Lambton’s rare battlefield map to form part of First World War exhibit


A map of Canadian movements on a First World War French battlefield will be part of a massive exhibit on the conflict and the art created around it.
The Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery is closing Monday to start preparing for a nationally renown exhibit called Witness: Canadian Art of the First World War.
The exhibition, circulated by the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, features works from A.Y. Jackson, Frederick Varley, David Milne, Mable May and others. It shows how artists responded to the environment around them during the First World War and shows the importance of art as a record of the harsh realities and consequences of war.
Witness will use all of the gallery’s exhibition space and will include an updated version of Lambton Heritage Museum’s Lambton At War.
It explores the contributions made by the men, women and families of Lambton County – including the 149th Lambton Battalion – who fought in or supported Canada’s war efforts.
Andrew Meyer, general manager of cultural services, says one of the interesting aspects of the Lambton exhibit will be a map which recently was became part of the county’s archives through a private collector.
Meyer says the man reached out to County CAO Ron VanHorne, an avid antique collector who is considered an expert on Lambton County items.
“Finding a map like this is exceedingly rare – they don’t surface very often,” says Meyer.
“I don’t think they often left the possession of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.
Meyer says their researchers have found the map is “a compilation of reconnaissance patrol reports collected for 1st Canadian Division prior to the actions forward of the Tinquis Brook in October of 1918.
“The map relates to the Canal du Nord, Cambrai offensive and would date sometime between 27 September – 11 October 1918, and specifically to the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, which was temporarily under the command of the British 22nd Corps, taking up positions behind the Trinquis Brook and the Sensée River some five kilometres east of Étaing on October 7, 1918.”
The original ink map, likely used on the field, details everything from bridges which are out or damaged and the best places for soldiers to get across rivers.
“I was blown away that this had just surfaced from a private collection…this is the type of material seen at national archives,” says Meyer who did extensive research into the Canadian General Sir Arthur Currie.
The map coincides with the time Currie took over on the battlefield and Meyer suspects this map is something “that may have passed through Currie’s hands” in preparation for the fight.
“To find that just surfacing in a private collection at a home in Lambton County is amazing,” says Meyer. He is investigating to see if it  is possible that members of the 149th Battalion were on the field at the time.
Witness and the Lambton exhibit open Sept. 1.


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