Forever Changed

A ‘bomb girl’ and a battlefield hero are among the people honoured in a Canadian War Museum exhibition.

Written by Sydney Lockhart

Posted June 24, 2021
Exhibit panels show black and white portraits above and text on an orange background below.

The Canadian War Museum’s Forever Changed exhibition tells the stories of six Canadians who served overseas and on the home front during the Second World War.

“I think it’s important for Canadians to understand the incredible service and sacrifice of that generation, where 1.1 million Canadians served in uniform — and that’s from a country of eleven million people,” said exhibition curator Tim Cook, a historian at the Ottawa-based national museum.

Curated over two years, the exhibition opened on December 4, 2020, and marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the war. It includes stories from fifty Canadians who were chosen from among hundreds for whom documents were submitted.

Black and white photo of a woman with glasses and brown hair. She smiles as the wind blows a scarf around her neck.

Six people are highlighted: Edith Vollrath, a munitions factory worker known as a “bomb girl”; Able Seaman George Boyer of the Royal Canadian Navy; combat cameraman Hugh McCaughey; battlefield hero Major Alex Campbell; Nursing Sister Winnie Burwash; and Flying Officer Will Kyle of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Witness accounts and artifacts have been added to biographical information to tell impactful stories.

“Reading their letters and their diaries, and presenting those observations to the visitor, is a very powerful experience,” Cook said.

The 650-square-metre exhibition is organized in four parts: The War Against Japan, A Country Shaped by War, Supporting and Defending, and The War Against Germany.

It contains 175 artifacts, such as diaries and bibles belonging to Canadians at war; weapons, including the only surviving Canadian “Land Mattress” rocket launcher; and a ceramic ear that once hung on a wall reminding soldiers not to tell secrets because the enemy could be listening at any moment. The origin of the ear is unknown, but a message on the object’s reverse side reads, “Walls have ears!”

Photo of the interior of an exhibition featuring a display with a coffin covered in a Canadian flag.

“With an exhibition, you’ve got objects, you’ve got works of art, you’ve got reconstructed spaces, you’ve got games, you’ve got powerful images. It’s all of the components coming together,” Cook said.

The exhibition continues until January 2, 2022. For more information visit

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