Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 1 – The Canadian War Museum


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   In the past I use to go to Ottawa (Canada’s capital) at least once every 2 – 5 years for the culture or for Remembrance Day. Yet I have not gone to the nation’s capital for the past 15+ years for a variety of reasons. Therefore I decided to go this year on a spur of the moment idea. Mind you I did book a room and made plans on what I wanted to see but I was inspired by my earlier adventures this year to Discovery Harbour and Fort George. I delved into Canada’s past and learned a few things about my Canadian heritage and I wanted to learn more.

And what better way to discover Canada than to drive across its beautiful landscape. I love to drive and driving to Ottawa was as fun as doing things there. It takes about 4 ½ hours to drive to Ottawa from Toronto but I did it in about 5 hours. I stopped a couple of times for washroom breaks, to stretch my legs and to get something to eat. The landscape is beautiful with trees, wetlands, lakes, rivers and rolling hills wherever you look.

Toronto to Ottawa

Ontario Landscape

Ontario Landscape

       In Ottawa I wanted to learn not only about Canadian history and politics and what me and everyone living in this country Canadians but also about other interests of mine. I saw and experienced a lot in Ottawa that I cannot place it all in one post, I have to divide it into several. Hence this will be the first of perhaps 4 – 5 posts about a few sites I explored in Ottawa.

The Canadian War Museum

The first place I visited was the new Canadian War Museum building. Well for me it is new; I went to the Canadian War Museum before when it was in the old building. The new building opened on May 8th, 2005 on the 60th anniversary of VE day (Victory in Europe). They have wonderful exhibits on every era in Canadian history pertaining to conflicts that Canada was involved in. From the First Peoples to early settlers, the war of 1812, Confederation, The Boar War, World Wars I & II, the Korean War, the Cold war up until the present. They had artifacts from muskets to rifles, early aviation, tanks and models of warships. The best part of the museum showed the personal side of the conflicts showing ordinary Canadians and what they did to preserve our freedom.

They also had a special exhibit on the Roman Empire, specifically the Gladiators. It was amazing to see the artifacts from the Roman world and other pieces from the Coliseum. The Roman Empire is my favourite ancient civilization, I also took several courses in university on the subject matter. I enjoyed the exhibit immensely.  

However, one such area touched me to the point I had to stop and reflect on what I saw. A small display showed a Canadian Aviator who flew Spitfires during World War II (WWII). His name was George “Buzz” Beurling, also known as “The Falcon of Malta”. This was very personal to me because my heritage is Maltese and I had heard stories from my father about the “Second Great Siege” of Malta during WWII. My father was an adolescent during the war and he assisted the RAF with their ground security, running out and capturing shot down enemy pilots. He survived being strafed and bombed which was a miracle because Malta was the most heavily bombed place in the world during the war.

Hell Island – By Dan McCaffery

I remember him telling me about a pilot who would go up and shoot down enemy planes like he was born in a fighter. I even found a book called “Hell Island” by Dan McCaffery that retold the stories of Canadian pilots who fought during the war. One story was very familiar and as I read it, I remembered the stories my father told me. I read it to him and he said that was the pilot he remembers and it was George Beurling. I was amazed for that day, history came alive for me and the great pride I had of a Canadian fighting for my parent’s survival and thanks to his and other Canadians, my family survived and that I am here today because of heroic actions of men like George Beurling.

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George “Buzz” Beurling – The Falcon of Malta

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George Beurling Memoirs from the Battle of Malta

The rest of the museum was so spectacular that I spent the entire day looking around and absorbing every detail. Looking back I arrived 15 minutes after it opened and left 15 before it closed. Tey had so many artifacts that showed Great Canadians doing extra ordinary deeds that I had to just slowly take in all that I saw and read. I cannot tell you everything that I saw, you just have to experience it yourself.

Or if you like, over a tea I can try to recount the wonderful stories of brave Canadians. From stories of the Cold war to the actions of Canadians in Vimy Ridge and Normandy, I am in awe with what those brave men and women did. The whole experience has made me reaffirm my gratitude to them and for their sacrifice. For without their sacrifice I would not be here today.  

Thank you, Merci to you all who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice. I for one will never forget what you have done.  

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