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.


  1. They have a fine photo collection!

  2. Interesting exhibits. Many men sacrificed their lives fighting wars for other countries.

  3. The war memorial of the Great War sure is impressive.
    I didn´t know soldiers from those countries mentioned took part.

  4. Hello William.
    Another interesting post and informations and lots of history.
    Great exhibition and I learned some new things today.
    Thank you for sharing! Have a lovely day!

  5. ...the Afghanistan War, the war that never ends!

  6. You are becoming quite an expert in military history through this series. I'll bet you are learning a lot.


  7. Just been back to catch up William, excellent series but as a prominent persona pointed out 'war is hell' and it continues..

  8. Hello, wonderful exhibit and post. You will be an expert on the history of war. Have a happy day!

  9. The human cost from the Afghan war was high!

  10. We have been fighting the war in Afghanistan for a long time. Who knew it would be seventeen years, so far. It makes no sense to me.

  11. @Linda: they did!

    @Nancy: quite true.

    @Iris: it truly was a world war, with fighting in Asia and Africa as well.

    @Dimi: thank you.

    @Francisco: thanks!

    @Tom: unfortunately that's the way it seems.

    @Jan: they are. I was quite drawn to them.

    @Janis: I have. Military history is a specialty for me.

    @Grace: thank you.

    @Eileen: thanks!

    @Marie: it was.

    @Sandi: it was probably more justifiable than Iraq, but both ended up getting bogged down.

  12. It is a sad commentary on that war, that it is still going on, along with the one in Iraq. Thank you for this extensive tour through history.

  13. Thanks for the extensive series you have done William.

  14. Those old photos are amazing. I'd enjoy looking at those.

  15. So many people from all over the world fought in the wars as per those black and white photos.
    When will it all end?

  16. The care given to such exhibits is heart warming.

  17. @DJan: you're welcome.

    @Beth: I did too. I found them fascinating.

    @RedPat: it's been a pleasure to do so.

    @Sharon: I certainly did.

    @Sami: when humanity's no longer around.

    @Maywyn: I quite agree.

  18. Great exhibits. The first photo is particularly striking.

  19. Interesting. I love the last photo. Can you tell more about it?

  20. A wonderful display of photos. Excellent exhibit, William.

  21. The Belgian embassy section is particularly interesting to me, William, but I also appreciate the the museum continues to the most contemporary of times.

  22. For some of the old faces it wasn't just that they served but how poorly they were treated when they came back home.

  23. @Tamago: thanks!

    @Aritha: the captions indicated their place, File Hills, Saskatchewan, which is Peepeekisis. A look online indicates that they are of the Cree culture.

    @Bill: I certainly thought so.

    @Jeanie: I agree with that.

    @Red: many First Nations veterans, for instance, came home from the Great War, having had distinguished themselves... and found out that people saw them as 'just another Indian.'

  24. You have found a great place depicting the history of the Afghan War ~ my favorite too is the 1st photo ^_^

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

  25. You're quite right - much diversity. It's nice that it's been recognized here, though I agree with Red's comment about how they were treated afterwards.

  26. These are wonderful photos (some candid, some posed) of the soldiers and those around them...excellent exhibit. I wonder why I have trouble reading your comments, the greyish tone of the type face against the soft blue background. Maybe it's time I get those cataracts looked at again.

  27. Loved the shots of various ethnic groups from this exhibit. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this with us.

  28. The photographs are quite wonderful, although of course war isn't!

    All the best Jan

  29. There is always a war somewhere in the world nowadays. So sad.

  30. WW I, such an awful, needless war.

  31. @Carol: it's a good one.

    @Kay: I do too.

    @Barbara: odd!

    @Angie: you're welcome.

    @Jan: thank you.

    @Klara: that's true.

    @Jennifer: it was.