Thursday, July 19, 2018

Medak And Medusa

The Canadian War Museum's conclusion of the Cold War leads into other more recent events. First of these to be examined is Desert Storm. Canadian forces were part of the international coalition that rose up after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, with Navy and Air Force elements involved. Three paintings are featured among the exhibits, each by Ted Zuber, whose Korean War work I showed you yesterday. Replenishment At Sea- Gulf War is the first, and depicts a Canadian destroyer, Terra Nova, after receiving supplies from another Canadian ship, Protecteur.

Loaders shows Canadian women serving in theatre during the war, preparing to arm a fighter jet at the Canadian base of operations in Qatar.

Night Run depicts soldiers patrolling their base during the operations in the Gulf. While Navy and Air Force participated actively in the coalition efforts, it was soldiers in armoured vehicles like this guarding the operating bases in theatre.

The Nineties moved on, and Canadians were involved in peacekeeping operations on behalf of the UN that turned out to be anything but. The Rwandan civil war exploded into full fury while the world ignored it. Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian career soldier, was the general in command of the outmanned peacekeeping mission, and ultimately could do nothing but bear witness to slaughter while the world turned away (his book, Shake Hands With The Devil, is a haunting account of what happened). It has had a lasting effect on him personally, as well as those under his command. There are several displays and artifacts here about Rwanda, but this panel caught my eye because it offers more of a sense of hope- child soldiers who have moved away from the madness, with the general among them.

Yugoslavia was another powderkeg in the 90s, and Canadians were on the ground during the conflicts that ripped that former nation to shreds. Firefight In The Medak Pocket was originally painted (and reproduced here on the wall) by artist Katherine Taylor, who accompanied Canadian troops into Croatia. Canadian and French units came into the village of Medak to enforce a ceasefire agreement and came under attack from Croatian forces. Over the next fifteen hours they held their ground and exchanged fire until the Croatian forces were driven back.

9/11 of course finds its way into the story- a section of airplane fuselage recovered from the World Trade Centre is displayed here. After that attack, the Canadian military deployed into Afghanistan.

The front of this G-Wagen was destroyed by an IED planted by Afghan insurgents during Canadian operations in that country. Protective armour saved the soldiers and one journalist inside. The accompanying panel features a photograph of one of them done after the incident.

War: Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan was painted by Douglas Laing in 2009, depicting part of Operation Medusa. It's a personal painting, as the artist's son took part in the 2006 battle.

This stained glass window was made by artist Theo Lubbers, a Dutch citizen who immigrated to Canada after the Second World War. For years it was found at the Dutch consulate in Montreal. Now it resides here, in the Legion Hall of Honour, where a number of different items related to commemoration are placed.

The path leads on, down to Regeneration Hall, where a series of casts are placed. Walter Allward designed the massive Vimy Memorial in France at Vimy Ridge, site of a major World War One victory for Canadians. The Memorial is adorned with sculpted allegorical figures. These casts are his originals, larger than human, but smaller than the final sculptures on the Memorial. They have a permanent place in the museum.

Regeneration Hall leads out into Lebreton Gallery, where military vehicles and equipment from multiple nations and multiple eras are put on display. That happens to include the round containers you see at the heart of this shot. They're a legacy of the Second World War, a weather station called Kurt. It was placed by German sailors at the north edges of Labrador, transmitting weather data back to the German navy for a few days until it went offline. It was forgotten for decades after the war; any passerby in the remote region might have seen the markings that were made to look as if it was Canadian government issued and just taken it at face value. A German researcher in the 1980s looking through records found its existence and sent on word to Canadian authorities. Now Kurt is at home here.

The multitude of vehicles includes that Canadian fighter jet mounted overhead, and Lebreton Gallery is always a busy spot, especially so on Canada Day.

I finish with this large mural, one of several mounted on a wall overlooking the way out. The Taking Of Vimy Ridge, Easter Monday 1917 is by Richard Jack, depicting the technology behind the Canadian victory of the First World War battle. Tomorrow we'll move onto another museum.


  1. And the history continues. I don't like war museums, they are so depressive ! Just like the News on TV !

  2. Nice stained glass window! Have a great day!

  3. So much to see William! The Vimy Memorial in France is unbelievably beautiful, fascinating to see the original sculptures here ✨

  4. ...I never thought of war as a subject for art until recently.

  5. War is never pretty, but the art does help document.


  6. These works have very high standard. When is enough enough? The national war museum of ours is to be expanded. I reckon we should call a halt.

  7. @Gattina: I think it helps to learn, so we don't make the same mistakes.

    @Nancy: thank you.

    @Grace: I'd love to see the Vimy Memorial someday.

    @Francisco: thank you.

    @Tom: war art has been quite common for a long time.

    @Janis: it does indeed.

    @Julia: the question is can we learn. I'm not sure sometimes.

    1. I don't know about your side of the border, but our side hasn't learned anything. If we had, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now.

  8. The museum is very informative. Thank you for taking me there.

  9. The books by retired General Roméo Dallaire helped me understand the cost of peacekeepng!

  10. Seems there is always a war somewhere :(

  11. This is depressing to see the same types of horrors repeated.

  12. I dislike war, but would like to see the museum. I had an uncle killed in Normandy during WWII. Perhaps that's why I'm interested to learn more. He made it inland from the beach massacre, but was killed the following day. Sad I didn't get to know him.

  13. I went back and took a second look at these photos. for the size of us we've spent much time on military activity. This only covers time from the second world war on.

  14. The painting impressed me as did the window.
    Just looking at the piece of the 9/11 piece and the truck destroyed by the bomb made me tear up.

    cheers, parsnip

  15. @DJan: you're welcome.

    @Marie: his experience has left him permanently marked by it.

    @Sandi: indeed.

    @Janey: one or another.

    @RedPat: especially given the current circumstances.

    @Betty: my parents were from the Netherlands, children during the Second World War. The lives of countless people were saved because young men stepped up and risked their own lives to put an end to the greatest evil this planet has ever produced. I'm always mindful of that.

    @Red: the country has certainly punched above its weight in more than one way over the years.

    @Parsnip: small items such as that one can sometimes have the strongest effect.

  16. What an interesting exhibition.

  17. The war museum will have more exhibition to add going forward for sure :-(

  18. Canadians GET it! Decades of faux news and lies have muddled the american mind it seems

  19. As has been said before--"War is Hell:.

  20. Interesting exhibition but depressing to see it repeated time after time.

  21. @Norma: we try to learn, anyway. Not that we don't have some idiots on this side of the border, because we do.

    @Sharon: unfortunately so.

    @Lady Fi: it is.

    @Tamago: yes, every once in awhile something gets tweaked. This particular area is relatively new.

    @Cloudia: I think this museum reflects the Canadian mindset of commemorating, as opposed to celebrating. I think it's the right mindset when it comes to military history.

    @MB: it is.

    @Bill: true.

  22. It is all very interesting William, thank you for sharing. Very moving.

  23. The Canadian collaborations at war make it all the more depressing that there's a person at the U.S. helm that is compelled to insult and cast away all our allies.

  24. I believe it important to document the past. My husband visited this museum one day when he was alone in the city. We talked about a lot of things, in my classroom, around Remembrance Day.
    I don't think I will ever read Shaking Hands With the Devil. Horrible things done to people, and I just cannot imagine. Some days I have to turn off the news.

  25. Wow. Terrific museum. I'm so sorry that our president seems to downplay the importance of all things Canadian to our US and the world...

  26. very cool. i enjoy history. to see how we go where we are today ... come from ...
    ( ;

  27. It looks like we've never learned to live in peace. Maybe war is in our nature... I just thought about that and it made me sad.

  28. @Denise: you're welcome.

    @Kay: not for much longer, I hope.

    @Jennifer: it was a powerful book.

    @Jeanie: he's a horrible excuse for a person.

    @Beth: so do I.

    @Klara: that's true.