Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Witnesses To The Passages Of History

Winnie Burwash went to Britain to serve as a nurse, and after VE Day would travel into Europe to work in the same capacity.

Alongside their allies, Canadian forces continued to fight through to the end of the war in Europe.

One of those stories that happened all over in Allied forces: citizen soldiers excelling in times of war. James Roberts started as a junior officer and ended the war as a brigadier, decorated but crediting those he commanded for it. He would take part in negotiating surrender of enemy forces, and after the war would take part in war crimes prosecutions.

This is his service jacket and cap, and medal set.

A Nazi garrison flag was given to Roberts after the surrender as a trophy of war. Below are court documents in the war crimes prosecution of Kurt Meyer, a particularly ruthless SS commander brought to trial. Roberts was part of the group of officers to hear the case.

Several photographs of V-E Day in various spots are part of the exhibit. This one says it all, the faces of civilians and soldiers alike.

I finish today with a letter by Winnie Burwash to friends. What was ahead for her would be the darker legacy of the war: treating survivors of the camps. Tomorrow is the theme day, and we'll get back to this afterwards.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Different Journeys In Times Of War

Doug Sam had an eventful war. He was a pilot officer on Halifax bombers whose plane went down on a mission. With the help of the French Resistance he evaded capture and returned to active service. 

Night Target, Germany is the title of this painting by Miller Brittain.

I mentioned Hugh McCaughey, whose task was to film combat footage, carried out through the war.

These are his letters.

Mary Greyeyes joined the Canadian Women's Army Corps, the first indigenous servicewoman in the country's history.

A famous photograph of her didn't quite tell the whole story.

Marcel Ouimet was a well known reporter, especially in French speaking Canada, who went everywhere with the Canadian army, even picking up souvenirs along the way. I neglected to photograph the pistols.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Hardest Task Of All

Alta Wilkinson lost her son Arthur, a private killed in combat in July 1944. She would channel her grief into preserving his memory and working with veterans organizations and families after the war.

This is her scrapbook of her son's life, and a certificate from an Italian town honouring her.

Hugh McCaughey spent his war as a combat cameraman, often in harm's way as he accompanied the Canadian army from Normandy right through to Germany.

This is his diary.

D-Day was the great turning of the tide in Europe.

Gustave "Guy" Bieler wouldn't live to see the end of the war. A Canadian agent for the Special Operations Executive, he was captured in January 1944, tortured, and executed.

His false identity card is accompanied by a letter from Maurice Buckmaster, one of the SOE leaders, to his widow Marguerite.

Here we have Drifting Down, painted by George Tinning in 1944.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Courage Under Fire

 I left off yesterday mentioning families who had gone to war in both of the World Wars. Here we have another example of a father and son who both served with honour and courage, receiving the same medal decades apart for acts of bravery in combat: Henry Byce and Charles Byce.

Another case of a parent and child: Thomas Courtenay was a young lieutenant in the First World War, and his daughter Irene served as a nurse in the Second World War.

This is one of her notebooks.

Canadian war artist Charles Comfort painted The Hitler Line in 1944, depicting action in Italy, where he was embedded with Canadian troops.

A mother's grief: Silver Cross Mother Mrs. George Stephens holds photographs of her sons, all killed in the war.

Major Alex Campbell, who developed a fierce reputation on the battlefield, would not see the end of the war, dying in battle in Italy.

This is a memorial plaque in his name and a letter from one of his captains to his mother.

One of his men would become famous in his own right. Farley Mowat was a young officer who revered Campbell, and would make use of him in a book, later becoming one of Canada's most esteemed novelists.