The last weeks of the First World War for the Allies meant pushing German forces back and liberating towns and villages that had been occupied since the beginning of the war. This was true for Canadians advancing towards Mons, which had symbolic importance for the British- they had fought there early in the war, and wanted it freed from German hands.
While talk of an armistice made the rounds across the lines, the fact was that until it was actually happening, the war would continue. Arthur Currie was ordered to send the Canadians to retake Mons. His intent was to encircle the town and take it while minimizing damage. The Canadians were able to take the city by the morning of November 11th.
A video display played out across these screens- a mix of archive footage and re-enactments.
The armistice ending the First World War came into effect at eleven in the morning- and the people of Mons were free, captured in this photograph that mixes the civilians and the Canadian soldiers in the streets.
Canadian troops would spend time in an occupation status in Germany, waiting to be mustered home.
This large photograph features a gathering of returning vets at home in Ottawa after the war. The familiar blocks of Parliament are in the background (the Centre Block, not seen here, would have still been under construction after the 1916 fire that destroyed the first one). The building most prominent in this image is Russell House, a hotel that stood at roughly where the west flank of the War Memorial's grounds stands today. The hotel was demolished in 1928.
For the tenacious commanding Canadian general, the return home wasn't always peaceful. Arthur Currie was knighted, but would also face controversies- disputes with the politician Sam Hughes and a libel suit against a newspaper that was Hughes-friendly. He was named principal and vice chancellor at McGill University and died after a stroke in November 1933. His portrait and medals are part of the exhibit.
These photographs of men back home from war caught my attention, particularly the quote, which applies to those of all sides in the Great War. Four years of war, returning home? Everything would feel as if you were a stranger.
Outside the exhibit hall, and on my way to the permanent galleries, I photographed this painting in the main corridor. George Reid painted Women Operators in 1919. While husbands, sons, and brothers were overseas throughout the war, over 12 000 women took up the work of making shells in munition factories.