My husband and I watched Passchendaele on the weekend. There is a scene that never fails to hit me, and it’s not the most violent one in the movie: it’s the scene when Sergeant Michael Dunne (Paul Gross) and his company arrive at their trenches and move in. And when I say “trenches,” I mean round, swimming pool-sized mud pits half filled with dead men, water, and all manner of horrors. Surrounded by rot and filth, awash in water to their waists, they joke about being unable to light their cigarettes because their matches are wet.
I said, “We are being asked for so little. Look what they went through.” It was history brought to life.
Remembrance Day is the only day in the calendar set aside to remember the past, specifically, war. Today I am grateful to those that served, whether home or abroad, and to the ingenious teachers who know that to understand history, you must make it personal – to see history through the eyes of the people that lived it. As family historians, we understand the power of story. For my part, I want to see history through an encompassing lens: those who served directly and those who were affected and particularly those whose stories are less well known by reason of their gender or race. To commemorate Remembrance Day, I will collect my stories and research posts on war and conflict. There’s a dozen to choose from. Two are stories: Virot and Owens, two are photo essays, one is a video. The rest are research, where genealogy meets war.
- 23 Apr 2017: The hairdresser spy: Andrée Virot
- 3 May 2017: An uncertain homecoming, Part 1: WWII, the Chinese, and the fight for civil rights 1939-1967
- 25 Feb 2018: Leading with the heart – the Olympian story of Jesse Owens
- 12 Dec 2018: The story behind the story “Genealogy – a Detective Story” (WWI)
- 31 Dec 2018: The James Bonds of Chinatown: meet Force 136
- 9 Feb 2019: My TV guest spot: talking about the power of a good family story on Lit Happens (video, WWI, WWII)
- 7 Jul 2019: Force 136 like you’ve never seen them – in living colour
- 30 Jun 2019: Force 136 goes to London and takes some holiday snaps – a pictorial story of WWII
- 15 Feb 2020: The Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property – genealogical documents for Japanese Canadians
- 1 Mar 2020: Lily’s war
- 31 Mar 2020: An extraordinary, ordinary life: Dorothy Gibson
- 6 May 2020: Our families in WWII: The 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day
This one is for my dad, Cecil Wing See Yip.
Look what they went through.
We shall never forget.
This is my 100th post. I remember wondering if I’d run out of stories when I began this blog but those fears have proved to be unfounded. As I write, I have dozens more ideas in various stages of completion, from wild I wonder if… ideas to just needs a bit of tweaking and it’s done. If there is a better word than grateful, that is how I feel about you, my readers. Thank you.
The murderous mud of one First World War battlefield (6 Sep 2018) CBC Archives, CBC.ca. Accessed 10 Nov 2020.
Roy, RH and Foot, R. Canada and the Battle of Passchendaele (31 May 2006, updated 21 Nov 2018). The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 Nov 2020.
Passchendaele (2008). IMDB.com. Accessed 10 Nov 2020. Movie review.