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The Canadian War Museum

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The exemplary Canadian War Museum (armuseum.ca) is housed in a striking modern building on Lebreton Flats, a somewhat desolate parcel of land beside the Ottawa River about 2km west of Confederation Square. The museum is divided into four main display areas, which work their way through Canada’s military history with accompanying text and quotations. The first gallery, the “Battleground: Wars on Our Soil, earliest times to 1885”, features a good selection of Native Canadian weaponry – tomahawks, muskets and so forth – plus a particularly well-researched section on the War of 1812. However, the museum really gets into its stride when it reaches World War I in the second gallery. There are lots of fascinating photographs, but it’s the incidental detail that impresses most: Canada was keen for its soldiers to use a Canadian rifle, but the end product – the Ross Rifle – often jammed, while the rum ration came in barrels labelled “SRD” (Service Regimental Depot), which the troops re-branded as “Seldom Reaches Destination”. The section on World War II is similarly intriguing and there’s good stuff on the Cold War too – including details of the strange case of the Russian defector Igor Gouzenko, who was so scared of retribution that he was often interviewed with a bag over his head. Finally, the Lebreton Gallery is a large hangar packed with all sorts of military hardware, such as tanks, armoured cars and artillery pieces.

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