Thursday, November 30, 2023

Changing Seasons Upon The Ottawa River

It is a tradition for me to come out to the Portage Bridge twice a month to photograph the view downstream on the Ottawa River through various seasons. I choose a spot that's roughly where the provincial border between Quebec and Ontario goes through. Gatineau is on the left, and landmarks in these shots include the Alexandra Bridge, Kiweki Point, the National Gallery, Notre Dame, Parliament Hill, and the Supreme Court. 

I start with this view taken early in March, when the ice was still downstream. The ice does not fully form here, as the water is too swift, but it builds up below the Hill.

Later in the month, on a similar sunny day, this was the view. You can see a difference a few days can make on the ice.

In April, for a number of reasons, I didn't get out here until mid-month. By then, the ice was gone and the river was running swift, swollen with spring run off.

Late in the month, this was how things looked on a brooding morning, with the river still swift and turbulent.

By mid-May, this was how things looked.

Towards the end of the month, another bright day.

Over the course of the summer, we had problems with smoke from forest fires drifting into the area from places not that far away, creating significant problems for breathing. You could smell the smoke, and see the haze caused by it. In the middle of June, this was the view.

Late in the months, things were clearer, on a brooding kind of day.

In the middle of July, I returned.

At the end of that month, I came at sunset. A rainbow was seen over the Hill.

In August, I didn't get out this way until the second half of the month. 

This was how things looked a few days later.

In the second half of September, I was back near sunset.

On the last day of that month, I returned in the morning.

Mid-October saw things looking like this.

Late in the month, I returned on a brooding kind of day. We'll do this again down the line.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Battle Of Vimy Ridge

 Another harrowing image from the Great War. A cutaway of an artillery shell is at left, while the diagram at right shows the difference of what a bullet might do to a leg versus what artillery shrapnel would do.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge is one of the defining moments in Canadian history. The Ridge had been taken by the Germans early in the war, and successive Allied efforts to retake it had failed. It fell to the Canadians to have a go at it, and they would do it together.

For months, they trained and prepared.

And in the course of four bloody days in April 1917, they did what no one else could do, storming the ridge, defeating the German army stationed there, and achieving victory, at the cost of ten thousand killed and wounded.

The war in the air was another aspect of that war- and one new to the world of battle. Flight had only been around for a decade, and new tactics were literally being invented by the day by young men on both sides.

Airmen had their stories to tell. Canadians flew for the British, as there was no Canadian Air Force until after the war. Artifacts here include a portion of a plane's petrol gauge- with a piece of a femur still embedded in it- and a good luck charm.

These are the service medals of Canadian William Barker, one of the greatest fighter aces of the war.

Raymond Collishaw was another of the aces, and his plane, depicted here in battle, was called the Black Maria.

Another of the great Canadian aces had his own place in history. Captain Roy Brown dueled Manfred von Richthofen, the German ace known to history as the Red Baron. Their duel also involved Australian soldiers firing from the ground, and there is still question to this day as to who's responsible for the fatal wounds that brought down the Baron.

This dramatic painting shows artillery at work during the war- a deafening process

A panel looks at the importance of Vimy Ridge in the context of Canadian history. The expressions of the soldiers who had won that battle speaks volumes. They had gone and done things that others said were impossible, but they did it anyway.

I'll come back to this series after the theme day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The War Hits At Home

 Though the First World War was fought overseas, it very much had an impact at home, with families getting the bad news of deaths of their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers. Tragedies like the torpedo sinking of the Lusitania added to that.

This porthole was recovered from the Lusitania and now resides here.

A scale model of a trench system is found here. For four bloody years, life in the trenches was one of attrition, stress, and moments of pure terror.

You can walk through a trench as well.

Aspects of life in the trenches- simple things like a pipe or hardtack or toys.

More weapons of the war are found here.

The Somme was a massive offensive across the western front that was doomed to fail, and became the best example of futility in that war.

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was part of that offensive, and on the first day, in a matter of minutes, nearly the entire regiment was lost at Beaumont-Hamel.

Artillery shells were the big killer of the war, with the wounds being particularly lethal.

Shrapnel came in the form of balls or metal as the artillery shell burst apart. Both resulted in horrific injuries and deaths.

Monday, November 27, 2023

The Global Battlefield

Here we have a model of a Canadian soldier during the South African War, where fighting ended up becoming guerilla warfare. Gone was the red serge of dress uniforms, and in was tan khaki uniforms. 

By and large, the South African War has long been overshadowed by the Great War, which followed only a few years later.

More uniforms and personal artifacts of that war.

This field gun would, a few years later, look like an antique compared to those of the First World War, but it served in the South African War. In the end, 7000 Canadians went to the far side of the world in service to Queen and country.

The First World War would be the great cataclysm, the end result of decades and more of imperialism, nationalism, and entangled alliances. The murder of a minor Austrian royal would drag in the better part of the world, and end with an entire generation dead, wounded, and otherwise forever haunted by its aftermath.

Canada was in it from the start.

Canada's Answer is a large painting by Norman Wilkinson, depicting the first sailing of Canadian soldiers to Europe in October 1914.

Some of the weapons of the time are found here.

John McCrae was a Canadian doctor and veteran of the South African War who served again as an artillery officer in the First World War. His poem In Flanders Fields is his best known around the world, and is inscribed on the wall. His personal revolver is displayed here as well.

Propaganda became a big factor during the war, with incidents including the murder of a British nurse, Edith Cavell. Today a mountain in the Canadian Rockies bears her name.

A story circulated on the western front that German soldiers had crucified a Canadian soldier on a barn door. Whether or not it was true, it had a propaganda value. This sculpture is titled Canada's Golgotha, by Derwent Wood