Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reflections on "War Horse"

It has now been over a month since I watched "War Horse" at an advance screening, and many scenes come quickly to mind when I reflect on the movie: first and foremost, the amazing sequence when the British cavalry attacks a German camp, swords levelled--followed immediately by the appalling slaughter of men and horses when the machine guns open up. The brutal realism of horses drawing heavy guns up mud-choked hillsides. The humanity of the rescue of the wire-festooned horse in no man's land.
This is family fare, so Steven Spielberg has spared us the blood and gore that he could have included, and he has presented British and German alike as human, with good and bad traits on both sides.
As in "Soldier of the Horse", men at war were not protrayed as saints, but neither were they bereft of human emotions.

Friday, December 23, 2011

War Horse, and another Soldier of the Horse

To millions of children the world over, it's two more sleeps until Christmas. Not by coincidence, it is two more sleeps until Steven Spielberg's blockbuster, "War Horse", erupts onto the big screen.
But it was sheer coincidence that I received a telephone call today from Stan Tetley of Jasper, Alberta. Stan's father was a trooper in Lord Strathcona's Horse under Brigadier-general J E B Seely's command at Moreuil and Rifle Woods, in March and April, 1918. Stan recounted to me a memorable visit by himself, his son Ed and Ed's family to Moreuil, France, in August this year. They, too, were royally entertained by Jean-Paul Brunel, the human dynamo who toured them tirelessly to battle sites and family graves, culminating in a stirring ceremony at the Bois du Moreuil.
See earlier blogs entries for more detail on the redoubtable Jean-Paul.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"War Horse" Gallops On

There is a very interesting article in the National Post today, December 16th. The Theatre page discusses Michael Morpurgo, author of "War Horse", the Young Adult novel that has become a smash hit in London and Broadway. The play is also scheduled to open in Toronto next year, and even sooner will come the movie of the same name that debuts Christmas Day, 2011. (Which I predict will also be a huge success.)
Morpurgo, in the article, discusses his inspiration for the story: a boy who could communicate with a horse, but not people; and a veteran who was able to discuss his Great War experiences only with a horse.
"War Horse" had twenty-five years of relative obscurity before it became of interest to the National Theatre. As Michael Morpurgo might say, the rest is history.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More recognition for Canadian Cavalry Brigade

The perfect storm of items re the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, a legendary Great War formation, continues. The latest is on Page D7 of the December 6th, 2011, Vancouver Sun. Writer Randy Boswell traces the connection between "War Horse", the Spielberg blockbuster set for release this month, and the battle fought on March 30th, 1918, at Moreuil, France. There, as Boswell says, "The Canadian charge...helped thwart the Germans'spring offensive, the collapse of which is widely viewed as the beginning of the end of the war."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Surrender Day Luncheon (Part 2)

The Naval Officers Association of BC's November 22nd Surrender Day luncheon followed a strong tradition with an excellent speaker, Dr James Boutilier. Dr Boutilier is a historian who is very current on naval matters, serving as he does as Special Advisor (Policy) to Maritime Forces Pacific Headquarters in Esquimalt.
On the topic of NATO, Dr Boutilier reminded the audience that the US pays 75% of the bills. The UK, for all its problems, still meets the target of 2%, while Canada does not. Meanwhile, the Chinese navy is expanding at a furious pace, moving into the areas of modern submarines and aircraft carriers. He says both civilian shipping and naval forces are more and more being concentrated in the Pacific, as opposed to the Atlantic theatres.
And speaking of submarines, I was gratified to hear that Canada's much-maligned Victoria class will see bright days ahead as they become operational in the relatively near future.