Friday, November 30, 2018

A Farewell To The War Museum

The collection in Lebreton Gallery contains a mix of items from each branch of the military, and across national lines. In the case of the first shot, these are navy mines.

This is the deck gun taken from a World War One era U-Boat. Submarines of the era used these in addition to their torpedo armaments, as torpedoes were in relatively short supply on board.

Earlier on in the series I showed you balcony views of the Gallery. Here we have a view from below the CF-101F Voodoo fighter jet that dominates the space. In use from 1961 for over twenty years, the jet was a high speed long range interceptor to identify and if required attack aircraft entering North American space.

For the above shot, I was standing by this vehicle, which was open at the back to allow for a look at the cramped interior. The BRM-1K is a Soviet armoured reconnaissance vehicle built to transport people, sensors, and communications gear. It was designed to shield its six occupants from nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. This particular one was being used in East Germany in the latter half of the 1980s.

Here we have a wider view of the Gallery and the mix of tanks and other vehicles.

This collective set happens to be another of my favourite artifacts in the Museum. Kurt is the name of this automated weather station, containing a set of instruments developed by the German navy during the Second World War and placed in various spots around the North Atlantic to give reports of weather forecasts. A U-Boat placed Kurt in the far north stretches of Labrador and it began transmitting weather reports for sometime before its power gave out. Its markings make it look as if it was something placed by the Canadian government, which might explain, along with its remote location, why it went undiscovered for so many years. Only the odd hunter might have come across it. A German researcher in the late 1970s, going through navy records, found out about it and passed the word along.

A booklet is on the information panel with a series of photographs. Here it's open to how Kurt looked in 1981 at the site itself- truly a remote place. Who knows how long it might have stayed unnoticed if not for the work of a researcher going through old records?

I headed up out of Lebreton Gallery. I came into the Memorial Chamber, the other of two focal points in the architecture of the Museum. This room contains a reflecting pool and one artifact- the original tombstone of the Unknown Soldier. When that Canadian soldier was repatriated from a cemetery near Vimy Ridge, the tombstone came along, with a second one replacing it at the cemetery and explaining the significance of the grave. That tombstone has been placed here, while his coffin rests at the War Memorial. The architect designed and situated the room so that at eleven in the morning on November 11th, sunlight will illuminate this tombstone, coming through a window on the opposite wall. When I was in here a Museum staffer was giving a talk to a group of people; the shadows you see indicate their presence. On Remembrance Day, many people leave a poppy here.

My final perspective of this visit is a loan to the War Museum, as the display panel indicates it is owned by the Mons Memorial Museum. It is situated by where one enters and leaves the exhibit area. The Mons Gun is one of two field artillery guns presented by Canadian soldiers to the citizens of Mons, Belgium, in 1919. This 18 pounder was used by the 39th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery during the Hundred Days campaign ending the First World War, and is thought to be the last Canadian gun fired before the Armistice. It and its partner were given to the people of Mons and Belgium in friendship. To commemorate the centennial of the Armistice, Mons has brought this one back to Canada for the occasion.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Within Regeneration Hall

The passageway noted in yesterday's post leads to Regeneration Hall, one of two architectural focal points of the War Museum. This is the large triangular spike rising up at the front of the museum as I showed it in my first post. From the upper balcony, one gets a fleeting glimpse of the Peace Tower through the window, a deliberate choice by the architect. Taking the stairs or the elevator to the lower floor brings the visitor down to a series of sculptures that occupy this space. The group gathered below were listening to one of the Museum staffers give a talk about these sculptures and the model of the memorial beside her. Passing by a large painting at the top of the stairs with the theme of sacrifice (you'll see it in a shot below), I descended the stairs.

In the aftermath of the First World War, it was determined to erect a large memorial in France at Vimy Ridge, the battle site where many Canadians gave their lives to achieve victory, a place that holds great meaning for the country. Sculptor Walter Allward created these maquettes as part of his proposal for the Vimy Memorial, and his was the selected choice. Allegorical figures adorn the Memorial at Vimy Ridge, larger than you see here- these maquettes are larger than life, but half-scale of those on the Memorial. They are men and women, both looking like something out of classical sculpture, but each conveying a tone of profound mourning. They are part of the Museum's collection, and most of them are placed in this area.

Another large painting stands on a wall close by. Unveiling Vimy Ridge Monument is a 1937 painting by Georges Bertin Scott. It depicts the 1936 opening of the Memorial. Dignitaries in the painting include King Edward VIII (perhaps the only painting in Ottawa of the short reign of the Duke of Windsor, as there's no portrait of him in Parliament that I know of) leading the way.

Coming out of Regeneration Hall leads into Lebreton Gallery, which is filled with military vehicles and equipment from multiple countries and across time. They include this one man German submarine from the Second World War.

This, for instance, is the RG-31 Nyala Armoured Personnel Carrier, which saw service during the Afghan War.

Two massive plaques occupy a wall in here. Eaton's was a department store chain in Canada (until the present day Eaton clan pretty much screwed up the business and it vanished into oblivion). These two plaques stood in the company's Toronto flagship store, commemorating the 578 employees who were killed while serving during both World Wars. Tomorrow I bring this series to a conclusion.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New Battles, Old Faces

Picking up where I left off, the Afghan War is documented in this section of the War Museum. This photograph of a Canadian soldier interacting with an Afghan child caught my eye.

For Canadians, the military mission in Afghanistan came to an end in 2014. Our military spent the final years training the Afghan security forces. The situation remains unresolved, as that country continues to deal with insurgency and instability.

This baton was relayed between Canadian Forces Base Trenton to Ottawa in 2014 and presented to Governor General David Johnston on the 4th of May by a succession of Afghan War veterans in a national commemoration. It contains the last Canadian flag flown in the Afghan mission, and is inscribed with Canadian symbols, including 161 maple leaves to represent the 161 Canadians killed in action during the war. 

Coming out of the permanent galleries, the path leads into the Royal Canadian Legion Hall Of Honour. This space features artifacts and panels about commemorations of war, and its centrepiece is the original maquette designed by Vernon March for his proposal for a war memorial of the Great War. Allegories of freedom and peace are at the top of the arch, while 22 figures from all branches in the First World War- soldiers, sailors, airmen, nurses, cavalry, and more- move through the arch. The proposal was accepted, and today the National War Memorial stands downtown. Looking at this model gives you a different perspective on it. A Museum guide was giving a talk to several visitors about it while I was here.

The path leads from this area towards Regeneration Hall. This is often used for different exhibitions of photographs or art. This year the Belgian embassy has marked the centennial of the end of the First World War by displaying a series of photographs here, most of them taken in the field, showing soldiers and labourers from around the world who went off to war. We think of the Great War as a white man's fight, but it wasn't exclusively so. Hundreds of thousands of men of different ethnicities from around the world took part in Allied efforts, and campaigns and battles were waged in the Pacific, Asia, and Africa as well as the European theatre.

Here we have Sikhs of the British Indian Army Corps outside a Flemish farmhouse at rest.

These are soldiers of the British West Indies Regiment sitting in the courtyard of a Flanders farm.

Madagascan and Senegalese tirailleurs (light infantry) and workers are seen in this shot taken at Roesbrugge-Haringe in Belgium in 1917.

Spahi is the term for a light cavalry regiment soldier from French colonies. In this case, Algerian spahis are playing music near the front.

This one caught my eye. Tirailleurs from North Africa are posing with a Belgian girl in Flanders in this shot.

Far from home: a New Zealand Maori by the name of William Marsters is in the midst of buying cakes from a Belgian vendor in this shot.

This shot features labourers from Fiji gathered in Stanley Park in Vancouver with an officer, posing before one of the big trees there. They were en route from Fiji to Europe at the time.

And this shot shows First Nations recruits and elders with a government representative in File Hills, Saskatchewan.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cold War And Conflict

While the Cold War carried on across the globe, the concept of troops for peacekeeping was developed as well. Later to become Prime Minister, Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in resolving the Suez Crisis as foreign minister at the time and proposing international soldiers as peacekeepers. Canadians have served in that capacity in multiple missions, and some of them, such as Cyprus, are examined in this area of the War Museum.

The Cold War was also an era of espionage between both sides, and that was true in Canada. A display case contains a pen gun, a last resort weapon for a spy, as well as a pistol that belonged to Michael Gregovitch, a Yugoslavian agent who defected and worked for MI-5 before immigrating to Canada in 1957.

Canada wisely stayed out of the Vietnam War. Yet it was certainly touched by the conflict. Protest marches against the war were held here, and other protests at events like Expo '67 in the case of the American pavilion, a moment that occupies the centre of these panels. Many young Americans, seeking to avoid the draft for many reasons, came north into Canada. Some stayed until amnesties for draft dodgers were issued. Others stayed permanently, settled down, raised families, and became Canadian citizens. Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the South Vietnamese girl whose image haunted the world (the shot itself is seen at the upper right) in a Pulitzer prize winning photograph taken after a napalm attack, ended up becoming a Canadian citizen.

Two very different uniforms stand here- the protective padding for an explosives operator and one of the standard Army uniform options for a woman. 

Aside from regular forces, the military has reserve units, and the C2 105mm Howitzer is standard equipment for such units. This particular Howitzer was retired from active use in the Canadian Forces in 1998 and now resides here.

Nearby is this Warsaw Pact tank. Note the photographs in the background- I'll show them tomorrow.

The dramatic events of the fall of 1989 brought an end to the Cold War. One of the legacies of that ending stands here, a section of the Berlin War. The Canadian government hosted a summit of foreign ministers in the aftermath of those months to shape the way forward for the two Germanys to reunite. This portion of the Wall was given to Canada as thanks, and resides here. Graffiti is on the side that faced West Berlin. There's enough room at the back to see the other side- completely blank of graffiti. Had you tried to approach that side in the bad old days of the Cold War, you'd have been cut down by gunfire.

The Canadian military took part in the international coalition that made up Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-91 in the Middle East, mostly in terms of air and naval assets. This sign was originally at their base of operations in Qatar, noting the distance to home towns of some of those who were serving there.

The fallout of the Cold War left Yugoslavia in particular upheaval as civil war broke out in the former republic during the 1990s. Canadian forces served as peacekeepers, but too often found themselves trading shots in the Balkans. Panels and artifacts of the time are found here. This display features a 1984 Olympic torch, a gift from a local family to a Canadian officer for his help. Major John Russell smuggled 298 people out of Sarajevo and out of harm's way in his capacity as military assistant to the UN. 

The Canadian military went to war in Afghanistan from 2001-2014, engaging the Taliban and other insurgents throughout the deployment. The Museum covers that era in detail, and I leave off today with these panels.