connection to a man and a family history that I know little about. My grandfather died when I was three years old and I have no memories of him. This is the only thing I have that was his, and I’m grateful to my mother for saving it for me.  

On a broader level, as I witness far too many Americans choosing to support white supremacy and fascism, it’s never been more clear to me how important it is to keep remembering why our grandparents and great-grandparents sacrificed their lives during the Second World War. I’m honoured to be able to hold this piece of history in my hands, and to keep it preserved.


  • Laura Reading

    My family has a vinyl single record my dad made when he was in Korea. He sent it home so his mother could listen to his voice. I have no idea what he talked about. Being the youngest child, I did not inherit it. Maybe someday.

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