Monday, November 30, 2020

Canada At War At Home And In The World

This display case includes weaponry and gear typical of a British soldier of the War of 1812. The uniform jacket is specific, however. It belonged to the British general Isaac Brock, a hero of the war, and is the jacket he was wearing at the Battle of Queenston Heights in the Niagara area, where British regulars, local militia, and First Nations warriors drove out an American attack. Brock would be killed during the battle, and if you look carefully, you'll see on the jacket where the bullet that killed him entered his chest. 

There is a small tear below the collar line. Looking from the fourth button down at right, and moving your eye left, you'll see it. A panel about Brock is below. Today he remains entombed at Queenston Heights, with a memorial tower set above him.

The story of Canadian military history continues, touching on things like the rebellions of the 1830s or the Fenian Raids that followed the Civil War. It also addresses military actions in the Canadian West, particularly the resistance by the Metis under Louis Riel.

The next section of the War Museum addresses imperial wars, with Canadian soldiers heading abroad on behalf of the British empire. This happened at the end of the 19th century with the South African War, where Canadians went to serve in the fight against two Boer states in South Africa.

Note the hole near the top of the hat.

This is a field gun used at the Battle of Leliefontein.

It was the first time that Canadians served in another part of the world in warfare, but a few years later, another war would bring in the world at large. That is in the next part of this area of the Museum, which we'll start looking at after the theme day.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Bloody Struggle For A Continent

This image on a display panel shows naval action during the French and Indian War.

One of the artifacts here is a mortar that was part of the defenses at the French fortress at Louisbourg.

Video screens on either side of the pathway show re-enactors in British and French uniform at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

A few years after the end of the French and Indian War came the American Revolution, which had a big impact on Canada. In its wake would come English speaking Loyalists moving north to start new lives, but Canada would also be invaded by Continental forces. One of the American commanders involved in the 1775 invasion of Quebec would later become infamous in history. His name was Benedict Arnold.

A display case includes artifacts dating back to the Revolution.

One of the repeated features throughout the War Museum is profiling everyday people, not just the commanding generals. Such is the case here.

The War of 1812 would erupt decades later, with the Americans seeking to drive the British out of North America. The British and Canadians took exception to that. Among the artifacts here is a portrait of a Mohawk war chief, John Norton, and some of the weaponry typical of a First Nations warrior of the period.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Warfare From Time Immemorial

During my visit to the War Museum, the temporary exhibits gallery wasn't open, but an exhibit on life in the Second World War was being set up at the time. Moving beyond, on the way to the permanent galleries area of the Museum, there are a series of photographs rendered in large scale along the path.

The one seen on the left here dates to 1940, a photograph titled Wait For Me, Daddy, and was reproduced on a special Canadian 2014 two dollar coin. My Canadian readers might have one. At right are soldiers of the First World War.

The collection is organized into five areas, from time immemorial to the present day. The first section concentrates on early wars, and starts with the First Nations, Panels, artifacts, and reproductions examine tribal conflict thousands of years before Europeans came into the New World.

Eventually, European contact would change everything, including how First Nations people conducted war. The so called Post-Contact Wars would bring the French into conflict, siding with one peoples against another.

A display case includes a tomahawk and alliance medal. The description below notes that French metalwork made a deadly weapon like the tomahawk even deadlier.

In time, the French and Indian War would rise up in North America between France and Britain, with First Nations tribes jockeying for position. It was known elsewhere as the Seven Years War, raging across the globe. Churchill called it the first truly global war.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Liberation And Friendship

In mid-October, I paid a visit to the Canadian War Museum, which tells the story of Canadian military history, both in North America and on the world stage. With Covid being at large, I thought that it might be best to get in a visit before Remembrance Day, and present my visit now.

The Museum moved its collection to its current location in the Lebreton Flats area, west of the downtown core, in 2005. The architecture suits its subject, looking like a massive bunker or plane. Its entire structure has two focal points. Regeneration Hall, which is the large spiked structure at right, points directly at Parliament Hill. Memorial Hall, which was closed during my visit because of Covid restrictions, is the other focal point; the Museum was laid out so that on November 11th each year, at 11 in the morning, sunshine illuminates the only exhibit inside: the tombstone of the Unknown Soldier. 

Inside, a series of panels was set up for the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands by Canadian troops during the Second World War. My parents were children in the Netherlands during the War, old enough to have had clear memories of it. And had things gone on for a few months, one or both of them might well have died of starvation. So I've always felt that I literally owe my life to young Canadian men who answered the call and freed my ancestral homeland. As you can imagine, things like this hit quite close to home for me, and it's emotional to see.