Thursday, January 19, 2012

Home Again!

Having returned home from Ottawa this week I can certainly say that the trip was a success! Having spent a little over a week there, Adrian and I sorted through thousands of documents relating to PoWs in Canada. In the end, we took almost 15,000 pictures of documents ranging from pay lists from labour projects in Manitoba to escape reports to orders written by Riding Mountain's camp administrator! Spending between eight and ten hours at the archives made for some very long days but in the end, we just had enough time to document everything we wanted to. However, I am sure another trip is in order in the next year or two!

PoW Work Jacket with "target" - Canadian War Museum
While in Ottawa, we couldn't miss going to the Canadian War Museum which has an absolutely amazing collection of artifacts ranging from Canada's first settlers to the modern day. We had requested to see some of their holdings relating to PoWs in Canada beforehand so we were given special access to articles like PoW work jackets, German uniforms and equipment, as well as Canadian uniforms. After this we were given a behind-the-scene tour of the museum's facilities which was absolutely amazing! To see items like the uniforms of Billy Bishop and Sir Arthur Currie, General Wolfe's chair, and Hitler's telephone up close was something I will never forget! A big thanks goes out to the museum staff!

On a side note, German PoWs in Canada wore a wide range of clothing depending on where they were located within the country and the work they were involved in. For formal wear and while in larger internment camps, PoWs were authorized to wear German uniforms, complete with their insignia, rank, and medals. However, for those participating in labour projects, each PoW was issued a specially-marked set of clothing that included a jacket, pair of trousers, and a cap. To identify these men as PoWs, the jacket had a large circle on the reverse (which the PoWs often joked was a target for the guards to aim at in case they attempted escape, while the trousers and hat had a red stripe sewn down the length. Having seen some examples of this clothing before, it was still great to see these items up close.

Anyways, I will certainly busy for the next few months as I work my way through all of the files!

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