Students get glimpse of war

NEW GLASGOW — Students are learning more about war, thanks to a visit by two veterans.

Bill Green, director of Remembering Canada’s Heroes who resides in Springhill, and Ray Coulson, an Amherst resident and manager/curator of the Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum in Amherst, visited students at New Glasgow Academy last Friday.

They are scheduled to visit Thorburn Consolidated School today and are contacting other local schools now that regular schedules have been restored after the legislated contract settlement with teachers.

Their visit to NGA included two one-hour presentations on Canada and Canadians in and the Second World War to Grade 8 history students.

Their mission is to educate young people and encourage education authorities to include their subjects in history classes.

“These presentations describe activities in Nova Scotia, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Britain, France and Holland, which proved to be instrumental in determining the outcome of the war,” Green said. “We also bring several dozen artifacts from the North Nova Scotia Highland Regiment Museum in Amherst for students to see and understand.”

Green opened the presentations by emphasizing how crucial Canada’s participation was in the war’s early stages. He said the contribution is not being taught in history classes.

“We couldn’t find a single text recording about the help from Halifax and Sydney to Britain for those two years,” he said. “These convoys proved critical for Britain to operate as an independent country. That’s why we’re trying to get this into your textbooks.”

With no long-range aircraft available, all the supplies the war effort from when the war started on September 10, 1939 until the U.S. entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 were sent by ships.

Green noted the German submarine patrols that attacked ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as well as off the Atlantic coast and the seldom-heard convoy commitments to haul oil from South American to the now-idle oil refinery in Dartmouth.

Coulson underscored how revered Canadians are in The Netherlands due to their part in liberating the country toward the end of the war. He described how Canadian military personnel dropped parachutes with enough food to avoid casualties from the Dutch fighting for food items as they landed.

“They had to make sure they didn’t kill the people they helped,” he said. “The children who were born during the war had never seen a loaf of bread.”

Coulson described a recent trip to The Netherlands and one occasion when dining out. “We were interrupted three times at a meal from people thanking us,” he said. “When we went to pay the bill it was already paid.”

Coulson also explained why members of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders have been especially generous, including raising funds to replace a school in Authie, France that had been bombarded to eradicate Germans soldiers who occupied it.

“The Germans had a habit of taking over schools in towns they occupied,” he said. “The Nova Scotia Highlanders were formed up during the Depression in the 1930s.”

The school is named after Bill Baillie of the Highlanders, who was a member of the Highlanders. A street there is named Rue Pictou.


Ray Coulson, left, shares a view of an artifact with students at New Glasgow Academy. (Goodwin photo)

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Steve Goodwin
Steve Goodwin was born in Amherst, N.S. and has been a journalist for more than 40 years. He has been a resident of Pictou County for nearly 40 years.