Wednesday, October 5, 2016

World War Wednesdays: SECOND BLOGIVERSARY!

     Can you even believe that I've written a post every Wednesday for the past TWO years? It feels like this adventure just began and I'm still so grateful every day for all the things I've learned and experienced as a result of this blog. As I did last year, I thought it would be a nice trip down memory lane to look back at the past year of posts, remember some old favorites, and see how far we've come.

Fall 2015
     The first post of our second year was coverage of the Battle of Britain 75th anniversary ceremony on Parliament Hill. I still think of that day as being one of my favorite here in Ottawa so far, and I'll never forget the way the R.C.A.F. paid tribute to that legendary period in our history. This year, the ceremony was back at its usual location, the Aviation and Space Museum, so I feel lucky to have experienced the big anniversary when it was held at Parliament. After that, we changed keys and talked about country music and the World Wars, tipping our hat to Ernest Tubb and Jimmie Rodgers. The next post was on the Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill, one my favorite topics, and one of the first devoted to that fascinating man. The book with that title by Dominique Enright is still one of my favorite works ever and I highly recommend picking it up! One of the most popular posts of the year happened next, with the story of Edith Cavell. That one was part of a hundredth anniversary during the First World War and I loved how propaganda was tied into that story. The next edition ventured into the uncharted territory of Children's History with the story of the SS City of Benares tragedy, and then again with the guide to researching your own family's war histories after my trip to the Library and Archives Canada genealogy center. Fall continued with a discussion on the history behind Daylight Savings Time, which has some surprising connections to times of war! Last year's Remembrance Day post, "Forgetting Remembrance Day," was another memorable edition and a continuation of my original blogging purpose, which was covering commemorative events. The next post was about Canada's Mennonite communities and the Second World War, which is a deeply fascinating (and not frequently explored) topic and the subject of an amazing National Film Board movie, "The Pacifist Who Went to War". The last fall post really spiced things up with an exploration of General Eisenhower's alleged affair with his assistant, Kay Summersby. Overall, fall 2015 seemed to be all about trying new things and exploring some unique ideas!

The Battle of Britain ceremony

Winston Churchill

Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby

Edith Cavell

Ernest Tubb
Winter 2015-2016
     We cracked off the winter blogging season with another of the most popular posts, the one about the Women's Division of the No. 4 B&G at Fingal, before moving into the well-loved series of Christmas celebrations held there. December ended with the presentation of my digital timeline project, which is an interactive map of the fatal accidents that occurred during the B&G's operation. Clearly I was spending a lot of time in the archives collecting resources on the school's history! We began 2016 with some First World War fondness from Aylmer, which happens to be my first post with a spelling error in the title, in case you ever wondered. In keeping with the central/east Elgin theme, the next post talked about the No. 1 Technical Training School in St. Thomas, which located in the St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital building. After that, my first Holocaust-related post finally happened, which was all about the story of Emmauel Ringelblum. To lighten the mood a little bit, the next week featured the story of the most adorable wartime sweethearts who were reunited in their nineties. The gloves came off with the post about a young Princess Elizabeth training as a mechanic and driver during the Second World War, but we put them back on again as archival gloves for the next three weeks' posts on some original Holocaust documents that had most likely never been seen since the days of the Warsaw ghetto. One of the defining characteristics of the winter posts was their origins in archival research, which I began relying on more frequently in order to make the posts more original and reliable.
Princess Elizabeth in front of her ambulance

The footbridge linking the Warsaw ghetto with the rest of the city
Spring 2016
     Spring began with a break from tradition: the only non-war-related post in the history of World War Wednesdays, in honour of this year being a Leap Year. The next week jumped into some coverage of Elgin's own 91st Battalion during the First World War, which was gearing up for the 100th anniversary of its departure overseas at the time. The next week shifted gears again with yet another Fingal post, this time on mishaps that occurred at the school and some lucky escapes in honour of St. Patrick's Day. After that, my visit to the Canadian War Museum with some NDP Members of Parliament and staff was another highlight of the year, and that week's post covered the World War Women exhibit that we got to experience with a special tour. The next post was one for the dogs, and discussed some of the famous dogs of leading men during the Second World War. In honour of the Vimy Ridge 99th anniversary in April, I focused the next post on commemorations of Vimy in Elgin County over the years. The next few weeks got nice and close to home, with the Letters Home to Dutton series and coverage of the story behind Pte. Kenneth Duncanson's life, death, and recovery in Belgium. I was finally back home at that time and made sure to give Dunwich lots of attention. All of these posts are definitely a sign of the times when they were written, and it's especially neat to look back on them and remember what I was doing at the time.
Pte. Duncanson

The old Dutton train station
John Hodder from Dutton, one of the soldiers whose letters home were published in the Dutton Advance during WWII

Summer 2016
     As much as I hate to admit that summer has drawn to a close, it's nice to look back and see how those posts played out. They started with the story of the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge and its connections to Adolf Hitler, and then observed the D-Day anniversary with some coverage of Elgin County men who were a part of those operations. We then moved into the two-part Dutton Advance During WWII series, which was followed up with a post on what it was like to go to the movies in the area during the war. July began with a unique post on the WWI Pals' Battalions, which I had never heard of before then. The next post got us spaced-out with the discussion on wartime shining stars from Wallacetown, which was inspired by a visitor during my time at Backus-Page House. We jumped across the Dunborough the next week to make sure that West Elgin veterans were recognized in a similar way, before extending the boundaries again the next week with the highlights of Lorne Spicer's war experiences and reunion with a former comrade at Parkwood Hospital. The August heat blazed on and so did the search for dynamic new posts, with some special attention being paid to the Blitz during WWII. After that, we talked about the Canadians during the WWI battle at Hill 70, where I was able to incorporate some of the local veterans' database I had compiled at the museum. We rounded off the summer with some darker topics, namely the Spanish Influenza epidemic and First World War Enemy Aliens in Elgin County. Overall, I'd say that my time at the Museum heavily influenced these summer posts, and opened my eyes to a wide range of topics that had yet to be explored.

     In general, when I look back on the past year of World War Wednesdays, I'm even more proud of this little tradition than ever. I think the last twelve months have really encouraged me to try new things, explore some unfamiliar topics, and go the extra mile to ensure quality and original content. I closed last year's blogiversary post by saying that I was so excited to see where the next year of blogging would take me, and I repeat that statement for this year! I can't thank my readers enough for following along and engaging with these posts, and I'm looking forward to providing you all with another years' worth of reading material.
      Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

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