Diary Kid


197 pages
ISBN 0-7780-1117-8
DDC 940.4'81





Edited by Grace Keenan Prince
Reviewed by Tim Cook

Tim Cook is the transport archivist at the Government Archives and
Records Disposition Division, National Archives of Canada, and the
author of No Place to Run: The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the
First World War.


To understand the “face of battle,” one should turn to the letters
and diaries of soldiers who served at the sharp end of war. John Patrick
Teahan was but one of the more than 60,000 Canadians killed in the Great
War; yet, he left behind a legacy of reflection, insight, and memory in
dozens of diaries that have been preserved by his family.

Tightly edited by his niece, Grace Keenan Prince, Corporal Teahan’s
diaries provide insight into the fascinating but often neglected view of
army life in Canada and England in 1914 and 1915. His description of the
training camps of Canada and England (especially the mud-saturated
fields of Salisbury Plain, where the 1st Canadian Division trained in
the winter of 1914) is among the best in print. Through his piercing and
sometimes caustic observations on army life, his mates, and his
superiors, we are given a fresh perspective on the motivations, urges,
and actions of the generation of men who joined to fight for King and
Country. Teahan’s service in the field (the “Zone of Death,” as he
described it) with the Royal Canadian Dragoons, conveys the danger and
invidious nature of the random killing. Sadly, as some of the diaries
were lost while being sent back to Canada and with Teahan’s death in
battle during the attritional fighting on the Somme, his story ends in

Teahan’s published accounts are not the definitive work in this
genre, and one should still first turn to the Diary of Private Fraser or
The Letters of Agar Adamson. Nevertheless, Diary Kid is a powerful piece
of first-hand observation not only battle conditions but also of the
more personal side of fighting.


Teahan, John Patrick., “Diary Kid,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/29492.