Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ottawa Canada

Lest We Forget

With my friend Bills' able guidance, I am sure that I received a very comprehensive tour of our countries' capital.  I felt very proud of the city and the buildings and structures within it, and I am sure that this is true of any Canadian who has an opportunity to visit this fine city.

 We visited the Canadian War Museum.  This "buzz bomb" was one of Farley Mowat's prizes from WW11.  Farely had the foresight and courage to gather tons of war booty and have it sent home to Canada during the last months of the War. Perhaps he saw that the Americans were sending the  V2 scientists to the States, or maybe he had a better inkling of the post war scenarios.  Nevertheless, he was wise enough to gather evidence and artifacts from the war in order to show Canadians at home the tremendous sacrifices that men and women made in the European theater of war.

These plaster casts are part of the design elements for the monument at Vimy Ridge.  As near as I can determine, my grandfather was a Vimy and survived 4 days of being buried in a shell burst.  The War Museum does a wonderful job of describing the major battles of World War 1 and Two, as well as including vivid descriptions of the Boer War in South Africa, where my Dad's father was caught up in the fight between the English and the Boers.  He was encircled by the Boers during the siege of Mafeking.

Of coarse, the carnage and wreckage of war did not really get going until the First War.  During this period, Scientific developments greatly advanced the ability of man to kill man.

The deadly machine gun was a terrible weapon of war, and many thousands of young men died as a result of its use in WW1.

We cannon fathom the life in the trenches for the soldiers, nor can we understand the terrible losses which were experienced by both sides in these terrible battles.

There is very little photographic evidence of the major battles of the first war, and the museum relies upon paintings to illustrate the horrors of the trench battles.
 Chlorine gas was first used in 1917, with deadly and horrifying results.  Many men died not knowing what was killing them.  These crude masks were preliminary attempts to deal with yet another invention of war...

 Trench warfare was dirty, disease ridden and mind numbing.

I believe that my grandfather was a sniper, and in all likelihood, he would have been positioned at one of the forward posts.

The air war came into being during World War 1.  This is a replica of Billy Bishops' aircraft.  He was a famous Canadian ace.

This cut out of an artillery shell gives one an idea of the thousands of rounds of shrapnel which would be showered down upon the men during an artillery barrage. 

I was reminded of the terrific sacrifices that Canadian families made during this war.  I came upon a medal honouring a veteran of WW1.  I have three of these, naming my grandmothers' three brothers who were all killed during World War 1.  What would our family have been like, or, better yet, what would Canada have been if the terrible sacrifices had not been necessary during the "War to End all Wars?"

In my view, the War Museum does a fair and honest depiction of the War, and transistors through the post war and the Great Depression with a fair view of people and events.

As this is the War Museum, the ensuing years between World War 1 and World War 11 were alluded to, without giving one a full understanding of the difficulties of being born post World War 1 and coming into adulthood during the Great Depression.  My Dad and his brother both experienced the full onslaught of World War 11.   They both enlisted in the Royal Canadian Airforce.  My uncle served in Vulcan, Alberta as well as elsewhere in Canada.  Dad was stationed in Trenton.  He was a LAC, (Leading Aircraftsman) and I remember him telling me about flying in Harvards and other aircraft used for training pilots.

 The museum has an interesting exhibit focussing on the war in the West of Canada.  The firebombs which were sent from Japan over the Pacific were far more numerous than I had imagined.  Although their purpose was to start forest fires, I found it interesting that many of these balloon bombs made their way as far as the Prairies.   I have been told that it was from the development of these weapons of war that a better understanding of the jet stream was developed.

This is a painting of a World War 11 bomb aimer aboard a Lancaster.  My good friend Jim was a WAG for the RCAF, and he told stories of flying at 10,000 feet and the air around him being on fire from the bombs and the turmoil below.  He was 19 when he flew over Dresden....

The Mosquito bomber was built from spruce harvested in British Columbia.

I very much enjoyed the Canadian War Museum.  I do not resent my tax dollars being used to represent the sacrifice and pain which so many men and women endured in order for me to be able to bitch and rant against the stupidities of local politicians.  I am afraid that many folks do not fully understand that the ideas of democracy and freedom of speech and association do not come lightly, and that  many men and women died in pain and anquish to protect what may appear to be trivial and insignificant to some.  Touring the museum enabled me to better understand the sacrifices of my own family, and also helped me to better appreciate my place in the world.