August 4, 2014 marked the centenary of Britain’s declaration of war against Germany. As a member of the British Empire, Canada was automatically at war and British Columbians enlisted enthusiastically – 55,570 of them served
in the 620,000-strong Canadian Expeditionary Force. To mark the anniversary of the Great War (1914–18) the Royal BC Museum installed an exhibition in Clifford Carl Hall called British Columbia Remembers: The Great War.
The installation featured four video montages of British Columbian recruits training, drilling and marching before departing for the war in Europe. The raw footage, shot on 35mm cellulose nitrate stock, was painstakingly stitched together by archivist Dennis Duffy. Period music selections augmented the montages.
The films were introduced with still photographs by enterprising Victoria-based commercial photographer Ernest Crocker (1877-1968), also known as “Trio”. Crocker made thousands of candid photographs of troops waving farewell, as they embarked from Victoria’s Inner Harbour bound for further training and eventually for combat in Europe.
Side panels on the installation featured images from war-time diary entries by BC residents Frank Swannell and Arthur Douglas Crease.
A surveyor by profession, Swannell’s entries contain many detailed drawings. The installation featured one of his evocative diary entries and a cross-sectional drawing indicating how troops rested in the confined space of a trench. Crease was a 43-year-old lawyer from Victoria. His account of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, recording the very first use of tanks in war, was reproduced on the installation.