Friday, November 11, 2016

A Post for November 11

The Vimy Foundation, which does much good civic educational work regarding Canadian military history, recently took a survey on knowledge of First World War matters in Canada and other Western nations.

The Vimy Foundation is run by my friend Jeremy Diamond, who came up through the old Dominion Institute, which was renowned for taking polls crafted to provide July 1 headlines along the lines of: "Most Canadians say they know nothing of Canadian history and it isn't taught in schools."

Jeremy was in the media yesterday reporting that the Vimy Foundation poll shows Canadians, more than citizens of other countries, believe too little is done to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. He argued this means we need to do more. But the poll result could well mean that Canadians take the anniversary more seriously than people elsewhere. That is, that the commemorative enterprise has been succeeding.

In that vein, another statistic produced by the survey is striking:
Canadians are the most likely to have attended a war remembrance ceremony in the past 12 months.... 
Fully one quarter (25%) of Canadians say they’ve attended a war remembrance ceremony in the past 12 months, while fewer residents of Great Britain (18%), the US (16%), Belgium (14%), France (11%) and Germany (4%) say the same.
Remembrance Day is also producing a flurry of  declarations that Canada "became a nation" at Vimy. I have a column forthcoming in Canada's History's first issue of 2017 that touches on that:
It will often be said this year that that Canada “became a nation” at Vimy Ridge. But victory at Vimy only happened because in 1917 Canada was already a nation, one that could raise, equip, and send overseas a fighting force with the leadership and esprit de corps of a national army capable of fighting the Vimy battle.
Whether we should have, that's another question.

Update, November 14:  Friday I was doing an oral history interview with an elderly informant. It was not on anything to do with military history, but I knew he was a veteran, and I had inadvertently proposed Remembrance Day for our conversation, so I asked if I was interrupting a special day. He said it was special, but not for that reason.  On November 10/11, 1944 (not quite 21), he said, he piloted his thirty-third Bomber Command mission, to Berlin. "It turned out to be my last mission, the worst one, the one I still have those, what-do-you-call them, PTSD issues about."  And then he changed the subject.
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