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Mapping Harry Colebourn

Sally Wilson, Web Services Librarian, Ryerson University Library & Archives

During WWI Harry Colebourn kept a series of pocket diaries in which he made brief notes about his daily activities. Although the diaries contain few details about these activities or his thoughts, they do include names of the places where he was based and many of the places that he visited while carrying out his duties as a veterinarian for the Canadian forces. This information gives us the raw data that can be used to map his movements during 1914-1918.

Diary Entry that reads: Leave Barlin for Villers-Au-Bois with Dixon.  Lunch Bouvigny return Villers-au-B. 6 P.M.

Entry from Harry Colebourn's diary, September 14. 1917.

Most pages in Colebourn’s diaries are headed with the name of the place where he was staying. This gives us a clear picture of where he was each night. Although he does not mention specific locations such as Canadian troop positions or the coordinates of the Transport Lines he visits daily, he does record towns and landmarks he visited outside his usual daily activities. He records day-trips, events, leaves taken and places passed en route while he was on leave or being moved with the troops. Geographic coordinates have been determined at a town level for most of the places named in Colebourn’s diaries and, in the few cases where he refers to a specific landmark such as the Imperial Hotel in London, precise coordinates are known.

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