Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory.: New exhibition explores Canadian experience in Belgium during First World War

November 6, 2014

Ottawa, Ontario, November 6, 2014 — The Canadian War Museum is proud to present Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory. This exhibition examines the challenges Canadian soldiers encountered while serving in the last region of Belgium still in Allied hands. It also delves into the memories that remain and highlights the iconic poem In Flanders Fields. The exhibition is supported by National Presenting Sponsor VISITFLANDERS and is part of a series of projects commemorating the centenary of the First World War at the War Museum.

“From the first use of deadly chlorine gas in the Second Battle of Ypres to the treacherous mud of Passchendaele, Canadian soldiers faced horrific new weapons and unimaginable conditions on the battlefield,” says James Whitham, Director General of the Canadian War Museum. “Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory. explores that terrible time and considers how the collective memories of the First World War has evolved among both Canadians and Belgians over the past 100 years.”

The exhibition begins by establishing the context for Canadian entry into the First World War. It then looks at three battles in the northwestern part of Belgium in which Canadian soldiers played a pivotal role. In 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, they fought through mud and endured clouds of chlorine gas to hold the Allied line at the city of Ypres. At Mount Sorrel in 1916, they relied on massive firepower to recapture lost ground, at a cost of 8,700 casualties. In 1917, the Canadians fought for weeks through mud, heavy artillery and machine gun fire to prevail in the Battle of Passchendaele, suffering more than 15,000 casualties and earning nine Victoria Cross medals in the process.

The final section of the exhibition uses the 1918 liberation of the city of Mons as a starting point to explore how Canadians and Belgians celebrated the end of fighting, how they honoured those who lived and those who died, and how we continue to commemorate the First World War to this day. These memories are brought into sharp focus with John McCrae’s well-known poem In Flanders Fields, which led to the adoption of the poppy as a symbol of Remembrance Day and continues to inspire reflection on war and sacrifice to this day.

“As National Presenting Sponsor of this exhibition, we would like to honor Canada’s incredible support of our region and all the brave women and men who served in Flanders Fields,” says Peter De Wilde, CEO of VISITFLANDERS. “We hope this exhibition and catalogue will inspire Canadians to visit Flanders Fields and to experience our history and culture.”

Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory. shares the experiences of Canadian soldiers and Belgian citizens through wartime artifacts, works of art, personal stories, photographs, archival materials, audiovisual presentations and more. The content is drawn from the Canadian War Museum’s own collections, as well as from other institutions in Canada and Europe.

Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory. will be on display at the Canadian War Museum from November 7, 2014 to April 26, 2015. This exhibition was developed by the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, in partnership with the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, Belgium, and with the generous support of the E. W. Bickle Foundation. 

The Canadian War Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of its Official Partners of the Centenary of the First World War: John and Pattie Cleghorn and Family; H.Col (Ret’d) John C. Eaton, O.Ont., K.St.J., D.Com. and H.Col Sally Horsfall Eaton, S.S.St.J., C.D., R.N., LL.D.; The Friends of the Canadian War Museum; TD Bank Group; VISITFLANDERS and the R. Howard Webster Foundation.

The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history. Its mission is to promote public understanding of Canada’s military history in its personal, national, and international dimensions.


Media contacts:

Yasmine Mingay
Director, Public Affairs
Canadian   War Museum
Telephone: 819-776-8608
Avra Gibbs Lamey
Senior Communications and Media Relations Officer, Canadian   War Museum
Telephone: 819-776-8607

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