Wednesday, November 30, 2022

War On The Ground And In The Sky

Continuing on where I left off yesterday. The reproduced painting seen here is elsewhere in the War Museum, and we'll see it before we end this series. 

A display screen tells the story of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, here depicting the movement of Canadian soldiers towards the German defenses on the ridge.

Unlike so much of the First World War, which until nearly the end consisted of relying on Napoleonic tactics against new technology, resulting only in mass slaughter, Vimy Ridge relied on preparation and methodical training. This was critical.

And in the end, Canadians did what other Allied troops had been unable to do.

This painting, reproduced on a panel, introduces us to the aerial part of the war. German zeppelins brought bombs to Allied cities. Bringing them down became the job of Allied pilots.

Their cockpits were open to the elements. They needed to dress like that, going ten thousand feet up.

This caught my eye.

Canada didn't have an air force during the First World War, but Canadian pilots ended up flying for the British instead. Such was the case with one of the legendary aces of the First World War: William Barker. His medal set is here.

This fuselage is what's left of the Sopwith Snipe Barker flew when he fought the duel that won him his Victoria Cross.

Another Canadian who distinguished himself in the air was a local man, Roy Brown of Carleton Place, whose place in history was cemented by dueling the man who had become a legend- The Red Baron. He is credited with shooting down von Richthofen, though Australian anti-aircraft gunners on the ground also claimed credit. Regardless, he's the pilot who was engaged in the duel, and in the end, death protected the reputation of the Baron from being sullied by the Nazis as it would have had he lived.

Brown's logbooks and medals are here.

Another Canadian ace: Billy Bishop.

Displayed here include items like his medals, a book he wrote after the war, a gun from his plane, and a windshield from his plane- complete with a bullet hole, a memento from a day when a few centimeters over to the side would have ended his life. Instead the bullet ended up lodged behind him. A very lucky day.

I'll return to this series after tomorrow's theme day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Propaganda And Trench Warfare

 A set of displays looks at propaganda of the First World War. This particularly grisly poster of the time looks at the story of Edith Cavell, a British nurse executed by the Germans for helping the escape of POWs. This act outraged the Allies. In Canada, a mountain in the Rockies was named in her memory.

This work of art is based on a story that hasn't been conclusively proven. At Ypres, a story circulated that German soldiers crucified a Canadian soldier on a barn door. Canada's Golgotha is sculpted by Derwent Wood, dating to 1918.

Another act that outraged the Allies was the sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania, by a German U-boat.

The centrepiece of this display case is a porthole recovered from the wreck of the ship decades later.

Here we have a model of a typical layout of trenches of the war.

And nearby you can walk through one, typically dark, with accompanying sounds playing off unseen speakers.

The path takes us to this area that at its heart focuses on the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

A topographical model of the ground, held by the Germans from 1914 up until April 1917, and used in the planning of the attack, is here.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Warfare On A Larger Scale

 This field gun is a veteran of the South African War, where it saw service at the Battle of Leliefontein. Three Canadians won Victoria Crosses in that battle for extraordinary bravery under fire.

Georgina Pope served as a nurse during the South African War. She would continue on in that duty afterwards and see duty in the First World War, coming to command Canada's nurses in military service.

This Colt revolver was the personal revolver of one of those who won a Victoria Cross at Leliefontein: Richard Turner. It really isn't too different from a contemporary version.

Following the South African War came the build up towards the First World War. A large area introduces us to the causes of the conflict. Canada, as part of the British empire, would automatically be committed to the war, which would see conflict on a larger scale than ever seen before.

Here we have the uniform of a typical Canadian recruit from early in the war.

This large painting has always appealed to me. Canada's Answer is by Norman Wilkinson, and depicts the sailing of the first contingent of 32 000 soldiers for Europe in October 1914.

A few years difference between this field gun and our first one from the South African War, but advances were obvious. Artillery fire of the war was one of the real killers of the war. Canadian soldiers would first see combat at the Second Battle Of Ypres. The quotes on the wall to the right speak volumes of that battle.

Canadian doctor, poet, and soldier John McCrae had served in the South African War, and came back for the First World War. At Ypres a friend was killed in combat. In Flanders Fields was McCrae's response.

His personal pistol is displayed here too.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

For Queen And Country

 The concluding years of the 19th century was a heady time for the British empire, with Queen Victoria marking her 60th anniversary as Queen not just of Britain, but all of the empire, including Canada.

In the mix of this came the South African War, a conflict between Afrikaaner farmers and the British. Canadians would be drawn into it.

Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier had to figure out how to deal with more than one side to the issue.

Canadian troops would be sent halfway across the world and take part in a war that, perhaps because of its proximity in time to a greater cataclysm in the First World War, is often overlooked.

I leave off today with weapons of the time.