Monday, November 19, 2018

An End Of A War

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.


  1. Thank heavens for the camera William. The amazing images captured here and last post show show much more than words alone what the men and women had to endure in the first and second world wars. I loved the one here of the Canadian soldiers mixing with civilians on Armistice Day, what a day that must have been ✨

  2. Hello William!
    I learned so much for the Canadian history today about the WW1!
    I really enjoyed reading your post and seeing all those beautiful pictures of the Canadian troops in Germany!
    Have a great week!

  3. Can you imagine the celebration in Armistice day and the relief that you were not going to die.

  4. What a thorough presenation. So informative about the war. I can't believe they still exist over 100 years later. Glad the women were painted in that last photo.


  5. ...the end of the war to end all wars. Sadly not.

  6. I know I am not guilty, but it does make me feel... "hurt" to be a person of a land that had done it twice.
    How could that have happened, I´ll never understand.
    Yes, when you return after so many years it must feel like coming to a new place in some places.
    Less dramatic, thankfully, when I visit my brother... I hardly know a person and sometimes wonder, what was in here when I still lived there? And sometimes remember stupid things like "this store had blue tiles".
    And, well, haven´t those women proven they can do a man´s job? Here men usually get more money for the same job still.

  7. Hello, the end of this war had to be a happier time. Sad thing is all the ones who did not come home. Great post and photos. Thanks for sharing. Happy Monday, enjoy your day! Have a great new week!

  8. There were quite a lot of Canadians who came for the 11th of November celebrations to Belgium !

  9. @Grace: that photo stood out to me too.

    @Dimi: thank you!

    @Joan: indeed- as well as the sobering reality that so many of your friends had died.

    @Janis: it is quite a painting. I can't remember seeing it before.

    @Tom: alas, it was not.

    @Francisco: thank you.

    @Iris: the great irony of history is that if the winning powers had approached the Treaty of Versailles in terms of solving the problems once and for all, there never would have been a Second World War. Instead they chose punishment and humiliation for the losing side, and we see what that got the world.

    @Eileen: thank you.

    @Gattina: I would love to visit Mons someday.

  10. What a wonderful memorial to that time in Canada's history. I learned so much and feel privileged to have been taken along through your pictures and text. Thank you so much.

  11. I like the picture of the women at work in a factory. I have seen a lot of this kind of pictures made in facturies in the USA. Both the First and the Second worldwar couldn't have been ended without the women, I think.

  12. i do agree with my fave being the ladies working hard in the factory. would <3 a copy of that one. way cool!! go ladies!! ( ;

  13. Currie's story is inspiring and sad. I do like that last painting of the women in the factory and it has been interesting learning of the Canadian efforts in WWI.

  14. Fortunately, i was a few years too young for WWII and the same for the Korean War. I entered the Navy just after the Korean "police action" shut down. And when Vietnam came along, I was already married with children and in an occupation which was exempt from the draft. I did apply to serve as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy and was granted the OK from the Church and the doctors, but the Navy decided my back was not battle-worthy and so I was not commissioned. Thank goodness as that would have put me in the middle of the battle lines with the U.S. Marine Corps and I probably wouldn't have survived! I've talked with many battle-weary vets and their stories are very similar...they're taught to kill without remorse and then they come home to a totally different environment and it tears them up. Other stories I've heard were from men who continued to fight even after the war was over and it blew their minds to see buddies blown to bits AFTER the war. That happened in WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Insanity.

  15. The end of the war meant a strange feeling of loss of stress. Great images of the end of the war.

  16. One can only imagine the emotions on Armistice Day. This has been a great series, William.

  17. Armistice Day must have been an incredible feeling for the people and the soldiers. A fanastic series you presented, William. Thanks!

  18. History depicted so well ~ ^_^

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  19. @DJan: you're welcome.

    @Jan: quite true.

    @Beth: the story of women involved in the war effort takes many different paths.

    @Jeanie: I've enjoyed showing it.

    @Lowell: shell shock, PTSD, call it what you want, but it left scars.

    @Red: that is true.

    @RedPat: thank you.

    @Marie: thanks!

    @Bill: It would have been.

    @Carol: I certainly agree.

  20. Thank you for the history lesson, William.

  21. These are very interesting posts, thanks William!

  22. Ironically, war provides opportunities for people on the margins to work. I don't know if it was true in World War I but blacks in the U.S. often found work that wasn't otherwise available, though they still faced barriers and prejudice. And women were sent home as soon as the men came back, despite many still needing the support.

  23. Happy for freedom but sad for the lost lives.