Some of Canada’s most significant, sacred ground isn’t in Canada at all, but a new film from Royal Roads Professor Geoffrey Bird takes us there.
Ways We Remember War is a 70-minute documentary focusing on the 2nd Battle of Ypres, the first involvement of Canadian troops in the First World War.
“Those 1600 men advanced across this field at night and into this wood that was held by the Germans. By the next morning,g about 1200 of those 1600 were either killed or wounded,” says Bird.
“That was Canada’s first experience in the war.”
Bird says the impact of the casualties was acute on Vancouver Island since the first wave of troops wave of troops was based in Esquimalt. What we know today as the Canadian Scottish Regiment.
The film focuses on the battle that happened more than 4000 kilometres from Canadian shores and serves as a bridge to a battle 108 years ago. Bird says there was no use of film footage in those early days of the war, and that artists instead were commissioned to create paintings.
“Therein lies the different ways that the war was interpreted by artists. Some of them were veterans. They had that first-hand experience of what it was like in the trenches.”
Bird combines those early commissioned works with modern works and drone footage to recreate the Ypres landscape, then and now.
“It’s a film about how art memorials and pilgrimage shape how we remember the First World War,” says Bird.
Ways We Remember War premiers Tuesday night at the Vic Theatre in Downtown Victoria, and there is a screening Saturday at Royal Roads following the on-campus Remembrance Day ceremony.
The 70-minute feature airs Saturday at 8 p.m. on CHEK.