Another Night at The Museum
100 Years of Heroism: The Battle of Moreuil Wood
Captain Phil Webster
Deep in the midst of one of Alberta’s famous snowstorms, on a cold, dark winter’s night here in Calgary, the doors of The Military Museum (TMM) were opened to a grand spectacle of song, dance and joy not seen since Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man.” And while most of the preceding sentence is untrue, the cold night in February did see the opening of two new exhibits in Calgary commemorating the 100th anniversary of several major themes and battles of the Great War. This includes, most notably for the purposes of this writer’s article, Moreuil Wood. “Witness: Canadian Art of the First World War” and “100 Years of Heroism: The Battle of Moreuil Wood” have currently found their home in Prof. Lindsay Sharman’s Founders’ Gallery, the art exhibition portion of TMM, showcasing in their respective ways the importance of 1918 in the Canadian historical consciousness.
“Witness” is a travelling exhibition on loan from the Canadian War Museum (CWM) showcasing 53 works by 40 of Canada’s best-known artists including AY Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Henrietta Mabel May, Paul Nash, Dorothy Stevens and Frederick Varley. Included in the paintings are works by Canadian soldiers who bore witness to the horrors of the war, and put their experiences and thoughts into ink, paint, and canvass in order to show what they had seen.
My Museum’s contribution to this display is a showcase of art, artifacts, and quotations related to C Squadron’s charge on that fateful day in 1918. The centrepiece of our display is a miniature recreation of the charge against the German lines, with Lt. G.M. Flowerdew, VC front and centre, and information related to other goings-on in the woods spread throughout. The creation of WO (Ret’d) Ted MacLeod, the attention to detail in the model display is astonishing and grants the viewer an excellent vantage point for the scale of the battle and the heroism demonstrated by the Strathcona soldiers on that day. Also on display is The Cox Collection: a group of artifacts accredited to Private L.J. Cox, a soldier involved in the charge itself, and a gathering of original artwork and cavalry items similar to those used on that day.
The opening itself was a roaring success as, despite the lower turnout due to the aforementioned winter storm, art and history lovers from the world over (read: Calgary) thronged the museum (read: attended the ceremony in an orderly fashion) to see the new show. Opening remarks from Mr. Tom Hickerson, Vice Provost Libraries and Cultural Resources, The University of Calgary, and Dr. Joanne Stober, a Historian of War and Visual Culture for the CWM, set the stage for our own Maj Alfred Wong to speak on the importance of the Battle to the Regiment and the public at large. Despite the Regimental 2IC’s insistence that I stop using the terms “dash” and “dashing” to describe the Battle’s events (and myself, of course) the night was a peerlessly resounding success, in the eternally humble mind of this author, and I can only presume everyone in attendance.
Witness: Canadian Art of the First World War and The Battle of Moreuil Wood: 100 Years of Heroism are both on display in the Founders’ Gallery until 27 May 2018. Photos of the Exhibit taken by Libraries and Cultural Resources, University of Calgary, can be viewed at the link below.