A colourful and vivid display at the Fort Ostell Museum in the Ponoka Lion’s Centennial Park depicts the bravery, hardships, glory, and extreme sacrifice shared by our Canadian Forces during the first and second World Wars and other corridors of peacekeeping.
The unique military uniforms in the museum showcase were kindly donated by the families of our many war veterans from this area, and come complete with medals, colors, and markings of the Royal Canadian Navy-Air Force-First Canadian Army men’s and women’s divisions, Medical and Signal Corps, and countless other support staff. Those representing hundreds of their compatriots include: Hershel Jevne of the Army Signal Corp.; Paul Chistiansen, who served in the Canadian Air Force in Britain from 1942-1945 and was the recipient of a Distinguished Flying Cross; Alberta Watt, a member of the R.C.A.F. Women’s division from 1942-1945; and Robert James McWilliam, who was awarded the Silver Cross and was killed during training exercises.
An honour roll list of the hundreds of other local men and women who served at home and overseas in the military services is also shown along with the museum display, as well as in the club rooms of the long-standing Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 in Ponoka. The price of war has been very high over the years, with Canadian troops battling shoulder to shoulder with other troops of the British Empire in World War one, with 2,834,860 of their numbers wounded, 942,135 killed, and many missing. During the Second World War over one million Canadian soldiers entered into the fray, with 41,992 killed, 55,000 wounded, and many others missing in action or in prison camps. Following are some of the highlights of those horrific confrontations, in which our proud Canadian soldiers were and always will be front and centre with their support, skills, and determination.
*The recruiters for the Canadian Women’s’ Army division offered young ladies ‘a new life worth living’ in the service of the military.
*A small pay book at the museum display showed that World War one officers received $2 a day and $30 a month, while regular troops were paid $1 a day an a monthly allowance of $15.
*The Royal Canadian Air Force was created in 1924, changing from the Canadian Air Force, but staying under the Army’s control until 1938. One of the major Canadian contributions to the war was the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which accepted students from all over the world, produced 50,000 pilots, and trained 100,000 personnel. There were 107 schools in the training program across Canada, including Alberta bases at Penhold and Cold Lake, and a Bombing and Gunnery School in Lethbridge.
*Military life was very tough on all fronts, with the men and women facing danger everywhere. When they went overseas they had to wear anti-gas masks (also featured in the Ponoka display), and could not dig in to long in one place for very long for fear of an attack by enemy troops or spies. Many of our troops were captured and locked away in concentration camps, where they faced unimaginable cruelty from the Gestapo as well as poor housing and constant diseases.
*Although it may seem very odd, the war was welcomed here at home at first. It brought in lots of money and alleviated the long strain of the Great Depression, which has been plaguing the country since the early 1930’s. The nations was struck with strict wage and price controls in 1941, followed by the dreaded Rations, which became a fact of life in 1942, and controlled such vital commodities as meat, sugar, coffee, gasoline, and even power supply.
*Millions of Canadians also contributed to the total war effort by volunteering with such organizations as the Red Cross, or participating in salvage campaigns; while constantly worrying and listening to daily reports concerning the fate of their friends and loved ones overseas Those very same feelings of care, concern, and extreme pride prevails for our thousands of troops serving today in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other vital eace keeping roles at home or overseas. Please always try to remember and honour the dedication and extreme effort that they have and will continue to give in support of our nation in the horrific conflicts of war and injustice, which has been waged over a period of more than 100 years