Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Cost Of Victory

Every once in awhile, you have to look up in this museum. A biplane is positioned overhead in an area dealing with the critical battle of Vimy Ridge, a Canadian victory in the First World War.


Nearby stands another cannon of the time.


The full horrors of the War are depicted most effectively a bit further on, in a portion dealing with the battle of Passchendaele, a clash that was typical of fighting on the Western Front. The land was pounded into mud, with weapons, equipment, and even the bodies of men buried deep in the muck. Photographs of the area show the sheer totality of the damage to the landscape. And this display allows the visitor to get a sense of the conditions faced by soldiers at the time. It's little wonder that so many came back shell shocked, another subject dealt with close to this display.


A transport vehicle of the time. As the war went on, as more and more men died under the orders of officers using outdated tactics against new technologies, a stalemate ensued. It would finally be broken by the Hundred Days, in which combined arms fighting would prove to be decisive.


Still, the end of the war didn't solve the problems that had started it. Millions had died, and millions more were wounded or emotionally scarred. The map of the world was radically reorganized, but the issues that had led to the Great War remained, along with new scars that twenty years later would lead to an even more  terrible war. Here at the end of the World War One section, there is a stained glass window, something very typical of families of dead soldiers to have done, placed in churches, for instance. 


22 comments:

  1. I'm not sure that WWII in itself (as war) was more terrible than WWI... When you are in the East of France, in some places the earth still bears the scars of WWI, a whole century afterwards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tend to think in numbers, so the higher death toll, not to mention the added factor of the Holocaust. In terms of intensity of fighting, though, the Western Front particularly in the First World War seemed to be an endless hell on earth without a letup, something that was different in the Second World War, where we saw that sort of thing here and there, like Stalingrad or the islands in the Pacific, but there were times when it wasn't like that. I remember watching a documentary about areas in France and Belgium where there are still worries about mines and explosives decades after 1914-1918.

      Delete
  2. I find it interesting to visit war museums in different countries to see different national views. The one in Paris at Les Invalides for example shows of course the wars from a French point of view. It is interesting to see that different elements are either highlighted or marginalized differently than what I was taught growing up in the States. (Quelle surprise.) The unvarying thing in common however are the horrors of combat. It looks like the Ottawa museum is no exception to this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ours tries to strike a balance in various eras, though I've noticed in the WWII section that the lion's share of attention leans towards the European theatre. Perhaps because Canadians were more involved there than in the Pacific theatre.

      Delete
  3. i really like the stained glass...this is a nice museum

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am always drawn to stained glass windows.

      Delete
  4. Wars are so brutal that one wonders what possesses mankind to continue this madness?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The great quandary. We are capable of a species of such brutality... but at the same time, when we put our minds to it, we can accomplish wonderful things.

      Delete
  5. To think of my friends fighting in such a thing if it was to happen today really drives home the horrors of war, William.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I often think the same. For me, the museum strikes home personally in the same way that November 11th does, because had it not been for the liberation of the Netherlands, starvation might have led to the deaths of at least one parent, and I wouldn't exist.

      Delete
  6. Another interesting post. Beautiful stained glass window.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see a lot of them in church windows. There's one in a church across from the Supreme Court here with a Galahad theme that I have to photograph sometime.

      Delete
  7. The stained glass window here is a winner. There is a Ph.D. thesis to be written about the futility of wars to fix anything. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the only war I can think of that might have fixed anything was WWII, ending Hitler's craziness, but it in turn resulted in the partition of Germany and the creation of divisions along the lines of Eastern and Western Europe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember an American vet saying that there are no good wars, but there are nessecary wars, because the alternative, doing nothing, will invite something much worse. World War Two certainly resolved a good deal of things that never got resolved by World War One, though it set the stage for a half century of tensions afterwards. The same sort of thing with Desert Storm- while it's justifiable and a masterpiece of how to conduct a war, it did end up having some unintended consequences, among them enraging Osama bin Laden.

      Delete
  8. Looks like a really amazing museum, though such a sad topic!

    ReplyDelete
  9. War museums make me wonder why humans think that beating another country down will solve anything. We really need to work at creating peaceful solutions. Just saying.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Big applause for the museum's curator. It's not often one sees such a focus on WWI. If there's a lifetime trip one should make, I think it's to Verdun. Photographs of the monument/museum there don't do it justice. Over one million remains are in the charnel house below, with glimpses of the bones through lower windows as one walks around the monument. Then, we stayed at a French farmhouse that somewhat survived (later repaired) the nearby battle that was within a two-minute walk. Photographs on trees showed the devastation. But it was the still-visible trenches between armies, so incredibly close, that brought home the enormity of WWI. How anyone survived boggled the mind.

    ReplyDelete