Georges Vanier, Soldier: The Wartime Letters and Diaries, 1915-1919

Georges Vanier, Soldier: The Wartime Letters and Diaries, 1915-1919

Georges Vanier, Soldier: The Wartime Letters and Diaries, 1915-1919

Georges Vanier, Soldier: The Wartime Letters and Diaries, 1915-1919


East Sandling Camp. 1 June 1915

"Captain Boyer and I are leaving for London to buy a motor car for the regiment. We will be staying at the Savoy."

Flanders. 27 October 1915. Diary entry: 4:00 p.m.

"Returned to the trenches. After two days of rain, they are in a deplorable state. There is mud up to our knees. The parapets have collapsed in several spots. The nights are frigid, our feet are cold, and we have not yet received our supplies of wood and charcoal."

In the field. 1 August 1918.

"You will pardon the brevity and the looseness of this letter when you know under what conditions it has been written. What you wish to know above all I can tell you at once. I am well - in fact I do not think I have ever been quite so well in body and in spirit. I have been protected in a special manner during the last three days. I have seen so many narrow escapes myself that I am beginning to think that one should not worry much about possible eventualities."

No. 8 British Red Cross Hospital, Boulogne. 6 September 1918.

"By this time you will have received reassuring cablegrams and field postcards and possibly letters from friends of mine.

"First, to be quite frank, I will admit that I have not been in fit condition to write a coherent letter..."


Georges Vanier was a military man to the depths of his soul. He was intensely proud of his regiment, the Royal 22nd, and he often described the four years he spent on the battlefields of Europe as the most rewarding of his life. He was fighting for a cause — the defence of his beloved France — and even as the war dragged on into its fourth year, he never appeared to doubt the legitimacy of his mission. He was a loyal and dedicated soldier.

Vanier’s strong allegiance to his regiment and to the military continued long past the silencing of the guns in November 1918. in fact, it remained with him throughout his life. It is not surprising, therefore, that at his investiture as governor-general on September 15, 1959 — and at most other ceremonial occasions — he chose to wear full military uniform, sword slung at his side and a row of medals strung proudly across his chest. At his state funeral in March 1967, he was mourned in true military style: a simple walnut coffin draped with the Canadian flag, his military cap and sword placed on top, travelled on a gun carriage through the snow-bound streets of Ottawa escorted by over two thousand members of the armed forces. As they slowly marched to the beat of muffled drums, air force jets flew by overhead and a booming seventy-eight-gun salute — one for each year of Georges Vanier’s life — crackled through the frosty air. It was a fitting tribute to a great soldier.

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