Sunday, December 5, 2021

Finding And Honouring Lost Airmen

 Following the end of the Second World War, the family of Will Kyle, whose flight disappeared somewhere over Burma on June 21st 1945, received a letter marking him as missing in action and presumed dead.

Decades later the mystery of that lost flight began to come to light when a hunter in what is now Myanmar found the wreckage of the plane deep in the jungle. Several years later that was brought forward to Canadian authorities.

Some of the remnants recovered from the wreckage: a lens, what's left of a fork and cup, a fishing lure, and a mess tin.

These are the other members of that flight.

And some of the wreckage of that plane is preserved here, encased in the walls and floor of the exhibit. The small pieces of wreckage testify to the violence of the crash and half a century in a jungle environment.

The remains of the crew were recovered and interred at a Commonwealth war cemetery in Myanmar. Video footage of the recovery and the ceremony is played, and a ceremonial flag is draped as part of the exhibit. The combination is poignant. Brothers in arms, found at last.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Privation In The Hands Of The Enemy

 Canadian civilians were among those interred by the Japanese as they seized territories early in the Pacific theatre portion of the war. Hermena Oppen and her husband Reg were among them, taken in the fall of Hong Kong.

Ethel Mulvany was another, imprisoned after the fall of Singapore.

Two personal items are displayed from her: a culinary memoir and her personal bible.

Gordon Hercus had a memorable end to the war, part of a flight that carried peace papers to a Japanese general in Singapore who refused to believe the war was over. 

Friday, December 3, 2021

From One Combat Theatre To Another

 Milton DeMeuleneare returned home from the war, having had served as a mechanic for the army, and lived out a long life afterwards.

Canadians fought in the Pacific theatre as well. This is a Japanese anti-aircraft gun.

One of the mysteries of the war was the fate of a Canadian flight on a supply run over southeast Asia late in the war. Will Kyle was a member of the crew, and their fate would remain unknown for nearly half a century.

Faces of the past, looking back at us through time.

An initial letter to the Kyle family after the disappearance of his flight.

Another story of the war. Leonard Birchall was a squadron leader assigned in present day Sri Lanka on patrol and spotted a Japanese fleet on approach. Before getting shot down he was able to send out a warning message.

The Battle of Hong Kong involved Canadians, launched in the same few hours as the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese forces attacked the city, where Canadians were garrisoned. Many of the survivors were taken prisoners.

Among the civilians who escaped was Canadian Bill Chong, who was in the area managing his father's estate. He would serve as a spy for the Allies afterwards, and was decorated for it.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Service, Art, And The Capacity For Evil

Lotta Hitschmanova was an anti-Nazi journalist who fled Europe for Canada in 1942, becoming a citizen and spending the rest of her working life as a humanitarian, decorated for her work by many countries along the way. 

Flight Lieutenant Aba Bayefsky worked as a war artist and documented survivors at Bergen-Belsen. Some of his work was displayed, but I could not photograph it. His quote speaks to what he saw, and certainly rings true.

Another artist who served was Molly Lamb, serving in the Canadian Women's Army Corps. This is CWACs On Leave In Amsterdam.

Here we have her painting Signal Corps Teletypists On Night Duty, Apeldoorn, painted in 1945.

And this is Private Virginia Stansell Singing, Tivoli Theatre, Apeldoorn, C Unit Canadian Army Shows.

One more of her works.

Another letter from nurse Winnie Burwash is displayed here.

Going home: the dream of those who had served in the war in Europe. Some went home early after victory. Others were heading to the Pacific. Others would spend a year or more in occupation duty.

One of the lucky early ones wrote these letters home to his future wife. We'll look at him tomorrow.