Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pushing Forward

The drive towards Cambrai had started with the Battle of Arras and led to the Battle Of The Canal du Nord, a breakthrough made by the Canadians, acting as the spearhead of the British First Army, on September 27th, 1918. Engineering crews were vital in enabling the combined arms assault that saw the Canadians breach the last defensive line before Cambrai and a major part of the Hindenburg Line.

The Battle of Cambrai as it unfolded ended with the Allies liberating the city on October 11th. Photographs of the battle and its aftermath were on the walls here.

This panel, accompanied by medals, tells of Captain John McGregor, a Victoria Cross winner who showed exceptional courage in the fights around Cambrai, and surviving the war.

In the heart of this space is a Vickers machine gun. These were operated by a crew of three, and proved to be vital in the Cambrai campaign in repelling German counter attacks.

With Cambrai liberated and the remnants of the German army falling back before the Allies across the line, the final stage of the war was next to be presented in this exhibit. Canadians moved into Belgium in the final month of the war, towards the city of Mons.

For today I leave off with this print by Paul Nash, part of the Museum's collection. Men Marching At Night is its title.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Arras To Cambrai

A reminder to members of City Daily Photo: the theme day for December is Joy.

The Battle of Arras followed Amiens, and here in this part of the exhibit, a life sized mock-up was set up with a Canadian soldier readying a grenade.

Across from him was a German pillbox, with a cut out in the side allowing visitors to look inside.

The wall nearby featured this quote and photograph- a stark reminder of the war: could you really trust someone who was surrendering to you, particularly given the way your fellow soldiers had been treated by their side?

Throughout this exhibit- and indeed throughout the permanent galleries of the Museum- panels can be found showing individuals of the period. Some of them are officers, others enlisted men. In this case it was a medical officer, Captain Frederick Banting, who served with his fellow Canadians throughout the Hundred Days. The doctor and his colleagues would discover insulin after the war.

Nurses served at the front, exposed to much the same dangers as the soldiers. This panel tells of Lillian Galbraith, and includes service medals.

Arras, like the other battles of the Hundred Days, continued to carry the momentum forward for the Allies, but it was a hard victory.

This painting was part of the exhibit, and is part of the museum's collection of war art. Frederick Varley painted German Prisoners after the war, depicting German soldiers in custody. As the war drove towards its close, demoralized soldiers were captured or gave themselves up to Allied soldiers. After the war, Varley would join the Canadian artists called The Group Of Seven.

This map gave the status quo for the Allies as late September 1918 fell over the front. 

For the Canadians, the next battle would be at Cambrai.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Last 100 Days

I went to the Canadian War Museum on Remembrance Day. As you can imagine, it was busy. The museum is west of the downtown core in the Lebreton Flats area, with the National Holocaust Monument and the Canadian Firefighters Memorial nearby. It has been in this location since 2005, when the museum's collection outgrew its former quarters. The building looks like a massive bunker or a bomber plane, fitting given its mandate.

The current temporary exhibit happening inside is Victory 1918: The Last 100 Days. It focuses on the activities of Canadian soldiers in France and Belgium during the last months of the First World War.

One of the first displays you see inside is this case containing a flag and the jacket and helmet of Arthur Currie, the resourceful Canadian general in command of our country's troops in Europe during much of the war. He was a tall, big man, something you see in the statue of him that stands downtown among the Valiants, and certainly repeated when you look at his uniform.

This panel starts things off, explaining the status quo in 1918 before the Hundred Days began, with the drive the various Allied nations would make against German lines. The exhibit focuses on the Canadians, but also places them in context with other Allied efforts as you go through.

For Canadian soldiers, the Hundred Days began at Amiens, France, on August 8th, fighting alongside British, Australian, and French troops. It was a date that Ludendorff, the German commanding general, would remember as 'the black day in the history of the German army in the history of this war'.

Period artifacts caught my eye.

They included this rum jug and a pocket watch belonging to a young Canadian private by the name of Thomas Cook, who survived Amiens and was still carrying the watch when he was wounded later in the month at Arras.

This also drew my attention. The First World War was the first time tanks were used in battle, and tank crews used leather helmets. This face mask was an addition to the helmets, protecting the eyes, nose, and mouth with goggles and chain mail.

The Battle Of Amiens ended with an Allied victory and kicked off the Hundred Days campaign that brought the war to an end. Combined arms assault- the concept of coordinating infantry, artillery, tank, and air attacks- would ultimately prove to be key in ending the war after four years of generals throwing masses of men at enemy positions for little or no gain. At the end of each battle section in this exhibit, statistics of the battle were displayed.

The next part of the exhibit concerned itself with the Battle of Arras. I'm leaving off today with this quote and display. Georges Vanier was a Quebecois major in the 22nd Batallion, the only all-French speaking infantry unit in the Canadian army at the time. On the 28th of August 1918, an exploding German shell cost him his right leg near the village of Cherisy. He won the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order for his courage and service throughout the war, and in 1959 he became the Governor General of Canada.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Memorial At Night

I went off to the Canadian War Museum after the national service, which we'll start looking at tomorrow, and returned to the downtown core afterwards. I reached the War Memorial around quarter after five in the evening, after the sun had already set. There were still a good number of people around the Memorial. This shot from the south features Parliament Hill's East Block off to the left (with a section of it lit up beneath scaffolding as part of the work going on here) and the Chateau Laurier at the right.

The Memorial dates to 1939, but at its base is a more recent addition, dating to 2000. The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier was placed here at the turn of the millennium. The body of an unknown Canadian soldier was selected from a cemetery near Vimy Ridge. The World War One battle was one of the watershed moments in Canadian history, and this soldier was selected to be repatriated back to Canada and placed here. The poppies and other items you see here happen each Remembrance Day, and started with the first Remembrance Day after the installment and dedication of the Tomb, a spontaneous act by the public that has since been embraced by the country as a whole.

This being the centennial year of the end of the Great War, the wreaths placed by several of the key dignitaries were different than usual. In 1919, wreaths of the time looked like this. The governor general, the Silver Cross Mother, and others placed these wreaths. In addition, another wreath was placed in commemoration of the First World War.

The rest of the wreaths, placed around the other sides of the Memorial, were of the kind I'm used to. Government ministries, various organizations, political parties, other levels of government, diplomatic missions, and private individuals placed wreaths here during and after the service.

Here we have a view of the National Arts Centre lit up across from the Memorial grounds. As I mentioned yesterday, for whatever reason the falling poppies showed up better in daylight on my camera than by night.

I paused to take a couple more shots of the Memorial and the Tomb.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Tribute To The Fallen

Centre Block on Parliament Hill had snow falling a couple of evenings before Remembrance Day, the evening I took this shot. During the nights leading up to and including Remembrance Day, projections of falling poppies are shone onto the surface of the building from dusk until late in the evening.

This was my first photograph taken on Remembrance Day. I was in the area of the War Memorial earlier than usual, and people were already starting to gather. I noted the glass lantern of the National Arts Centre, which has technology embedded into the glass to allow for the projection of images throughout the year. On Remembrance Day it was poppies falling, already in the morning. Tomorrow I'll show you this by night, but for whatever reason, the poppies seemed to come out better with the camera with this daytime shot.

The National War Memorial is across from the NAC, in the heart of what is called Confederation Square. Inaugurated in 1939 by King George VI a few months before the outset of the Second World War, it was first meant to honour veterans of the First World War. It has been rededicated to honour those who have fallen and those who have served in all Canadian conflicts and in service since then, and it is the site of the national service on November 11th. I took my usual spot for the occasion, on the traffic island on the closed Wellington Street, north of the Memorial grounds. The veterans gathered here beforehand, along with a mixed group of military pipers and drummers. The main body of active servicemen and women, as well as cadets, were off to the south of the Memorial before the service. The musicians led the veterans past onlookers.

The service is coordinated with the military, the government Veterans Affairs ministry, the Legion, and other organizations. An active military servicewoman was the MC this year, and prayers were offered by a military chaplain- in both cases done in English and French. Traditions include the playing of the Last Post, piper's laments, music by a children's choir and military bands, the placing of wreaths both by dignitaries including the governor general and the Silver Cross Mother (a tradition going back decades with a selected mother of a deceased serviceman) and by organizations and diplomatic groups. A 21 gun salute from field artillery set up on Parliament Hill and a flypass of fighter jets are also included, as are two minutes of silence at eleven in the morning. A benediction by a chaplain (in this case, an Ottawa area rabbi who has the right touch with these occasions) concludes the service. Then the march commences off the grounds, with the pipers and drummers leading the veterans past the governor general, whose duties include the status as a ceremonial commander in chief of the military. By this point in the morning, the sun was not being the photographer's friend.

Cadets from the Royal Military College in Kingston follow, with members of each service branch following them.

The marchers include the members of the Ceremonial Guard, the soldiers who are here during the summer conducting the changing of the guard ceremony on Parliament Hill each day. This time of year they're dressed for the weather in these dark coats.

The Mounties are included in the march, with a select number of them in the midst of it. After them come a number of younger cadets, of the sort who attend after school cadets programs. Many people came out for this year's event. Tomorrow I'll show you the Memorial by night when I came back for some final shots for the day.