Ypres. Passchendaele. These First World War Belgian battlefields may be far from Canada, yet they have become part of our collective memory. The Canadian War Museum’s new exhibition, Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory vividly illustrates how Canadian soldiers in Belgium adapted to the war’s terrible battlefield conditions — including poison gas.
Faced with the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War, how did Canadians respond? Half-heartedly and haphazardly, and with a general sense of indifference. That’s the conclusion in Give Me Shelter: The Failure of Canada’s Cold War Civil Defence, written by historian Andrew Burtch, winner of this year’s C.P. Stacey Award.
“The First World War,” says historian Tim Cook, “forced Canada to grow up.” More than 620,000 Canadians served, and more than 66,000 died, fighting in appalling conditions. But our victories at Vimy Ridge and elsewhere showed Canadians, and the world, what we could do. The war set the former colony on the path to true nationhood.
The Mont Blanc was ablaze and adrift in Halifax Harbour, its main cargo of explosives not yet ignited. Two small naval boats — one Canadian, one British — advanced toward the inferno “to see what could be done.” Medals for bravery now held in the Canadian War Museum testify as to what happened next.
The First World War had many witnesses but, in an era before the digital camera and instant communication, Canada relied on artists to document the conflict. The exhibition Witness – Canadian Art of the First World War shows battlefields, hospitals, munitions factories and more through the eyes of soldiers and artists at home and overseas.
The dirt of the Normandy beaches still sticks to the little notebook that war artist Orville Fisher used to record his D-Day adventures (including one or two very close calls). His words give us insight into the experiences of the man whose art captured the Allies’ struggle to liberate France during the Second World War.
What does a Group of Seven artist famous for majestic wilderness landscapes have in common with a German expressionist known for bleak depictions of violence and death? The exhibition Transformations – A.Y. Jackson and Otto Dix shows how the landscape art of each these two seemingly different artists was deeply influenced by their experiences in the First World War.
During the Second World War, a veritable army of civilians supported the war effort by knitting millions of garments for combatants, refugees and children overseas. Pamphlets supplied by the Canadian Red Cross helped to standardize production and, along with other documents kept in the Canadian War Museum, provide a window on a home front mobilized for war.
History you can hold in your hands. That’s the idea behind the War Museum’s Supply Line project, which will start circulating kits containing First World War artifacts to schools nationwide. These artifacts will allow students to get in touch — literally — with Canada’s role in the war.
The Good brothers, Ernest and Herman, shipped out of New Brunswick in the early days of the First World War. Ernest was killed a year after enlisting; his name is engraved on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Herman returned to Canada as a decorated war hero. His Victoria Cross, earned at Amiens in 1918, is now part of the War Museum’s collection.
“Powerful” is the word visitors often use to describe the Memorial Hall’s single artifact: the tombstone of the Unknown Soldier. The power it evokes will be greatly magnified on November 11 at precisely 11 a.m., when sunlight from the hall’s lone window perfectly illuminates this symbol of Canada’s war dead.
During the Second WorId War, Japanese Canadians and Americans were uprooted from their Pacific Coast homes and forcibly relocated to makeshift camps in the interior. Twenty-five years after their governments issued an apology, a retrospective of the wartime work of two photographers captures the daily life of those relocated.
Canadians will experience a remarkable range of exhibitions and programs during the War Museum’s commemoration of the First World War Centennial. One of the most personal and intimate of these is a digitization project.
The story of a fascinating and unlikely exchange about the presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
More than 25,000 Canadians served. Of those, 516 died. The Korean War was also the first “flashpoint” in what people were calling the Cold War. Raging for three bloody years, it left a nation in ruins, and at times threatened to unleash a nuclear inferno. And yet for decades we have scarcely remembered it.
One of the Canadian War Museum’s most popular venues, the LeBreton Gallery, has received a facelift, making its collection of tanks, artillery pieces and other military equipment more accessible and visitor-friendly.
In a German prisoner of war camp, you could use cigarettes to buy many things. Each time the Red Cross packages arrived at Stalag IX-C, Flying Officer Alf Binnie saved his cigarette rations for something special. He bought a guitar.
Canada’s wartime prime ministers may well have been forgotten by history if not for the titanic struggles that shaped and defined their years in office, says historian Tim Cook, award-winning author of the new book Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King, and Canada’s World Wars.
A broken clock retrieved by a 13-year old girl from the post-blast rubble of her home in Hiroshima. A blue beret worn by a member of the first United Nations Peacekeeping mission. A Victoria Cross won by a First World War stretcher-bearer. What do these artifacts have in common?
The heavy paper is badly creased and slightly torn where it has been folded, and the large red seal in the upper left hand corner is hard to decipher today. But the name printed boldly atop the document, and then repeated in elegant copperplate at the bottom is unmistakable: Isaac Brock.
Eleven Women Facing War is a compelling and intimate look into the lives of women affected by conflict. Nick Danziger first photographed these women from conflict zones in 2001. Ten years later, he set out to find them again to learn what had become of their lives.
In the mid-1860s, a call goes out from Pope Pius IX to Catholic men worldwide: Come to Rome to defend the Papal Territories against the nationalist armies fighting for unification of the Italian states. Five thousand men heed the call. They come from Europe and the United States—and five hundred come from Quebec.
The extraordinary trio of Victoria Cross medals that inspired the name of Winnipeg’s Valour Road have been united and placed on public display together —for the first time ever—by the War Museum. The awards were earned during the First World War by three men from the same block of a residential street, a coincidence unique in the world.
Canadian radar technicians served almost everywhere during the Second World War, yet in a sense they were invisible. Sworn to secrecy, they kept quiet about their crucial contributions even long after the war.
It’s a tiny tank by today’s standards, but the Six-Ton Tank M1917 played a key role in preparing Canadian troops for combat in the Second World War. One of these rare machines is now on display at the Canadian War Museum.
To heighten visitors’ richly nuanced experience of the War of 1812, the War Museum is hosting a special Library and Archives Canada exhibition of intimate portraits and striking narrative paintings that complement the Museum’s major exhibition 1812.
The War of 1812 was a dramatic event in Canadian history. But what was at stake and who won? A major new exhibition at the Canadian War Museum reveals that the answer to this question can be very different depending on your perspective. 1812 explores the war through the eyes of Canadians, Americans, the British and Native Americans.
In October 1812, the British commander Sir Isaac Brock received a fatal shot in the chest at the Battle of Queenston Heights. He was wearing a coatee now in the collection of the Canadian War Museum. In this short video, the War Museum’s Eric Fernberg explains what ultraviolet light revealed about the coatee’s remarkable owner.
As a best-selling novel, and Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster film, War Horse has vividly evoked the heroism and tragedy of First World War cavalry units. Now, Mirvish Productions in Toronto has gone a step further in the quest for authenticity. Its staging of War Horse at the Princess of Wales Theatre features a mini-exhibition lent by the Canadian War Museum.
The Second World War was a vast and complex drama, carrying within it countless individual stories. Courage, sacrifice, triumph: Gerald Carty’s story has it all.
In July of 1941, Second World War was fiercely a-raging. Jim Morell, native son of Newcastle, New Brunswick, was getting ready for the big departure. His farewells to his sweetheart, Vesta, were filled with hope: they tore a dollar bill in two and promised to join both halves when they would reunite…and then happily spent the next 60 years in each others company.
If war has a story to tell, so do the people who lived it…
In June of 2011, Mark O’Neill was named president and CEO of the corporation responsible for both the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum. As successor to Victor Rabinovitch, O’Neill plans to further deepen the important relationship between our national museum of military history and its visitors.
A segment of the Berlin Wall is now on permanent display at the Canadian War Museum. Standing 3.6-metres tall and weighing 3.5 tonnes, the imposing artifact also highlights Canada’s role in the Cold War.
Every day, radio, television and the Internet reports bring us news of events that are unfolding at home and abroad. Natural disasters and armed conflicts have become a daily occurrence – underscoring the vital role the armed forces play in response. Journalists have a front-row seat alongside armed forces, bringing us vivid first-hand accounts of turbulent world events. Both parties thus contribute in their own fashion towards filling the pages of Canada’s military history. The Canadian War Museum and CBC/Radio-Canada invite you to explore the work of journalists and the military, both at home and abroad.
Emergency landing drills at the helm of a Sea King helicopter… a search and rescue demonstration… these activities included in the Royal Tour showcased Canadian expertise and underscored Prince William’s keen interest in maritime rescue.
A fireball 1.6 km high. A tsunami and a blazing inferno. Sixteen hundred buildings destroyed and twelve thousand damaged. Shattered windows in a village situated a full 100 km from the explosion.
Life, like the roads of Newfoundland’s coast, can sometimes take a hard turn… More than 500 soldiers who served in Afghanistan came back wounded in both body and mind.
Her friends called her Winnipeg, named for the hometown of her owner, captain Harry Colebourn, a Canadian Army veterinarian in the First World War.
In an age when anyone can become an instant journalist by relaying the realities of war by smartphone to the rest of the world, one might think the role of the military artist to be a thing of the past.
Who will be your valentine this year? A spouse, a friend, a family member? The tradition of sending someone a special ‘I love you’ on February 14th has grown in popularity (and profitability) worldwide.
Vimy, April 9th 1917, 5:30 a.m. Twenty thousand Canadian soldiers advance towards the deadly fire of enemy machine guns. Snow and hail whip their faces. The ground is muddy, cratered and crisscrossed with barbed wire. And yet, they will emerge victorious.
Private Martin John Suter and Florence (Flo) Reid were young and in love…but a war and an ocean separated them. Be that as it may, hundreds of postcards helped them keep the flame alive.
On 29 June 2010, ships of the Canadian navy, along with an assembly of warships from Germany, Brazil, Denmark, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom participated in an International Fleet Review in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This notable event, which rarely takes place in Canadian waters, marked the centennial of Canada’s navy.
For some, the attraction is the magnificent architecture. For others, it’s the impressive tanks, planes and armoured vehicles.
Canadian soldiers serving with UN peacekeeping forces in Cyprus unfortunately met with a harsher reality. The Canadian War Museum invites you to share in the memories of Canadian peacekeepers who served on the island.
Cypress Hills interprovincial park, set on a high plateau, is famous for starry skies. People flock to the park by night to take in the immensity of the prairie starscape. By day, however, a keen observer might be surprised at the sight of ‘shooting stars’ of a different sort buzzing overhead: drone aircraft.
As teenagers, the army surplus was our go-to store for everything cool: combat boots, wool socks, khaki jackets, aviator hats. Much to our mothers’ chagrin, the military look had made its way into the style guides… and into our closets. So how did that military influence conquer the world of fashion?
We all know how the passage of time can cause irreparable damage to a delicate garment – yellowing, fraying, staining. So imagine the challenge of restoring flags dating back to the early 19th century.
In 1967, the Museum moved to an old Archives building on Sussex Drive, but due to space limitations, it stored most of its collection in what used to be a tramway garage. When, in 2001, the federal government approved the construction of a large and modern building at LeBreton Flats, a great adventure began!
On February 22, 2010, Porter Airlines and the Toronto Port Authority opened with great fanfare a new terminal at the Billy Bishop Airport (formerly Island Airport). Upon hearing about the grand opening, many wondered, “But who is Billy Bishop?”
Much has been said about the harsh conditions faced by civilian populations during the Second World War – a time when if you were lucky, you’d have the unpopular option of either rutabagas or Jerusalem artichokes on your plate. But when the roads were ruined, buildings destroyed, and the gas was cut, wandering survivors had but one choice: an empty stomach. That is, until the emergency food van rolled in.
Do you think war can lead to love? When we take a closer look, every so often touching stories emerge – some fleeting, some that withstand the test of time. One such story has made its way, nearly 60 years later, to the Canadian War Museum: the amazing tale of a wee little coat.
Museums are gateways to a myriad of artifacts – witnesses to our distant and recent past, each chosen for its historic and artistic value. And while our encounters with these objects can be surprising, exciting, moving, we never really know how these ‘pieces of history’ arrive there.
The 13th of September 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham – a formative event in the making of Canada as we know it.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a whole chapter of recent history will be on display in Ottawa this summer. Between August 6 and 26, the Canadian War Museum plays host to ‘World Press Photo 09” – a display of the winning photographs from the world’s most prestigious press photography contest.
Camouflage came about during the First World War when the advent of airplanes made invisibility a necessity. Heavy artillery, helmets, and jackets were camouflaged by painting them to mimic the natural environment. But camouflage was soon recognized as both an offensive and passive tactic.
Artists serving in the French Army were pioneers in new camouflage techniques and the first to have a camouflaged unit. Fine artists, house painters, carpenters, and plasterers came readily out of the trenches with their brushes and hammers and got busy making inked vests, multi-coloured helmets, camouflage nets for bridges and fake train tracks. And these ‘death defying’ units did it all by hand.
Left by Shakespearean actor William Ian DeWitt Hutt who passed away in 2007, the red and black coatee with tails could easily date back to the 18th century. Even in rough shape, it appeared authentic – except for its shiny buttons.