World War I Diary, Private John Barr Ewan

Friday 13 November 2020
From the papers of David Russell, of Tullis Russell Papermakers, a ‘Big Poppy’ sample sent by Lady Haig in 1925.

In the week of Remembrance Day, we are taking the opportunity to share a World War I diary from our manuscript collections. The Library’s Special Collections contains many surviving original letters, diaries, postcards and photographs from the first World War and even samples of paper poppies as shown here.

The World War I diary of Private John Ewan was selected for digitisation this term and made available online to support teaching. Ewan’s diary includes entries from 1916 to 1918 and begins with his report from his time at the front and the battle of Arras in April 1917.

John Ewan was a policeman from Kirkcaldy, Fife. What we know about him has been gleaned from the report of his serious injury in the Fifeshire Advertiser (Saturday 12 May 1917):

Kirkcaldy Policeman Severely Wounded

One of the former members of Kirkcaldy Burgh Police, Private John Ewan, Black Watch, was so severely wounded by a shell on 24th April that his right leg has had to be amputated above the knee. He is lying in a base hospital, and making good progress. His wife resides at 46 Maryhall St and there are seven young children. In a cheerful letter to his wife, Private Ewan states that as the only means of saving his life the doctor had to amputate the leg above the knee, and that he was as well as could be expected. He says he got a nasty smash, and there was not much chance from the first of saving the limb.

The diary also includes poetry written by Ewan while residing in hospital and ranges from his reflections during an air raid in London to amusing lines written about the nurses caring for him.

You can learn about more of our collections relating to WWI in previous blogs such as the 100th anniversary of the armistice; Dr Elsie Maud Inglis (1864-1917) and Scottish Women’s Hospitals; How to Pack for Active Service and Memories of World War I.

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