A Boy from Botwood

Pte. A.W. Manuel, Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 1914–1919

Reviewed by Kaitlin Vitt

Posted January 22, 2019

Private Arthur W. Manuel, who joined the Newfoundland Regiment in 1914, didn’t share many details with his family about his experience during the First World War. But in 2011, nearly thirty years after Manuel’s death, his grandson found an unmarked shoebox among family belongings.

The box contained four hundred pages of transcriptions and sixty hours of recordings about the Great War — which became the raw material for A Boy from Botwood. The book shares Manuel’s first-hand account of the First World War, including his experiences of major battles and his remarkably detailed account of his time as a prisoner of war.

In 1980, at age eighty-four, Manuel recorded himself describing the war and hired a stenographer to transcribe his words. Bryan Davies, a writer and historian, and Andrew Traficante, a high school teacher, fact-checked, compiled, and edited Manuel’s war stories. In A Boy from Botwood, Davies and Traficante also contribute texts that clarify and summarize the events Manuel described in the original transcripts.

Manuel is a strong storyteller and provides vivid details that bring the reader with him during his time in the trenches and as a prisoner of war, and then alongside him and his dictation machine as he revisits his former life.

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This article originally appeared in the February-March 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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