In an attempt to understand the motivations that drive soldiers in war, historians often seek to capture the experience of an individual soldier through his letters, diaries and other personal accounts. But what of the artifacts that are left behind? The personal effects that arrive home to a family after a soldier’s death, neatly labeled and wrapped in yellowed paper. These also have a story to tell. Lance Corporal Spratlin, from Toronto, was killed during the Battle of Amiens in 1918. Today his remains lie in the Toronto Cemetery in France, but following his death one of his most treasured possessions was returned to his family—a small pocket-sized Bible. The condition of the Bible alone suggests something about the man who owned it. A gift from his daughter before he left for war, the Bible is worn, the leather is soft, the pages are so curled they stick together and the words New Testament are faded almost beyond recognition. To this day, 90 years after it was issued, the Bible is permanently bowed, an indication of its place in a soldier’s breast pocket. It is inside the back cover that we gain a clear insight into how a man endures the horrors of war. Penned in Spratlin’s clear, unmistakable handwriting are references to many biblical passages, 11 of them with a corresponding facet of war beside it.
Fowler, Michelle "Faith, Hope and Love: The Wartime Motivations of Lance Corporal Frederick Spratlin, MM and Bar, 3rd Battalion, CEF." Canadian Military History 15, 1 (2006)