World Wars and the Canadian Rockies

Audio visual presentations on the cenotaph will be used to tell the stories of the soldiers who went to war from the Canadian Rockies and of the prisoners who spent the war here.

Listen to Michale Lang (Executive Director, Whyte Museum), discussing
the World Wars exhibition:


Just a few of the stories of the World Wars and how they impacted the Canadian Rockies are told in this sections of the new Gateway to the Rockies exhibition being developed by the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. We want your input and feedback on this permanent (ten year life) exhibition that we are planning to open at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in the spring of 2012. Tell us what you think of this and the other concepts and stories featured here. Let us know how you think we could make this exhibition more interesting. Please keep in mind that this is a draft of the storyline, not the finished product. As the stories develop, information will be updated.

The two world wars articulated a flurry of different arrivals and departures, interrupting the Rocky Mountains’ relative isolation. To this place, so separate from the world’s conflicts, came internees and POWs. Men enlisted and were lost. Those who returned were marked for life. In Canada, no city, no town, no village, no family was left unaffected by these wars.

In the First World War, the population of Canada was 8 Million. 650,000 men were recruited. Casualties totaled 60,661 soldiers. Of the 2854 Nursing Sisters recruited, Casualties totaled 21 nurses dead. There is no number for the wounded.

In the Second World War, the population of Canada was 11 Million. 1.1 million men and women were recruited. Casualties totaled 42,042 dead and 54,414 wounded.

Fire alarm at internment Camp, Cave and Basin, Banff, AB, (vV295-lc-40), William D. Buck, Photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies


Gateway to the Rockies will tell the story of the Canadian Rockies during the First and Second World Wars, including stories of those who left their mountain homes to go to war and tales of the injustices that were perpetrated on the home front while they were gone. Gateway to the Rockies gives voice to the real people whose lives were shaped by the Canadian Rockies and who in turn, shaped this mountain culture. The focus of the exhibition on internment will be an audio-visual presentation set in a ‘cenotaph.’ This presentation will be one of four audio-visual presentations telling stories of war and the home front related to the Canadian Rockies. These audio-visual pieces will include;

1. Internment operations in the Canadian Rockies national parks from 1914 to 1920
2. First World War stories of soldiers from the Canadian Rockies (Sid Unwin)
3. Prisoner of War camps in the Canadian Rockies – Kananaskis
4. Second World War stories of soldiers from the Canadian Rockies (BillWaterworth)

Like so many Alberta communities, Banff has a memorial to those townspeople who died fighting in the First World War. From a population of 1000, Banff lost 52 young men. Each of these men had their unique lives cut short. Unwin, S. appears among the war casualties listed on Banff’s cenotaph. Look for his story in this blog.

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