Thursday, November 24, 2016

War Above And Below

As mentioned yesterday, the special exhibit going on in the War Museum at the moment deals with the skies over Europe during the First World War. New tactics and strategies for a brand new technology were literally being invented at the spur of the moment by young pilots. Their stories are presented in a series of panels that are rather like graphic novel or comic strip formats, which provides a different way of telling the story. There are also artifacts on hand, such as this Sopwith plane.

One of the panel displays tells the story of the German ace otherwise known as the Red Baron. The last time I was in here, I looked it over, but didn't photograph it. There's controversy as to who it is who actually killed him- Australian infantry on the ground or a Canadian pilot he was caught in a duel with. Even though he was on the other side, Von Richthofen was an extraordinary man.

This is a Royal Navy Ensign flag carried by a Canadian pilot, Henry Wiser, when he landed at an Ottoman aerodrome on the Gallipoli peninsula, the first officer from the British empire to do so after the armistice.

There was also a chance to try on period items to see how you'd look. While my oversized head was too big for a leather pilot's helmet, two different pairs of goggles did fit. Yes, I look thoroughly disreputable.

The main exhibit space of the museum starts off with the earliest recorded signs of human conflict between First Nations peoples, and moves forward in time through wars that Canadians have been involved with to the current day.

This stetson hat is a relic of the South African War that straddled the 19th and 20th centuries. A Canadian named George Roberts placed it on an ant hill to draw out a Boer sniper. There's a hole you can make out at the top that shows the skill of the shooter. The cannon is also from that war, a 12 pounder field gun used at the Battle of Lefliefontein.

This painting is one I've always liked, one of numerous examples spread throughout the Museum of war art. Norman Wilkinson painted this during the First World War, titled Canada's Response, depicting the convoys ferrying Canadian soldiers to the battlefields of Europe in 1914.

This is another work of art that some of you might remember, titled Canada's Golgotha, sculpted by artist Derwint Wood in 1918. It is based on an apocryphal rumour that during the Second Battle of Ypres, German soldiers had crucified a Canadian soldier on a barn door in Belgium.

The sculpture is part of a section dealing with propaganda, which also includes a panel on the murder of British nurse Edith Cavell (for whom a mountain in Canada is named), and a porthole and mementos related to the sinking of the Lusitania.

I finish today with this set. There are a series of such display cases in the First World War section dealing with the everyday life of a soldier- these are about good luck charms. Private John Steele's pocket bible and mirror saved his life when he was shot in the chest during the war. He gave them for luck to a brother-in-law, Private Wilbert Willan- who survived the war- but Steele himself died on the first day of the Battle Of Vimy Ridge, on April 9th, 1917.


  1. William I thought you looked very Steam Punk in the goggles. I think people at the time found the murder of Edith Cavell reprehensible because I came across a memorial to he in a Church in Llandindod Well(Wales), I thought at first she came from round there but realised she came from the other side of the country in Norfolk. People thought a lot of her

  2. I like the thought of trying on period items. You looked great in the goggles.


  3. Excelente reportagem fotográfica.
    Um abraço e continuação de uma boa semana.

  4. love the goggles ... giggles!! it is a super great look for ya. maybe you are meant to be a pilot ... guess they don't wear those any more though, right? that is old school. looks like a fun educational and entertaining visit. ( :

  5. A truly fascinating series...I'm ashamed to say I don't know a lot about WW1 so this was very interesting. You do look good in goggles. In fact, I giggled a little at your googles, er, goggles. :)

  6. Excellent history lesson William. Can we expect goggles in your next profile image update?
    Have yourself a wonderful day!

  7. These are vivid exhibits which take you back to that time. You must have spent lot of time observing and thinking about the battles.

  8. And all these years, I thought Snoopy took out the Red Baron....

  9. That's a great variety of war items.
    I always thought Snoopy shot the bloody Red Barron out of the sky: ;-)

  10. @Bill: the mountain they named after her out west is a beauty.

    @Janis: very steam punk!

    @Francesco: thank you.

    @Beth: they definitely don't wear those anymore.

    @Lowell: rare selfies from me, believe me.

    @Bill: I suppose I could change my profile image!

    @Red: I did spend a good deal of time in the museum.

    @Norma: Snoopy wishes he did!

    @Jan: the irony is that dying young did the Red Baron a great favour. If he'd lived, he'd have ended up a propaganda tool for the Nazis. This way his name went unstained.

  11. That hat made me think of Indiana Jones.

  12. I smiled at your photos with you wearing the goggles, William. :) Great post and I like the way you were able to give a history lesson here as well. I saw a TV program last night on National Geographic entitled "War Story." It was very powerful, involving Canadians rescuing prisoners in Holland in 1945. Here is a link.

  13. Those are impressive goggles! (I actually typed googles and had to go back and correct it.)

  14. You weren't tempted to try the Stetson William 😊 love the paintings.. the Golgotha sculpture is beautifully sculpted but horrific in content.

  15. Fascinating tour, William. I hadn't heard the story about the Canadian soldier in Ypres - though I have been there (and Vimy) three times now. You look great in the goggles - a real fashion statement!

  16. @Sharon: I can see that.

    @Linda: I've seen that one, I believe.

    @Revrunner: they were, yes.

    @RedPat: I sometimes doubt we have it in us.

    @Catalyst: indeed.

    @Linda: that happens!

    @Grace: ah, but the Stetson was behind glass! I can just imagine... it would have been a horrific way to die.

    @Mike: it may or may not be true. Rumours get started, and you don't know the truth in war at times. Just the idea is horrific.

  17. All wars are a terrible waste but I think World War I really set a standard for senseless loss.

    1. A whole generation dead or damaged, because generals spent too many years throwing men at enemy positions and watching them get cut down. It wasn't until the end when they realized how to break the stalemate. The numbers of dead of the Second World War are higher, but in many ways, the First World War was killing in more of an intense way.

  18. I really like how you explain the photo above the photos, instead of having us scroll down and up!

    The art is really telling, as you say propaganda.
    It wasn't until the 2nd that they had photographers in. Then there are the embedded photographers now. Even worse, graphically.

    1. I tend to prefer to write text above, that's just my way of composing a post.