Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory.

Special exhibition at Citadelle explores Canadian experience in Belgium during First World War

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Photo: Shirley Nadeau

Stephen Quick, director-general of the Canadian War Museum and Dany Hamel, director of the Musée Royal 22e Régiment, at the “iron harvest” exhibit featuring unexploded munitions and shrapnel that, almost 100 years later, continues to be plowed up by farmers on former battlefields in Belgium. 

Canada played a pivotal role in Belgium during the First World War – a story that deserves to be shared with Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The Musée du Royal 22e Régiment, located in the Citadelle of Quebec City, is pleased to present Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory, a travelling exhibition from the Canadian War Museum from October 20, 2016 to February 26, 2017. 

The exhibition is supported by National Presenting Sponsor VISITFLANDERS, and is part of a series of War Museum projects commemorating the centenary of the First World War.

“From the first use of deadly chlorine gas in the Second Battle of Ypres, to the treacherous mud of Passchendaele, Canadian soldiers faced horrific new weapons and unimaginable conditions on the battlefield,” said Stephen Quick, director-general of the Canadian War Museum at a press conference held to launch the new exhibit on October 19. “This exhibition showcases the Canadian experience in Belgium and the impact it had on Canadian lives.”

Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory. explores the Canadian experience in Belgium during the First World War. The exhibition begins by establishing the context for Canadian entry into the First World War. It then looks at two battles in the northwestern part of Belgium in which Canadian soldiers played a pivotal role. 

In 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, they fought through mud and endured clouds of chlorine gas to hold the Allied line at the city of Ypres. In 1917, the Canadian soldiers fought for weeks through mud, heavy artillery and machine-gun fire to prevail in the Battle of Passchendaele, suffering more than 15,000 casualties and earning nine Victoria Crosses in the process.

The final section of the exhibition uses the liberation of the city of Mons in November 1918 to explore how Canadians and Belgians celebrated the end of fighting, how they honoured those who lived and those who died, and how we continue to commemorate the First World War to this day. 

These memories are brought into sharp focus with John McCrae’s well-known poem In Flanders Fields, which led to the adoption of the poppy as a symbol of Remembrance Day and continues to inspire reflection on war and sacrifice to this day.

Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory. shares the experiences of Canadian soldiers and Belgian citizens through wartime artifacts, works of art, personal stories, photographs, archival materials, audiovisual presentations and more. The content is drawn from the Canadian War Museum’s own collections, as well as from other institutions in Canada and Europe.

Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory. will be on display at the Musée Royal 22e Régiment, inside the Quebec Citadelle, from now to February 26. This is a travelling exhibition developed by the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, in partnership with the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in Belgium, and with the generous support of the E. W. Bickle Foundation.

The Canadian War Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of its Official Partners of the Centenary of the First World War: John and Pattie Cleghorn and Family; HCol (Ret’d) John C. Eaton and HCol Sally Horsfall Eaton; The Friends of the Canadian War Museum; TD Bank Group; VISITFLANDERS and the R. Howard Webster Foundation. 

For more information, visit www.lacitadelle.qc.ca/en/  A visit to the exhibition is included in the admission fee for the Citadelle: adults $16, seniors (65 and over) and Students $13, youth (7 to 17) $6, and family: $32 (2 adults and 3 children).