Memories of War

Like most Canadians, I think of war as rather a remote thing. It has been a long time since a war was fought on Canadian soil.

Memorial on the banks of the Thames River for those who fought in the 1940 Battle of Britain. A striking sculpture of fighter pilots rushing from the ready room to their planes to defend England.

Memorial on the banks of the Thames River for those who fought in the 1940 Battle of Britain. A striking sculpture of fighter pilots rushing from the ready room to their planes to defend England.

Oh there has been the odd skirmish, rebellions in the Canadian west in 1870 and 1885 as well as in both Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) in 1837, Fenian raids in the 1860s, but the last external conflict fought on Canadian soil was the War of 1812, which ended a couple of centuries ago. When we have gone to war it has been a matter of sending Canada’s soldiers overseas, which we did in the Boer War, both World Wars, Korea and numerous United Nations and NATO operations since.

We have our war memorials, but they are relatively few in number. Each town has a cenotaph to commemorate those who died in the two world wars, but usually not much more than that. So walking along the banks of the Thames River in London I couldn’t help but be struck at how much war has impacted that city.IMG_9142

Of course I am aware from my reading of history how London suffered during the Blitz. I know that the defeat Nazi Germany took pretty much every resource the nation had – wartime food rationing continued until 1954, almost a decade after the end of the war, as the economy did not recover overnight.

This memorial to the women of the Second World War was a couple of blocks from the river bank.

This memorial to the women of the Second World War was a couple of blocks from the river bank.

We really didn’t walk very far along the Thames, just a couple of kilometres on either side of the river near the Parliament buildings as we whiled away an afternoon. The reminders of the war were everywhere, by the river and on nearby streets.

It must deeply impact a people when their country is attacked or invaded. Canadians live with a sense of security which means that the October 2014 attacks on individual soldiers by lone gunmen had an impact on the national psyche far greater than if it had been two random murders (thankfully also fairly rare here). War is something that happens somewhere else, though we understand Canadian troops may be at risk. This may be why we don’t have as many memorials as I saw in London, we haven’t felt the same level of threat. I hope we never do.

Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery was perhaps the most famous British general of the Second World War.

Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery was perhaps the most famous British general of the Second World War.

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One comment

  1. Alexander Davidson · · Reply

    I don’t know what your Sunday evening schedules are like, but I get together with Ken Lloyd and one other friend most Sundays at the Wellington Royal Oak. A live announcer asks trivia questions, from 7:28 sharp to about 9. It’s usually the last of about 16 venues throughout the week, and people can’t play more than one place in a week for obvious reasons (so if you are already on a team, I’m out of luck). Food and various beverages can of course be consumed! The teams are flexible in size – I just have to get there early enough to grab a table the right size. It just occurred to me that you have a vast array of knowledge about many things, and Vivian must as well. Any chance you and/or Vivian would be interested in helping us test out wits against very bright but ordinary-looking people? The freezing rain this Sunday will probably have stopped by the evening, and there will be other Sundays (oddly, they seem to come weekly), so is there any chance I could talk you into joining us this Sunday or some other?

    Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2015 07:36:03 +0000 To: alexanderdavidson@hotmail.com

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