A nearly forgotten wartime journal turns into a modern Remembrance Day musical
By Cory Schachtel | November 10, 2022
Flight Sergeant Lavern “Vern” Turner was originally from Moose Jaw, Sask. In April, 1943, his plane was shot down while on a mission over Germany. He was the only survivor of seven total passengers and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner in Stalag Luft 1.
At the time, the Red Cross distributed journals to POWs, and Turner filled his with prose, poetry, song lyrics and drawings. When he was released at the end of the Second World War, Turner brought his journal home. When he passed away years later, his daughter came into possession of the journal, and eventually donated it to the Galloway Station Museum in Edson, after she moved there.
In 2017, song- and scriptwriter Laura Raboud was working on a project connected to the museum. A museum worker showed Raboud the journal and she was so moved she brought the songs and poems to life in a workshopped, Fringe version of Vern’s Diary, which got the attention of EdMetro Chamber Choir Founder, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor David Garber, who paired Raboud with composer/arranger Tyson Kerr to create an expanded show.
“The original workshopped version was shorter, with just one actor and a band,” Garber explains. “This has two actors and three singers. There are more movements, [Kerr] added more arrangements, and there’s more development of the part of Vern, by the actor.”
It’s not so much a story, Garber says, as it is a collection of Turner’s wartime thoughts and experiences. “The words in the script are from his journal. There’s no commentary or narrative about Vern. All of the words that are spoken by the actors or sung by the singers or choir are things that are found within Verne’s journey.”
No one is sure what Vern Turner did after the war. But it appears that he didn’t pursue prose writing professionally, and despite his literary talent, it seems he never expected anyone to care.
[first entry in Vern’s diary]
This is a thing made of nothing And put into this form and left formless and thrown away