Episode 340 – War. When Will We Ever Learn?

The Imperial War Museum has four locations, one of which is the Churchill War Rooms which we visited earlier in the week, and another of which is the Imperial War Museum London, which we visited today. Their website says: “See war through the eyes of the people who lived it. Be moved. Be inspired. Be transformed.”

There really is no adequate way to effectively describe the exhibits and the feelings of sadness, horror, and even frustration that they create, but after touring the World War I area I knew there was a lot that I was going to want to remember when we visit Ypres, Passchendaele, and Vimy Ridge in November, so I just took a TON of pictures of the signs and quotes.

Hopefully when I look back at these and re-read them in November, they won’t be overwhelming in combination with actually being at the sites. If, like me (Ted is the war history buff in the family) you’re only aware of the “big picture”, then you may also find these interesting as a way to understand more.

Most of the photos tell their own story. In a very few cases, especially where there was a specific Canadian connection, I’ve added a caption.

There’s a lot to take in. you may want to do it in small doses.

It was rather shocking to learn that in the decade before World War I, the life expectancy in Britain was only 50 for males, and 54 for females, and that was for the well-to-do. In very poor areas it dropped to just 30. The average salary was £1.40 per week, and a pint of beer cost 2 shillings (a pound was 20 shillings, so a week’s wages bought 14 pints – or maybe food for the family.

The first Christmas of the war brought a holiday ceasefire, after which the war resumed.

This is who the city of Kitchener, Ontario was named for, after having its name changed from New Berlin.

A Canadian recruitment poster. As part of the British Empire, Canada was at war as soon as Britain declared war. More than 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders (Newfoundland had not yet joined Confederation) served in The Great War, out of an entire population of just under 8 million. Approximately seven percent of the total population of Canada was in uniform at some point during the war. More than 66,000 of our service members gave their lives and more than 172,000 were wounded.

Some rather terrifying looking sniper camouflage.

In fact, Britain did not lose control of India until 1947.

Inside the “trench”, it was cold and damp, with the sound of rain seeming to come from overhead, and the shadows of barbed wire fences and those patrolling above eerily reflected on the mud walls.

Amid all the horrors, these captions made me smile. Clearly, humanity was prevailing on an individual level at least.

“Many historians and writers consider the Canadian victory at Vimy a defining moment for Canada, when the country emerged from under the shadow of Britain and felt capable of greatness. Canadian troops also earned a reputation as formidable, effective troops because of the stunning success. But it was a victory at a terrible cost, with more than 10,000 killed and wounded.” – Canadian historian Tim Cook, writing for the Canadian War Museum

More than 4,000 Canadian soldiers died in the fighting at Passchendaele, and almost 12,000 were wounded.

Ted and I will be standing Last Post at Menin Gate when we visit it in November.

… and it was over, the “war to end all wars”.

And yet we all know it was not the war “to end all wars”.

We didn’t make it to the World War II exhibits. Instead, Ted and I went on to tour the Holocaust Galleries, where no photography of any kind is allowed, except the sign at the entry, below.

After a total of 4 hours in the museum we were completely drained. Despite the occasional story of heroism and survival, the overwhelming sense that humans continue to promote hatred toward other humans, usually for religious or economic reasons, is truly discouraging.

Will we ever learn?


  1. Thank you for sharing these posts from the War Museum…heartfelt, disturbing reflections on the horror of war, the devastating loss of young men….what have we learned from these messages…or perhaps it is human nature at its worst , the need to dominate in spite of the tremendous disruption & costs to a nation.
    My husband a Brit & knowledgeable about the past two wars, also appreciated these posters . Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fantastic post! I feel like I’ve been through the museum, and I’ve so enjoyed reading all of the information from the exhibits. You might enjoy reading The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman as more background to the beginning of WWI.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! I’m exhausted. I think I just read more about WWI than I did in history class. Of course, the US was late to enter the war. Maybe that was part of the reason, plus WWII was much more recent history ( I was born during WWII). It’s hard for me to imagine a world with no more wars in spite of the cost. The war to end all wars will be the end of civilization.

    Thanks for the history lesson.


    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely learned more than I did in history class, but I suspect that was because when I had the choice I always chose ancient history. But…. Remembrance Day was always a big deal at school (once it was no longer a statutory holiday), and Canada’s role in WWI was a focus that day.


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