Canada’s War Museum

war museum

The first time we visited Ottawa, the Canadian capital, was in 2009, five years after landing in Canada. Being a soldier, I was very much impressed with the Canadian War Museum, especially as to how it serves to remind us of the sacrifices of soldiers across the globe and also sensitises us about the immense calamity any war can have on the civilisation. In 2014, Guillaume Le Floch, the French exchange student came to stay with us and we all visited the capital city and obviously we visited the War Museum once again.

Canadian War Museum was established 1880 in Ottawa to pay tributes to the men and women who endured the tests of war. Today the museum stands as a gratitude for the service and sacrifice of Canadians soldiers. The new, modern building, commissioned in 2005 on its 125th anniversary and the sixtieth anniversary of the end of WWII., emerges from the ground and rises progressively higher at its eastern end, closest to Parliament Hill. Its textured concrete walls and roof are somewhat reminiscent of a bunker, while a partially grass-covered roof is consistent with the Museum’s theme of regeneration and its environmental friendly design.

The museum also provides an evolving searchable catalogue of its collections. Types of artifacts found in the database include archaeological specimens, aboriginal arts and artifacts, folk art, furniture, war art, military objects, glass, porcelain, textiles and much more. This catalogue now contains more than 240,000 objects and is growing to include more than a million artifacts held with the museum.

Much of the Museum’s public exhibition space is devoted to its Canadian Experience Galleries. These displays underline the profound effect that war has had on Canada’s development and the significant role Canadians have played in international conflicts. Their content is a rich mixture of some 2,500 objects from war art to armoured vehicles, as well as scores of audio-visual displays and many hands-on activities.

The first gallery introduces the concept of war and its relevance to Canadians and Canada. Visitors explore the Canadian experience of conflict from aboriginal warfare and post European contact and the Northwest Resistance of 1885.

The second gallery covers the South African War (1899-1902) or, as it is also known, the Boer War, where more than 7,000 Canadians, including 12 women nurses participated. This war marked Canada’s first official dispatch of troops to an overseas war. This gallery also houses exhibits from the First World War. During World War I, Canada was a self-governing dominion of the British Empire, with its own foreign affairs. In 1910, the then Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier declared that “when Britain is at war, Canada is at war. There is no distinction.” Some 619,000 Canadians, about 7% of the population, had enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force for service overseas.

The third gallery explores Canada’s fight against dictatorships overseas during the Second World War. The gallery introduces the visitor to the oppressive and aggressive dictatorships of the 1930s, and the mounting pressure for a strong response from the rest of the world. Britain’s declaration of war did not automatically commit Canada, as had been the case in World War I. The government and people were united in support of Britain and France. After Parliament debated the matter, Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September 1939. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King promised that only volunteers would serve overseas.  In the beginning Canada was unprepared for such a large scale war.  The regular army of 4500 men, augmented by 51,000 partly-trained reservists were deployed and was surely a modest beginning. The Second World War fundamentally changed Canada. Canada experienced industrial transformation and a booming economy during the war. New technologies and manufacturing principles produced enormous quantities of military supplies. By 1942, there was full employment as hundreds of thousands of Canadian men and women found work in war industries. As a result of its enormous military contribution during the war, Canada also became recognized as an important and assertive international actor, increasingly pursuing its own path in foreign policy.

The fourth gallery showcases The Cold War, Peacekeeping, and Recent Conflicts, 1945 to the present.  Canada became a respected international player through its commitments to Western defence and peacekeeping. The first Peacekeeping force consisted of Canadians to resolve the 1956 Suez Crisis.  Lester B. Pearson, the then Foreign Minister, who later became prime minister of Canada, won a Nobel Peace Prize for using the world’s first, large-scale United Nations peacekeeping force to de-escalate the situation. Since then, there was hardly a peacekeeping mission till date that did not have Canadian participation.

The LeBreton Gallery houses the Military Technology collection and is a diverse collection of vehicles, artillery and other large artifacts that tell the personal stories of war, from the eighteenth century to the present.

The Memorial Hall located in the Museum’s spacious foyer, is a space for quiet remembrance and personal contemplation. The concrete walls, grooved with large, offset rectangles, are reminiscent of the rows of white grave markers in Allied war cemeteries. The lone artifact is the headstone from the grave of Canada’s Unknown Soldier from the First World War, a simple bench the only furniture. Sunlight through the Hall’s only window directly illuminates the headstone every Remembrance Day, 11 November, at precisely 11 am, the moment the Great War ended in 1918.

The Regeneration Hall is a narrow, soaring hall with angled walls and a narrow triangular window that frames the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. There is the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower that houses seven Books of Remembrance which record the names of the men and women who have given their lives in military service to Canada. (Please click to read my earlier blog). The hall is a representation of hope for a better future. High narrow windows spell out in the dots and dashes in Morse Code which stands for “Lest We Forget” and “N’oublions jamais”.

The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour explores Canada’s long history of honouring individuals; how Canadians have remembered and commemorated their military past. Through personal stories, photographs, art and artifacts, this gallery shares the earliest forms of honouring through burial, painting or dance, to the erection of national monuments.

The Military History Research Centre has a comfortable main reading room. An Archives Reading Room is also available for researchers accessing archival documents, photographs and rare books. The staff is always available to assist you with research, answer any questions, and assist in accessing the collections.

“Spitfire Dance”, a dramatic musical entertainment in two acts, is staged by the War Museum. The musical is accompanied by World War II era songs, and it tells the stories of pioneer female aviators of the Royal Canadian Air Force, their courage, their daring and their frustrations. It is a memorial for all those women who dared compete in that most male of establishments of the time – aviation.

Every nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that none can ever repay. The only way they can is to remember them, cherish them and honour their sacrifice. I conclude with the first four lines from Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, written in September 1914.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Voice Modulation

Margaret Thatcher

Voice modulation is very important, especially to make any presentation or a speech impressive. The best method to achieve it is to undergo a bit of voice training and the easiest way is to attend a few lessons on vocal music, either Western, Hindustani or Carnatic. Our daughter Nidhi had undergone training in all the three and our son Nikhil was reluctant to do so. His clichéd excuse was that vocal music is not that ‘manly’ . His ideas about vocal music training changed after we watched the movie ‘The Iron Lady’, a biographical movie about Ms Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of UK.

Ms Thatcher realised that her voice was a bit ‘screechy’ and was deemed a problem when she first wanted to run for Parliament election. Women’s voices, especially shouting at the top of their voices in any parliament, has always been accused for being too shrill. The movie shows her undergoing vocal training to reduce the shrillness of her voice to her optimum pitch and improve the projection of her voice. Improvement in both of these areas removed much of her shrillness and gave her voice a better projection and thus better impact.

Bingo! after the movie Nikhil enrolled for the vocal music lesson and did about a dozen classes. His voice modulation improved tremendously and after a few months he asked me as to how I knew that vocal music training would help. I said “fools learn from their mistakes, wise ones learn from others’ mistakes and idiots will never learn. Your dad was a fool and you need to be wiser”.

Here are excerpts of the Valedictory Address by Nikhil in Grade 8 (before vocal training) and Graduation Breakfast Address in Grade 12 (after vocal training)

Decades of research have established that musical training has profound impact on the development of the brain. Many language skills, from reading to speech perception and production, rely upon phonological awareness, the explicit knowledge of the components of speech and how they can be combined.   Phonological awareness, in turn, relies upon the ability to categorize speech sound which are distinguished by small differences in timing and frequency content. Audiovisual processing is seen to be much enhanced in musicians’ brains compared to their non-musician counterparts.  Musicians are more sensitive to subtle changes in both speech and music sounds.

When children start studying music before the age of seven, they develop bigger vocabularies, a better sense of grammar and a higher verbal IQ. These advantages benefit both the development of their mother tongue and the learning of foreign languages. During these crucial years, the brain is at its sensitive development phase, with 95% of the brain’s growth occurring now. Music training started during this period also boosts the brain’s ability to process subtle differences between sounds and assist in the pronunciation of languages – and this gift lasts for life.  It has been found that adults who had musical training in childhood still retain this ability to learn foreign languages quicker and more efficiently than adults who did not have early childhood music training.

How is music training going to develop one into a good speaker?

In order to get your ideas across well, captivate an audience, command or persuade your team to achieve a goal, it is important to modulate your voice to suit the occasion. In all these situations, your voice plays an important role in making a meaningful impact on your listeners.

Everyone would like to listen to a confident and inspiring voice. A good voice is one that is easy to listen to and it would command the attention of the listeners, influence and inspire them. A good voice is a great tool in communicating any messages clearly, whenever or wherever one is.

Most speakers, however good they are, shy away from listening to their own voices. One got to accept one’s voice, but also realise that there is always scope for training. The aim of such training should be to develop some simple vocal skills to help you sound more confident and interesting.

Speed of the delivery of the speech, mostly too fast, causes strain to the listeners and results in loosing focus. The speed of your delivery is mostly dictated by your nervousness; more nervous you are, faster you speak. This results in loosing track of your thoughts and makes you mumble a few words and often results in a monotonous and uninspiring speech. To control the speed of your delivery, pause for a second or two after your first sentence. This allows the audience time to adjust to your voice and take in what you have just said. A good way to practise getting used to pausing is to read out aloud a from a newspaper or a book. When you get to a full stop make sure that you pause two or three seconds before moving on to the next sentence.

Most audiences get put-off by a dull and uninspiring speaker with a monotonous voice, a voice that is too quiet or a voice that lacks emphasis. You need to speak with energy and enthusiasm if you want your audience to listen to every word. If the audience cannot hear you, they will switch off very quickly. To avoid this you do not have to shout but you need to project your voice by emphasising the key words in the sentences. This will help you to project energy and passion into your voice and your voice will sound stronger and more confident. Emphasising words also tends to lift the pitch in your voice so that it is no longer monotonous but more varied and interesting to listen to. Select any text, underline the key words and read it aloud to practice emphasising these key words.

An expert voice coach can help you to discover your true voice; develop your own vocal strengths and thus communicate with greater influence in all situations. This is where the basics of classical music comes in to help you modulate your voice.

It is not too late for anyone to undergo a few vocal music lessons. The least one can do is to ensure that the generations to come are put through some vocal music lessons.