General Approach

Armed Service Experience:

Talk about your service overall, highlighting important events. Stick to a chronological sequence. As you tell what happened, you might want to describe food, accommodation and clothing, equipment and training. You might want to comment upon officers, NCOs, politicians. In summing up you might write or speak about post service treatment.

Record your vital statistics:

  • Name
  • Birth date (year and place)
  • Job before enlisting
  • Service number
  • Rank
  • Unit
  • Year joined
  • Year discharged
  • Postings or drafts and theatres in which you served
  • Heritage (anything that stands out). For example: My maternal grand parents emigrated from Scotland to Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1908.

Add anything special: My grandfather Alexander Sutherland went to work in the steel plant at Sydney but enlisted in the Cape Breton Highlanders in 1916, going to France a year later.

More Detailed Approach

The outline below is intended for two kinds of approaches. It is for those who would like to keep their story general but want a certain amount of detail. It is also for those who would like to go through an event step-by-step. Regardless of your purpose, keep the time sequence clear. If an incident doesn't fit, then drop it or include it as a sidebar, a related story on its own.

The single event:

Korean War: 1950 1953

Particular date: October 23, 1952

Particular action or event: Chinese overrun 1RCR on Hill 355

Give readers some references:

Hill 355 was on the central section of the front just a few miles north of the 38th Parallel. It was popularly known as Little Gibraltar because of its shape.

Telling the story:

  1. Setting the scene. What was your job and training? I was Bren gunner or first IC on .30 cal. I had just spent four weeks at Battle School in Japan. How many other people are involved in the story? Can you name some of them? What were you thinking at the time?
  2. List and describe events leading up to the critical time. What were things like just before the action or event occurred? It was 1700 hours and the Chinese were shelling more heavily than usual.
  3. When feasible, write or speak in terms of sounds, sights, feeling (warm or cold), taste (food), smells and intuition. Flares began popping over head, lighting up noman's-land. I could feel something was going to happen tonight.
  4. Time. What time did the action begin? The bombardment started at 1740 hours. Tell what happened in order. You might want to mention anyone who did something memorable. We crouched inside the bunker and Wellington began saying Hail Marys.
  5. Describe action to the very end.
  6. Write the conclusion. What was the casualty count? Or how did the event affect you? You might want to sum up. In retrospect, what do you remember most about the event? How has life been since?

Remember, the detail only you have will make your story unique.