Sunday, 2 August 2015

The World War I Public Education Day at Fanshawe Pioneer Village

Once in a while, my family and I help out a group known as History Matters. This group is dedicated to the education of the public on the First World War particularly. We've often done education days for high schools, but two weekends back was the first one History Matters did for the general public. Fanshawe Pioneer Village, a heritage area of one of the conservation areas in and around London, ON, hosted the event which consisted of a number of displays and interactive programs for the public in general. I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves - photos taken by my wife, by Jeff Brown of History Matters, by my daughter, and a few by myself. My wife turned out in a period dress she sewed herself. I attended on Saturday as a factory worker in a long canvas duster, a vest, and a derby hat. Katie was present in the uniform of the Russian Women's Battalions of Death.


Katie and I manned the display of the various equipment of the major participants in WWI, including helmets, caps, mess kits, bayonets, gas masks, and uniforms. Behind Katie (or Unteroffizer Ekaterina Ivanova, I should say) are the flags of the major powers - Great Britain, France, the German Empire, and the Russian Empire. Emphasis was laid on the Western Front for the most part.

The various participants including Canadians, Germans, French, Scots, suffragettes, and the War Graves Commission.


Beth and I in our "finery." She looks quite fine, while I'm rather scruffy.

A Canadian Army tunic with the insignia of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
The temperature was about 30°C that day, so imagine wearing this woolen nightmare all day!

A late-war German infantryman's tunic... still wool and still hot.

Various caps including the Canadian dress cap, a "Gor-blimey" cap, French kepi and bonnet de police, and a German feldm├╝tze. Katie was wearing the Russian furashka.

Helmets -- Picklehaub, Stahlhelm with Stirmpanzer attachment, the Adrian helmet, and two examples of the Brodie helmet worn by the British, Canadian, Portuguese, and American armies.

Gas masks in their cases.
... and out of them.
The German Gummemaske, the British Small Box respirator, and the early French mask.

Entrenching tools and the trench club variant.
The Danish-designed Linnedemann tool on the far left was used by the German, Russian, and French armies.
German trench raiders often sharpened the edges and used it as a sort of hatchet for hand-to-hand combat in raids.

Mess kits and canteens. The French backpack is in the centre; it must have been hell to carry!

British, French, and Russian bayonets; a German Stahlgrenate, a British Mills Bomb with some sort of rifle grenade attachment, a cup discharger (please see previous blog) and wire cutters.

The British mess kit used in WWI. Mess kits of this style were first issued to British troops around 1812!

The whole display

Engaging the public. That's the duster Beth made for me.

Katie checks out the French canteen in her Russian uniform. She was quite grateful that it was all cotton!

A lot of good questions were asked.
Our friend, Nick as Canon Scott, the Canadian Army chaplain in front of his marquee tent
that was being used as a casualty clearing station. 
My dear wife, Beth, in the wonderful period dress she sewed. She even put the hat together.
She had to meld together two different patterns to get the look she wanted.
Quite fine, I'd say!

The other side of the dress.

Suffragettes on the march.
These ladies paraded around a few times each day to stir support for the women's vote!

I watched the battlefield demonstration with this gentleman and his granddaughter.
He just decided to come out in Highland dress. Good for him!

About mid-day on both Saturday and Sunday, there was a small battlefield exercise for the public - an Allied attack on a German position. Here the reenactors go over the "script"and procedure. Blank ammunition only of course!

Our good friend, Tyler, in the flannel undershirt of the Imperial forces with his SMLE rifle.

The attack! En Advant! 
Justin in the uniform of the Black Watch, Tyler and another reenactor in British kit, and Katie in her Russian.

Katie led the attack as seemed appropriate for the Women's Battalion of Death. (Look it up; you'll be amazed!)

Katie and her new love, the Moisin-Nagant rifle!

Ben, our French Poilu, takes up the charge after Katie fell to enemy fire.

Mopping up!

Hande hoch! Du bist Kriegsgefangnen jetzt!
Another photo from Sunday. Katie had a bit of trouble with the Moisin-Nagant since the bolt was stiff,
but nothing she couldn't handle.

Seconds after this was taken, Katie screamed, charged, and "died" gloriously.
Justin followed up closely.

Canadian and British troops in the abandoned house.

Fall back to the mortar position!

The Germans surrendered once again. Happy to say it was all in fun.

The smiles couldn't get much bigger.
Tyler and Katie in their battle finery.
Justin sporting his new Black Watch uniform.
Another interesting uniform for the display.


Katie at the trench system display. History Matters has built an almost full-sized teaching example of a Canadian trench system at Fanshawe village. The site might be about 40 metres long and almost 2 metres deep. Some trench raiding examples were done on both days. 

Tyler leads some of our visiting friends through the trench. Hi, Gail and George!
At one point, it was discovered that part of trench was occupied by bees.
A gas mask was borrowed and a chemical attack took place!

Ekatrina Ivanova (Katie John's daughter) in a belligerent mood!
Urrah! Urrah! Urrah!
Y'know, a father can only resist so much when he sees a photo like this.
I'm quite proud of her ...and of my wife.
... And of my son who was working and otherwise would've been toting a rifle as well.
This might be a yearly event at Fanshawe Pioneer Village in London. I'd just hope it's a little cooler.

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