In our modern times, it is often not easy to understand the effect that the global wars of the past 100 years had on everyday life and how support for those members of our society who were off fighting those conflicts was a big part of everything we did.
In these days, terrorism and far more localized conflicts exist but don’t have the huge effect that everyone experienced on a daily basis.
Dennis Gelean is an energetic individual who has spent a great deal of time over the years collecting artifacts from those past wars and this week we have an opportunity to view some of those in a very interesting and thought provoking display at Northwest Community College (NWCC) in Smithers.
While some of his collection just won’t fit into the display cases or onto the walls in the hallways there (think military combat vehicles), Gelean has chosen items that will certainly make us think about how war can reach down into everyday life for all members of society.
Some of the display is an interesting collection of various items from variety of nations or services. There are a wide range of helmets, for example, from different countries that have a variety of shapes. There are also helmets that were used in tanks. There are helmets used for different purposes on naval ships.
For many people, they only think of the helmets they may have seen in movies.
Not a very wide range compared to the collection we can see in this display.
Getting into perhaps more personal items, there is a very interesting collection of gas masks that ranges from those used by soldiers early on when chemical warfare of the sort that needed some kind of protection such as a mask might provide to much more advanced equipment. You can see a good variety of such equipment that was developed for use by infants and by a variety of draft animals.
“When the Canadians experienced the first gas attacks, all of the mules they used ended up dead so they had to make masks for them too,” said Gelean.
He also pointed out a poster from the camel corps which showed the type of masks used by those desert dwellers. Not something you ever see in Lawrence of Arabia.
Gelean feels that remembering and honouring our military is still important.
“The number of veterans from the two big wars is way down but we still need to honour those who have gone to places like Afghanistan,” he said.
His collection at NWCC has something for everyone to enjoy and he can easily talk your ear off with bits and pieces of information about the various items on display. These are small reminders of a different time that has allowed us have the rich life we have now and the sacrifice that many of the youth of those days gave with no second thought.
The display will be available for viewing until Nov. 12.