Another section in the Glenbow museum had letters written by Canadians who were held prisoner of wars in various countries - even in such circumstances a few soldiers had a sense of humour; felt sad though to think of their position - captivity in a foreign land, no idea if they would see another day, no idea whether their letter would reach their loved ones and only memories to cling to. One solider had written how lovely it was lying on a hospital bed after having spend so many nights in trenches! He joked about the jaundice he had - "you should see how yellow I am; a lovely mess".
From home, I took the bus to the centre of the city (also known as 'downtown'). Bus charge is a flat $3. You have to tender exact change when you step into the bus; there is a big plastic box near the driver where you drop the money. The driver then gives you a small rectangular slip of paper that looks and feels like a newspaper clipping with the date, timing and some info on the back. This ticket is valid for 90 minutes. From downtown I had to switch to another bus and when boarding that bus I showed the driver this ticket; I didn't have to pay $3 again. There are no conductors on buses. The bus will only stop in bus stops in case there is someone waiting there or if someone inside the bus requests for a stop - you do that by pulling the yellow cord that runs above the window (you can see it on the left in the picture). I realised this when the bus never stopped in the location that Google indicated was a bus stop. I ended up getting off 2 stops later and had to walk quite a bit. The good thing is that the city is pedestrian friendly; every road has a footpath beside it. After walking for 25 minutes I reached the military museum at about 11:30 am where there were a lot of kids running around.
Life in the trenches
The elderly staff gave me a map and told me where what was. He added, "You don't want to start down here because there are 150 kids below - it's like chickens on steroids out there." The entrance fee was $10. There was a huge mural in the main hall - hundreds of small images, each representing some piece of Canada's military history.
I entered the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) section - this regiment was deployed in the First World War in Europe; there were simulations of war trenches - cramped places infested with rats where soldiers had to stay for weeks with limited supplies. Trenches are occupied by troops even when there is no enemy attack; they try to hold the lines. Trench life did have a schedule when there was no attack - breakfast (brought to them from the kitchen), cleaning weapons, attending to personal matters etc. There was a guy who wrote poems for his daughter from the trenches (appropriately titled 'Wisdom from Nonsenseland'). Typical schedule involved spending 2 weeks in the front line, 1 week in support, 2 weeks in reserve and 1 week at rest. There was disease and stinking smells in the trenches. There was always a chance of death - taking a peek by stretching out of the trench could result in getting shot by an enemy sniper.
The PPCLI were part of the Second Battle of Ypres which involved a German gas attack. In 1915, of the 1000 soldiers that initially arrived (known as the Originals), only about 150 remained. On 10 Nov 1918 the PPCLI were in Belgium. When the German leader abdicated, the war stopped suddenly and there were celebrations in Belgium; it was a pleasant surprise but there was bittersweet feelings in the regiment - so many lives had been lost. Dying for what people would say is a larger cause; but one wonders why we should have people killed for the sake of a conflict that is generated by a few minds.
The other areas in this section were about involvement in the Cold War, Balkans, Korean conflict, Cyprus, Afghan conflict etc.
The other section I found interesting in this museum was the Founder's Gallery where there was an art exhibition by a photo journalist on the Ukraine crisis - a few poignant photos and a video taken from the protestors side during the night showing bottle grenades being thrown to the police side. They burnt tyres to keep themselves warm in the winter.
For the first World War, there were around 48,000 Albertans who enlisted; the country was just coming out of the recession and there was unemployment - out of them 6,000 died and 24,000 were wounded.
Life for prisoners of war was also hard - the Germans had severe punishments. Blowing your nose in an undisciplined manner meant 5 days of closed confinement. 5 days for not standing during a parade; 8 days for trying to take German potatoes; 8 days for laughing at a German officer.
There were some articles about the relationship between the King's Own Cavalry Regiment and the Maratha Light Infantry (an Indian unit); they fought together in Italy between 1943 and 1946.
The air force section had a section about the decorative art that crews painted just below the cockpit; it was a type of graffiti also called as 'nose art'. Air crew members wanted to personalize their aircraft; they felt it was special. There were paintings of women and even disney characters. I had my packed lunch in the pantry - there was no one else around; by 2pm the place was getting empty; the school kids had all left. There was also a Navy section where the guy in charge joked, "As you see I am quite busy right now."
Overall it is a nice museum - for those interested in history, wars and military this is a worthwhile place to spend some time. If you do keep reading everything that is there in the museum it will surely take you the whole day.