Revisit the History of WWI with Rose’s Notebook (3/10)
April 25, 1915
I could not be more proud of our fine Canadian soldiers, nor more disgusted with the Germans. Based on dispatches arriving from across the ocean, it seems increasingly clear that the Germans are using poisonous gas against the Allies on the Western Front. After this appalling tactic, I have to believe that the Allies will redouble their commitment to driving back the German army once and for all. And to think that this news comes on a day that should instead stand as a proud moment for our proud nation of Canada. For the first time, our Canadian troops are fighting in a major battle, in and around the city of Ypres, Belgium. We may be a commonwealth, but we are also a vibrant young nation that is contributing to defeating the German army and restoring peace in Europe.
This is not the first time, I feel, that the Germans have broken the rules of war. The Germans are waging a war on psyches as much as anything. Late last year, they bombed the beautiful Basilica in Reims, France. In our archives, I found an article from Le Matin that documented the atrocity. To destroy a house of the Lord, to remove a place for people to gather and pray, that shows just how callous the German mentality must be. How did this happen? How did an entire country lose touch with their own hearts? I know that the hostility between France and Germany goes back at least as far as the Franco-Prussian war. Deep wounds heal slowly, I suppose.
For me, the most difficult part is the effect the war is having on the children. While on assignment covering the war on the border of France and Belgium, one of our reporters met a young girl named Margot. An incredible artist, Margot gave him one of her sketches.
What sort of world do we live in when a young girl can identify the nationality of a soldier based on the style of their uniform? What will the impact be on the youngest generation as this war drags on? Someday I hope to have children of my own, and I pray that they will grow up in a world of peace. I must believe that once we defeat the Germans, something like this will not happen again.
Thankfully, there was one bright spot from overseas this week. I received a letter from Louise Masson, the nurse whom I interviewed before she left for the front lines. She told me that she had settled into working at Dr. Mignault’s hospital and that she felt confident they bringing some light to the darkness of the battlefield. She had the opportunity to meet Margaret C. Macdonald, head nurse of the Canadian Army Nursing Service, who had been promoted to major — the first woman in the British Empire to have achieved such a high rank. Louise also included a short poem by a fellow medical officer named John McCrae. I hope he has an opportunity to continue writing after the war.
Until my next entry,
Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts
Concept #4 – Causes and consequences
What conditions lead up to an event and what are its consequences?
Through her research on the destruction of the Basilica in Reims, Rose uncovers Margot’s drawings. This leads her to a deeper understanding of how the war was affecting civilians as much as soldiers. Children were becoming the defenceless collateral damage of the conflict. She also recognizes how intense nationalism in the lead-up to World War One contributed to the hostility between European powers. No event exists in a vacuum; rather, there is “collateral damage” for any human development. In the classroom, students should be encouraged to consider how similar events have different results. Both World Wars had a significant impact in France and in Canada, and yet the narrative we tell about them is considerably different. What deeper understanding can we take away from that fact?
- Guidepost 1: There are multiple causes and consequences for any single event.
- Guidepost 2: The causes of an event vary in influence.
- Guidepost 3: Historical actors and conditions both play a role in shaping events.
- Guidepost 4: Unintended consequences usually result from an event.
- Guidepost 5: History is not inevitable, chance plays a role.
This guest post was written by David Finkelstein.
I love the surprises found in a new batch of CAMPUS films. The range of viewpoints and voices offered by the NFB’s productions is almost unparalleled. In the classroom, I want my students to focus on critical thinking and empathy, two essential life skills. I am an OCT-certified teacher and have developed curriculum for a number of CAMPUS films, including the No Fish Where to Go study guide addressing the question of refugees.
Rose’s Notebook is created in collaboration with Apocalypse – the First World War.