A Picnic Rather than a War: The Second World War Journals of Doc Alexander – a Remembrance Day presentation

A view down the length of a street bordered by three-storey, typically Italian looking buildings. In the left foreground a British soldier is leaning into the damaged window of a building, while another British soldier is carrying some loot away from the building in the right foreground. In the middle ground to the left, four civilians are carrying large sacks of loot on their backs and are heading left around the street corner. © IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 3453)

A view down the length of a street bordered by three-storey, typically Italian looking buildings. In the left foreground a British soldier is leaning into the damaged window of a building, while another British soldier is carrying some loot away from the building in the right foreground. In the middle ground to the left, four civilians are carrying large sacks of loot on their backs and are heading left around the street corner.
© IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 3453)


Remembrance Day at the Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre

A Picnic Rather than a War: The Second World War Journals of Doc Alexander 

At the start of the Italian campaign many Canadians found themselves behind the front lines, waiting for their turn to move forward and join the action. On the morning of Sept. 5, 1943, shortly after landing on the beaches of Italy, they invaded deserted houses in search of souvenirs. According to Dr. Laurence Guy Alexander (Doc Alexander), medical officer for the 14 Canadian Army Tank Regiment (Calgary Tanks), “Men came out in ladies’ hats, men’s straw hats, hard hats – some carrying umbrellas and some wearing Italian soldiers’ caps. You would have thought it was a picnic rather than a war.” Just a few days later, however, some of these men would be dead, killed in what would become one of the most difficult campaigns of the war, fought against some of the best troops Germany could field.

In honour of the 70th anniversary of the Italian Campaign five Bow Valley students and I will share a small part of the Italian Campaign through the words of Doc Alexander, medical officer for the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment (Calgary Tanks).

The Italian Campaign of World War Two began with the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and ended, for Canada, in February 1945 when the 1st Canadian Division was redeployed from Italy to the Western Front to assist with the advance across Western Europe to Germany. The campaigns in Italy were Canada’s first major ground participation in the Second World War. It would result in 25,264 casualties, 5,900 of them fatal.

The Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre is hosting A Picnic Rather Than a War: The Second World War Journals of Doc Alexander  Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.

A clipping from the Albertan

A clipping from the Albertan

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About Rob Alexander

I am a writer, photographer and historian and the author of The History of Canmore, published by Summerthought Publishing of Banff, AB.

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