Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Lasting Impact Of The Second World War

 A poignant display is found here: a Canadian flag is draped over the shape of a coffin, while a video screen plays footage of a funeral service decades after the Second World War, along with the recovery efforts that preceded it. 

The lost flight of Will Kyle and five other Canadians, whose plane went down over what had been called Burma at the time in 1945, was a mystery for decades. Photographs of his crewmates are here.

A hunter found the wreckage in the jungle in 1990. Five years later this was brought forward to the Canadian government. Items from the wreckage are in this case.

More pieces of the wreckage are encased in the walls and the floor nearby, with photographs of the jungle terrain they had been in. The bodies were recovered and given full honours in their burial, at a Commonwealth war cemetery: brothers in arms, resting in peace.

Coming out of the exhibit, one finds profiles of people after the war. Regina Rosenbaum survived Auschwitz and the Holocaust. She and her husband Berek came to Canada, started a new life and raised a family. Their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are their legacy as survivors.

Bert Kahrel was one of the many who immigrated from the Netherlands after the War. Today he's a volunteer interpreter at the War Museum.

The Campbell brothers, who died within a month of each other, have been honoured by the naming of a town out west- Campbell Bay, Saskatchewan.

Doug Sam, who had survived the downing of his Halifax and returned to service, stayed in the military after the war, retiring two decades later a highly decorated lieutenant-colonel.

Irene Courtenay served as a nurse, as her father had served before her as a soldier. Following the war she worked as a nursing consultant and a professor.

As an exhibit, Forever Changed was very effectively done, precisely because it focused so strongly on personal stories of the Second World War. I enjoyed my visits each time I came through.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Service And Suffering Across The Globe

Molly Lamb was a commissioned war artist who went to Europe to document the lives of servicemen and women. This is Private Virginia Stansell Singing, Tivoli Theatre, Apeldoorn, C Unit Canadian Army Shows.

Canadians fought in the other theatre of war: the Pacific. On the first day of that part of the conflict, while the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor, they also struck other places around the Pacific Rim. One of those was at Hong Kong, where Canadians were stationed, and the resulting Battle of Hong Kong became a brutal one. 

Will Kyle was a flying officer in the Pacific theatre. His fate would be a mystery for half a century.

A copy of a letter to the Kyle family informing of his disappearance is reproduced here. He was on a supply run over Burma.

Leonard Birchall was a squadron leader based out of what's now Sri Lanka who got shot down by Japanese forces, but not before he could get the warning out to his base about the oncoming fleet.

Bill Chong was on business in Hong Kong when the Japanese attacked. He became an undercover officer for the Allies.

Jean Oppen and her husband Reg were living in Hong Kong. They were interned for months, among many dealing with suffering and privation. They would later come to live in Canada.

Ethel Mulvany was one of the civilians in Singapore when it fell to the Japanese. She too was held prisoner, doing what she could to assist other internees.

Victory in the Pacific would come with the Americans dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Victory, Defeat, And A Capacity For Evil

Mary Reid was a member of the Cree and the first Indigenous servicewoman in the country's history. A famous photograph of her accompanies her profile. 

At home, propaganda posters like these might be seen.

One of those instances of ordinary men rising to the occasion. James Roberts had been a manager at an ice cream facility before the war, started off as a junior officer and rose to the rank of a brigader by the end of it. Highly decorated for his efforts, he would take part in war crimes proceedings, but give all credit to his men, calling them "the finest group of men I had ever known."

His uniform and medal set are here.

Bert Kahrel was a teenager in the Netherlands during the last months of the occupation. His identification papers, altered to hide his age, saved him from being conscripted by the Germans.

Faces that say it all: Canadian soldiers and Dutch civilians on VE-Day.

That same day, photos from Ottawa and London- a day of all days.

Aba Bayefsky went to war as a commissioned war artist, and documented Bergen-Belsen. A couple of his works from that concentration camp are reproduced alongside his profile, but just too disturbing to photograph. His quote about the Holocaust speaks volumes, and reminds me of a quote of a Canadian serviceman in the permanent galleries of the War Museum in regards to the Holocaust- this is why we fought World War Two.

Women served during the war and in its aftermath. We'll pick up here tomorrow.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Saving Europe: Battle Of Normandy

 Canadians would take part in D-Day and the Normandy campaign, storming Juno Beach, one of five beaches for the great invasion by Allied forces on June 6th, 1944.

Leslie Neufeld was one of those who would not live to see the end of that day. He struggled with his pacifist Mennonite background and his loyalty to the country, but ended up as one of the paratroopers launching into Normandy on D-Day.

This is Drifting Down, a 1944 painting by George Tinning, depicting paratroopers landing in Normandy.

Doug Sam was a pilot officer on a Halifax bomber whose plane got shot down in June 1944. He was one of the lucky ones who didn't get caught and reached safety, returning to the fight afterwards.

Night Target, Germany is a 1946 painting by Miller Brittain.

Alongside the troops, others documented the war effort. War artists, journalists, camera crews were part of that. So too was the concept of war historians. This was the case with Lt. Colonel Charles Stacey.

Here we have his uniform coat and one of his books- in both official languages.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Citizen Soldiers Far From Home

Gordon Fennell survived the war with a whole lot of luck, being one of those who made it back from the Dieppe disaster, serving in the Italian campaign and the liberation of the Netherlands.

He even survived his tank getting blown up- thanks to personal items he had with him- dress shoes. They're on display here.

John Mahony went to war, leading as an officer and winning the Victoria Cross for extraordinary bravery in the Battle of the Melfa River.

His Victoria Cross and the rest of his medal set is here. The cross was personally presented by King George V.

Charles Comfort was a commissioned war artist, embedded with the Canadian military. He painted The Hitler Line in 1944, depicting the ferocity of the Italian campaign.

Families went to war. Thomas Courtenay fought in the Great War. His daughter Irene served in the Second World War as a nurse.

And families would be forever marked by war. A mother displays a framed set of photographs of three sons who died in combat. 

Alta Wilkinson lost her son in the war, and channeled her grief into working with veterans and their families.

A scrapbook with mementos of her son's life is side by side with a certificate from an Italian town naming her an honorary citizen.