100 YEARS AGO ~ THE BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE

100 YEARS AGO ~ THE BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE

When Britain went to war in Europe, August 1914, Canada (a member of the British Empire) found itself at war too.  WWI  at that time was a stalemate of fighting in the trenches along the Western Front, a heavily defended 1000 kilometre long network of trenches stretching across Belgium and northern France; this stretched from the English Channel to the border of Switzerland.  On one side – France and Britain (along with their allies, including Canada).  On the other – Germany.  Separating them – “No Man’s Land”, containing the “refuse” of war: barbed wire, craters from artillery and mortar shells, sometimes the wounded caught in the space…     In the fall of 1917, the Canadian Corps was sent to Belgium.  The purpose was to relieve the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) forces as well as to participate in the final push to capture Passchendaele.  The commander of the Corps, Lieutenant-General Arthur Currie, was shocked by the conditions of the terrain.  The mud, flat terrain, and lack of preparation time, along with the lack of artillery support, would make this battlefield far different than the one the Canadians had encountered previously at Vimy Ridge. Though he tried to avoid having the Corps fight there, Currie was overruled.  He prepared as carefully as he could and the offensive began on October 26th, 1917.  Advancing through the mud and enemy fire was extremely slow; there were heavy losses as the soldiers continued to move forward.  With the terrain, success was often made possible by individual acts of heroism to move past areas of especially stiff enemy resistance.  Despite this,...
THE VICTORIA CROSS

THE VICTORIA CROSS

THE VICTORIA CROSS   The Victoria Cross, founded by Queen Victoria was created in 1854.  The first recipient was in 1857 for bravery in the Crimea War against Russia. Since its inception, only 1358 Victoria Cross medals have been struck.  A single company of jewelers, Hancock of London, has been responsible for the production of every Victoria Cross.  Because of its rarity, the VC (Victoria Cross) is highly prized and the medal has fetched over 400,000 UK pounds at auction. Since 1987, the private collection of UK Lord Ashcroft amassed more than one-tenth of all VC medals issued.  He recently donated his entire collection to London’s Imperial War Museum.  It is reported that Lord Ashcroft paid 1.5 million for the VC of Captain Noel Chavasse, Medical Corps, a medical doctor.  He is only one of three people who were awarded the VC medal twice for bravery on the battlefield. Of the 1358 VC medals issued, only one has been awarded to a woman.  This was Elizabeth Webber Harris.  Her bravery astounded the entire regiment.  She remains the only woman to receive the Victoria Cross.  It was given to her for her work in India.  In 1869 a cholera epidemic broke out.  Hundreds died.  Elizabeth, a nurse, was credited with saving many of the British and Indian soldiers that she was assigned to, risking her own life with this very infectious disease.     A Canadian Story: Andrew Mynarski VC RCAF: Mynarski, born in Winnipeg, was 27 years old when he flew with 419 Squadron, based in England.  On the night of June 12th 1944 he was on a mission...
THE WICKENBY NEWSLETTER ~ OCTOBER

THE WICKENBY NEWSLETTER ~ OCTOBER

  This is another of our series: the Wickenby Register Newsletter.  The newsletters were printed twice yearly; they include information about 12 Squadron RAF, memories of service men and women, the occasional recipe, stories of times past… But perhaps the thing that spoke to both Mel and me when we saw them was the inclusion of a poem on the back of each issue.  We hope that you’ll enjoy these two:        ...
“NURSE VIOLET”

“NURSE VIOLET”

  In 1995, a woman donated a Queen Alexandra Nursing Sister’s uniform, medical equipment, medals, badges, autograph book, photographs, and a 1930s era obstetrical nursing book.  The donor didn’t have much information, explaining that they were given to her family when she was a child, by a woman guest in their Black Creek home.  the uniform and artifact had been used by the family’s children as costumes.  The donations are now incorporated into our WWI Nursing Sister display.       One of our former volunteers, Corrine, explains the process of updating the display and the discoveries made during that time ~ “The process of updating the display with a new state of the art “personnequin” with realistic features and posable hands, tweaked our curiosity about the items used to dress our nurse.  With the help of Allison Hetman, Mel Birnie, Brian O’Cain, and Robert Lesage, we did some detective work and came up with some basic facts that raise yet more questions.   Informally known as Nurse Violet, the original owner of the uniform and artifact was a woman named Jean McPherson, born in Orangeville, Ontario on July 5th, 1886.  Jean’s records contained no information on her parents, so it proved difficult to find any relatives.  Military documents indicated that she had her medical for the Canadian Medical Service on September 8th, 1916, and her unit at that time was listed as the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service (QAIMS).  She sailed from Montreal on the SS Scandinavian on October 12, 1916 but no destination was listed.  Entries in her diary suggest that she was in France in 1916,...
THE ROYAL AIR FORCE VICTORY BELL

THE ROYAL AIR FORCE VICTORY BELL

The Royal Air Force Victory Bell was created for the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund.  Its purpose was to raise money to help serving and former members of the R.A.F. and families, as well as to assist in the upkeep of the R.A.F. Memorial.  The RAF Benevolent Fund was founded in 1919 after WWI; it continues to be a registered charity and receives no government assistance.     Conrad Parlanti was the designer of the Bell.  Conrad Parlanti was born in London in 1903 to his father Ercole Parlanti, who was a prominent bronze artist. Ercole was commissioned to cast his most famous work, the casting of the RAF War Memorial, which is located on the embankment of the River Thames.         The Bells were cast in 1946 from aluminum taken from German aircraft shot down over London during the London “Blitz. The Bells have images of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Some of the first Bells were auctioned by Chesney Allen of the WWII famous entertainers “Flanagan & Allen”.  During the London “Blitz”, Flanagan & Allen, who were radio and vaudeville entertainers, would visit the air raid shelters and the underground railway stations that were used as air raid shelters to entertain the people. The auction took place at the first Battle of Britain dinner held at the Hungarian Restaurant in London, shortly after D-Day. As much as 1200 pounds was paid for the first few Bells that evening. Here at the Comox Air Force Museum, located in Comox B.C., we have had two Victory Bells donated to our vast collection of Air Force memorabilia.     Note of...

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