Remembrance Day thoughts

Loading

An article on the Global News site titled “Fewer Canadians plan to wear poppies this Remembrance Day, poll finds” made me think again about what Remembrance Day is for. The article opens: Fewer people plan to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies or wear poppies this year, according to a poll from Historica Canada that also suggests knowledge of Canadian military history is dwindling. To be fair, I’d suggest knowledge of pretty much everything factual is dwindling. One only need look at social media posts from … click below for more ↓

Remembering those who served

Loading

It’s at this time of the year, as we approach Remembrance Day, that I think most about my family, especially those who have died. I wish I had known when I was younger what I know today, so I could have asked them more about their lives, and about their service in the military, about their wars. I have read a lot about those wars, about the military and political history of the last century; it’s a topic I never tire of reading about. I wish … click below for more ↓

A little musical Canadiana

Loading

Among my collection of many (many!) vintage song books and song sheets, I have a bundle of patriotic music from WWI. I was browsing through them again this week and found several songs written and published during the war, either as songs for the soldiers (usually cheering them on to war or hoping for their safe return) or songs for those left behind to express their patriotic fervour. I thought it might be appropriate to show some of them to readers as we approach our … click below for more ↓

Demagogues and dictators

Loading

I’m not sure why they fascinate me, but I’ve been reading about demagogues and dictators for many decades now and still can’t seem to get enough of them. Of course, it’s in part because I like to read about politics in all its forms and fashions, but there’s something more than just celebrity watching with these. There’s the psychology of propaganda and mass movements, the inoculation of widespread ideologies, the use of technology and mass culture. The period between the two World Wars in particular intrigues me … click below for more ↓

1914: My Grandfathers’ Year

Loading

As I read further into Max Hastings’ book, Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914, I wondered, as I have done in the past when reading similar books about that time, what my grandfathers must have felt when that war broke out. What it meant to them and their worldview, and to their imagined futures, both at the start of the war, and then at the end, after four years of struggle, of deprivation, of fighting. What was it like to finally come home? What did … click below for more ↓

Mao: The Unknown Dictator

Loading

Although I have read many biographies of the European dictators, and many histories of Europe and the Americas in the first half of the 20th century, I hadn’t read much about modern China until recently. Mao: The Unknown Story (by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday) was the first full-length biography I’ve read about Mao Tse Tung (Mao Zedong) and it is a remarkable work about a time and place in history that remains veiled to most of us even today. Mao’s rise to power and … click below for more ↓

Thirty Seven Days

Loading

Back in the mid-1970s, the BBC launched a dramatic, 13-part series called Fall of Eagles, about the last decades of the 19th century and the lead-up to World War One. It also chronicled the end of the royal dynasties in the aftermath of the war. It was a brilliant series, sweeping in its broad brush across the royalty and politics of Russia, Austria, Germany, and England. France got a mere cameo role because France was not ruled by any of the dynasties which form the central … click below for more ↓

The Grey Wolf Escapes

Loading

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XsuZUggi4I] Forget your chemtrails, your big pharma, your New World Order; forget UFO abductions, Bigfoot and GMOs. This is the granddaddy conspiracy theory of them all. This one makes all the rest look like grade school gossip. It makes the petty conspiracies of local bloggers look like the diaphanous piffle they really are.* What is it? That Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun escaped from Berlin in 1945 and survived until the 1960s in exile in South America. And his dog, Blondi, got out with them, too. And, … click below for more ↓

Family, a Century Ago

Loading

The gentleman in the uniform on the right is William Gordon Pudney, Chief Petty Officer and engineer on the cruiser, Niobe, one of the earliest ship’s in Canada’s fledgling navy. William (Bill) was born in Canada, in 1893. He is perhaps in his early 20s in this undated photograph, taken a century or more ago, maybe even younger. William, my grandfather, served on the Niobe shortly after it was acquired from England, and later served on it in WWI, when it patrolled the Atlantic. He may … click below for more ↓

Human Smoke

Loading

“The truth of history,” Napoleon wrote in his memoirs while exiled on St. Helena, “is a fable agreed upon.” Agreed upon mostly by the victors, one should add. The losers seldom agree with it. In 1865, Mark Twain added in his work, Following the Equator: “The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” Two centuries after Napoleon, Dana Arnold wrote in Reading Architectural History: Historical reality is then a ‘referential illusion’, in which we try to grasp the reality… In … click below for more ↓

The Cold War

Loading

I was reminded by an article on Slate that the (to me) iconic film of the Cold War, Fail Safe, was released fifty years ago this week. And as the article records, more people remember the satirical film, Dr. Strangelove than the more chilling drama, Fail Safe. Perhaps they have forgotten it, as they have the Cold War itself. Forgotten too are the tensions and the fears that pervaded that era; the threats of nuclear war. the suspicions and paranoia about Communism, the McCarthy hearings, … click below for more ↓

The Beginning of the End

Loading

Sixty years ago, the end began. It would take almost a full year for the Allies to batter the Third Reich into submission, but in the summer of 1944, the end was inevitable. All could see it. The combined might of the Allied armies was simply overpowering for whatever Germany had left to throw at it. But it was neither easy nor simple. So why didn’t Germany sue for peace, cut its losses and surrender, rather than face the prospect of ruin and devastation? Why … click below for more ↓

My Grandfathers’ War

Loading

One hundred years ago World War I began, a war that started as a clash in a tiny, almost unknown Balkan state and blossomed into a violent, gruesome war that spread across Europe, the Middle East and reached into Africa and Asia. Within a few years, tens of millions would be dead, the political face of the world changed and almost all of the great royal houses of Europe would be deposed and broken. An entire culture, a society of class and place, was overthrown. … click below for more ↓

Lawrence in Arabia

Loading

I recall with some vividness seeing David Lean’s masterpiece film, Lawrence of Arabia, when it was first shown in Canadian theatres. I was 12 and utterly astounded by the movie. Not simply the great, sprawling, adventurous tale that meandered through 220 minutes (plus the intermission), but by the incredible scenery. It was a world totally alien from my cultivated, manicured suburbia: wild, dangerous, exotic. And stunningly beautiful. So much of an impression did it make on my young mind that today I can still remember sitting … click below for more ↓

Back to Top