As he crossed the battlefields of France in 1915 and 1916, George Stephen Cantlie, a colonel in the 42nd Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada, picked flowers and sent them with simple notes to his baby daughter Celia in Montreal.
Almost a century later, those handwritten letters and flowers emerged in a red satin-covered box still in their original envelopes, and now form the basis of a unique touring exhibition, which opened last week at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
“Dear Wee Celia,” says one bearing pressed daisies and dated At the Front, 28.6.16. “From the trenches and shell holes with much love from Daddy.”
Another, written on field message paper, imparts “much love” with pressed poppies picked “At the Front, Flanders, 1916.”
Cantlie wrote two letters nightly—one to...