Tuesday, December 19, 2006

U-boats and spies invade museum


Ottawa Sun
By Denis Armstrong
December 19, 2006

Like many Canadians, I learned about World War II from the point of view of the English. We learned how brave Canadian soldiers valiantly liberated Europe from the Nazis.

What we weren't taught was how boldly Canadians defended their own country when the Germans targeted the St. Lawrence River.

That historic chapter of Canadian history gets its due in a new exhibition called Canada Under Attack: The Battle of the St. Lawrence (1942-1944), which opens Friday at the Canadian War Museum.

The exhibit is anything but a dry academic look at a chapter of Canadian social and military history. This unassuming but nonetheless highly theatrical exhibition features recreated samples of homes under siege, with samples of daily radio broadcasts, propaganda films and anecdotes that give the displays real humanity.

375 killed
There's also a storyboard on the life of Maureen Spence, whose Scottish father was one of the first casualties of the conflict in the St. Lawrence when the liner Frederika Lensen was torpedoed in 1943, one of 23 ships sunk in which 375 lives were lost.

"We give the viewer a taste of what daily life was like in the Gaspe during this time, the daily blackouts and precautions that they would have to take," said curator Jeff Noakes. "When word got out that Nazi spies were planted throughout Quebec, people became very suspicious of strangers."

The exhibition isn't without a sense of humour either, with reconstructions of the eccentric defence projects created by fishermen and farmers.

It runs until April 15.



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