War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Notes from PhD Land: Up to London to meet our new Prime Minister

I am frequently invited to an astonishingly wide variety of places because of my work as a war artist and my research on the Great War. Last spring, for example, I was under Vimy Ridge in the tunnels and souterrains_ with British munitions experts and archeologists from the Durand Group. I was looking at the thousands of pieces of graffiti and carvings made by Canadian soldiers from 1917 onward.

Last week I was invited to Canada House in London to meet our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The crowd consisted of approx. 150 and ranged from an Admiral to bankers to consultants to functionaries to scholars to artists (this list not necessarily reflecting societal worth!). In the last stages of the PhD, I found this trip to London to be a great relief. It was wonderful to be amongst such creative Canadians living over here and to meet the new PM. There was a joyous atmosphere that day as Trudeau articulated our country’s values. It was oddly like a renewal of vows stating, This is who we are. There are approx. 250,000 Canadians over here. Astonishing, yet not astonishing. Opportunities abound for us over here. The UK has been very, very good to me, filled with opportunities, including the award to come here and do my doctorate. But I want to come home. I will come home.

I missed the 11 November ceremony and reception at Canada House this year due to illness. Because of this I hadn’t seen the new installation commemorating our Afghan war dead that sits in the foyer of Canada House, Lest We Forget. The installation is part of a fundraising memorial project sponsored by the Veterans Transition Network and consists of individual squares, rather like a large mosaic, that pieced together, present a montage. I was startled to realise that each square had the names of military personnel KIA, and that I was literally standing in front of the 12 who died with Task-Force 3-09, all of with whom I spent time on Ex or in theatre. I later searched the website for the project and couldn’t find any information about the artist who designed the project, nor if the NOK were in involved with the project. I took pictures of those squares that have the names of the five from Delta Coy, the ones I knew best. I was going to send the photos to the mothers but decided against it because I don’t know if they were involved in the project, and if not, they might be startled.

The Veterans Network is helping military pers. transition towards wellness. Recently I learned that one of the CIED naval divers with TF 3-09 has become a yoga instructor having left the service. I know this man and when I read his story was sad to learn of his struggles after returning home from war. Yoga, he says, in a newspaper article, saved his life. I’ve seen photos of him and he looks so well, so happy. We lost touch when I came to England. I hope that organisations commemorate the return to health and well-being in works of art as well as those of memorial. Not instead of, but as well. Our war narrative needs to be broad and deep. I hope I have, in part, contributed to this.

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Notes from PhD Land: Up to London to meet our new Prime Minister. It was posted here on November 29, 2015.


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