Tuesday 6 February 2018

A Visit to the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa

Today I visited the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. The museum is not set up to glorify war in any way but to honour those who have fought, still fight and who have died in war or as peacekeepers in the name of our country.

The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history and one of the world’s most respected museums for the study and understanding of armed conflict.

The Museum traces its origins back to 1880, when it consisted primarily of a collection of militia artifacts. The Museum opened at its new location on the LeBreton Flats site in downtown Ottawa on May 8, 2005. Its opening not only marked the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe (V-E Day) but also the 125th anniversary of the Museum itself. Since its opening in 2005, the Museum has welcomed approximately 500,000 visitors every year.

The Museum’s exhibition galleries and public programs have been designed to emphasize the human experience of war. The Canadian Experience Galleries present the military history of Canada from earliest times to present day, as well as Canada’s history of honouring and remembrance. Each gallery highlights defining moments in Canada’s military history and the ways in which past events have shaped the nation.

The Museum’s collections are among the finest military holdings in the world, including rare vehicles, artillery, uniforms, medals, personal memoirs and 14,000 works in the Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. In total, the collection comprises more than 3 million artifacts, specimens, works of art, written documents and sound and visual recordings. The Military History Research Centre houses the George Metcalf Archival Collection and the Hartland Molson Library. These extensive collections of primary and secondary research material document Canada’s rich military history.

The place is huge and with all the displays and short films to watch at your convenience, it really would take more than one trip. This post shows only a very small portion of what can be seen on a visit.

The museum focuses on Canadian conflicts from back before the Europeans came to settle Canada. Here are some of the weapons used by First Nations from that period. The room is full of displays.

This is the only picture I took from the War of 1812 section. It's the actual uniform jacket worn by General Issac Brock when he was killed in a charge up a steep hillside at Queenston Heights.

Popular legend has it that Brock's last words before he died was "Push on brave York volunteers." Those at his side say he died instantly and if you look closely at his jacket, you will see the hole the musket ball made just under the lapel when it struck and killed him. The shot would have struck his heart and he would have died almost instantly without uttering a word. 

A gatling gun circa 1860s which could fire 200 rounds per minute and was effective at short range.

Georgina Pope was a nurse from PEI during the Boer War and World War One.

The displays in the World War One section were quite extensive and I was please to see that they also included Newfoundland's contribution to the war even though they were were not yet part of Canada.

There was an exhibit and film showing their devastating loss at Beaumont Hamel in France on July 1, 1916, due to very poor planning of the British commanders in charge. Of almost 800 Royal Newfoundland Regiments that left the trenches to attack, only 68 made roll call the next morning.

Here are some of the weapons used in the war.

A recreation of what the trenches were like. It was eerie.

This is a helmet which was worn by the men in the field. It weighed over 2 KG and sure felt it. Although it wouldn't stop a bullet, it was very good at protecting the men from falling shrapnel.

A German machine gun which caused so many deaths.

A replica of Billy Bishop's Nieuport 17 fighter in which he shot down 72 enemy aircraft, second only to the Red Baron.

This is the main body and cockpit of Billy Barker's Sopwith Snipe recovered after his Victoria Cross winning action against 15 German fighters. He shot down three planes despite receiving multiple wounds and finally crashed into Allied territory. There are plenty of bullet holes riddled throughout the body which can be seen. This fuselage was recovered after the crash and declared a "war trophy"

This is a recreation of the Passchendaele battlefield which you can walk through. I could only shake my head at what these men went through.

This is a photo of the tombstone of the last person killed at the end of the first World War,

Again, there is so much to see in the World War 1 area.

Here is Adolf Hitler's Mercedes Benz Limo that was captured after the war.

This is an actual Enigma Machine the Germans used to send coded messages to its u-boats that caused much havoc with Canadian convoys.

The last hall contains so many vehicles and large equipment used by Canadian and other armed forces through the years. Here I am in motorcycle messenger gear.

A Canadian-designed and -built rocket launcher used in the D-day invasion called a "land mattress" which could launch 30 rockets in less than 8 seconds.

The Victoria Medal, the highest military honour which can be awarded in the British Commonwealth. This one was awarded to Alexander Dunn for his bravery during the Charge of the Light Brigade.

A collection of dozens of tanks.

The Canadian-built Valentine tank. This one was used by Russia in World War II but was lost in 1944 when it broke through the ice into a river in the Ukraine. In 1992, residents of a nearby village recovered it and the Ukrainian government gifted it to the museum.

A Sherman tank used by Canadian forces during WW2 and in Korea.

More tanks.


This self-propelled howitzer was huge!

At the end of WW2, the Germans started to attack London England with flying bombs. The V1 was very inaccurate but still managed to kill over 38,000 people.

To make it more accurate, they added a small cockpit for a pilot who was supposed to steer it to its target and then bail out. It definitely was a suicide mission. This is the one on display and was captured at the end of the war by famed Canadian author Farley Mowat.

AsI said above, the museum is huge. I didn't take any photos of the Korean war, peacekeeping, cold war and many other displays on view. One I wish I had taken was of a UN jeep with two Canadian peacekeepers in it that was full of bullet holes in the body and windows after an ambush. Both men were seriously wounded but survived.

This is my second visit to the museum but the first time I was there on my own. It's an amazing place and well worth the visit. I would go back again.

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