The Virtue Diary
The centenary of the start of the First World War is being commemorated this week, and it is appropriate to highlight a related archival holding: the 1918 Virtue Diary.
During the First World War, a young local lawyer, Abner Gladstone Virtue, became an officer in the 61st Battery Canadian Field Artillery, established on April 3, 1916 in Lethbridge. Overseas he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and received the Military Cross for keeping up with the need for ammunition during a tense onslaught. He wrote almost daily in a little German-made diary while on duty in 1918.
Virtue was a devoted writer, usually only writing little fragments of script, capturing the essence of his day in only a few words. “Took 1,700 shells up to the guns today.” “Ugh.” “Got notice going on leave. Slept in a real bed for the first time in a year.” “Wordy war between Steele and Maj. Greene, the latter winning.”
Soon after his return from active duty A.G. Virtue got married and resumed his career in law in Lethbridge. He was among the first members named to the board of directors of the YMCA, and was instrumental in establishing the Lethbridge Municipal Hospital. Virtue passed away August 3, 1960 at age 69 following a lengthy illness. He was head and senior partner in the firm of Virtue, Russell, Morgan and Virtue at the time of his death.
In March 2013, the Galt acquired A.G. Virtue’s WWI diary. It had somehow become part of a private Canadian military collection. The collector’s son sold it to The Command Post of Militaria & Antiques in Victoria, British Columbia following his father’s death. The Command Post then put it up for sale on eBay, and it was brought to the attention of the Galt Archivist, who placed a successful bid.
To get a first-hand glimpse into the war experience, stop in to the Archives to have a look at the diary – it has been transcribed by a volunteer for easier reading. The Archives is open Monday-Friday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, and until 9:00 pm Thursdays. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.