Anyone who knows me knows I have a fascination with stories of women’s experiences in the wars of the 20th Century. My husband has an interest in naval history, so this means that most trips back to London involve a visit to the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth or the National Army Museum in Chelsea to see their latest exhibitions. And having planned to visit Belgium this December, we’d also looked forward to visiting Vimy (France) and some private military museums en route.
So, can we replicate that in Calgary?
Damn straight we can!
Part of the ‘rules’ we created for ourselves with this challenge was that we could only visit a museum we’d previously visited if there was a new exhibition… or if we hadn’t been there in the past decade!
This afternoon found us at the The Military Museums in Calgary – we hadn’t been there since they’d opened their Air Force display, so it met the rules – and I learned a whole load of things. For example, why is the RAF uniform blue? Because it reflects the blue of the sky, right? Wrong! When the RAF was formed on April 1st 1918 they needed uniforms, but after four years of war, cloth supply in the UK was in short supply. So they turned to Russia and bought material which had been earmarked for the Russian Cavalry until the Tsar was deposed and Russia signed a peace treaty with Germany in 1917. And what colour was that material? You guessed it. Blue! And blue it has remained ever since.
Having visited the Air Force Museum I have to confess that we wandered into the Naval Museum. As a former QA, I’m always curious about the nursing uniforms of other services, and I have to say that I think the Canadian Navy Nurses of WW2 had the most beautiful of them all. You can’t see it properly in the photograph, but the dress is a deep burgundy with a navy blue cloak lined with gold satin. Stunning! (The blue uniform to the side is the WRCNS summer dress.) Needless to say, I picked up a few books at the museum’s gift shop!)
(Oh, and it turns out the museum has the most amazing archives. The librarian was extremely helpful and I made a huge leap forward in my History Mystery with my aboriginal soldier in Glasgow – but I’ll save that for a later post.)
But a holiday isn’t a holiday without different food, is it? I’ve struggled to find many Belgian restaurants in Calgary, but there is a Dutch Pancake House close to the museum, so we went there and had the-most-delicious potato/cheese/bacon pancake!