“Experience History With A Bang at Canada’s National Artillery Museum in the Central Museum of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery at Canadian Forces Base Shilo”. That’s a mouthful to put on a road sign but we didn’t need to read it; Ralph scoped out the RCA Museum early on and we made a crooked beeline for it when we passed through Manitoba.
I couldn’t have less interest in war lore, but through Ralph I’ve grown to appreciate military museums as an alternative way to connect with the regions we visit. They often house peculiar items found nowhere else and present a different perspective than the usual insipid pioneer museum.
Among the 65,000 artifacts in the RCA museum—including spooky lifelike mannequins silently driving tanks, operating weapons and defusing bombs—is the story of Canada’s most famous poem, In Flanders Fields. (You know: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row…”) Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a medic, was moved to write it while grieving for a friend whose death he witnessed in 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres along with half the Canadians on the firing line who were also “made casualty.” (Interesting euphemism; makes “killed” sound like a promotion. Maybe it is.) On display is the original printing plate, made from McCrae’s own hand-written copy of the poem.