Canadian War Museum Attempts to Spin their Way out of a Salute Error

Army veteran Terry Hunter was wandering around the World War Women exhibit at the Canadian War Museum when he noticed a poster depicting a line of ladies saluting as a squadron of planes flew overhead. Hunter recognized the army, navy and air force uniforms on the poster and he immediately noticed that the salute portrayed for the ladies in the army, and air force uniforms was incorrect.

During WWII, the Canadian forces, with the exception of the Navy, saluted in the British manner with an open hand facing forward, but the poster reflected the ladies saluting with the hand facing downwards.

During the war, the only service that used a salute with the hand facing downwards was the Navy. This was done to hide hands dirtied by work on board. In 1968, after unification, the Canadian Armed Services all adopted the naval salute.

When he arrived home, Hunter posted a comment on the relevant Facebook page, not intending criticism but rather just making an observation. The museum’s Corporate Affairs Department responded to Hunter via Facebook, with Chantal Schryer, the vice-president of Corporate Affairs, acknowledging that Hunter was correct saying,

“It’s a stylized image that was developed by our marketing team to be used as a marketing tool. It was never meant to be a real, historical representation. The poster was intended to drum up interest in the exhibit, which highlights the role women played in the First and Second world wars.

The question of the wrong salute was raised by some museum staff at the time, but we took the position to move forward with the poster as a typical marketing tool. It did exactly what we wanted it to do. It triggered a conversation among people on our social media platform about the roles their mothers, their grandmothers played in the First and Second World War.”

Hunter responded by saying, “Stylized or not, the salute is still incorrect, I’m sure a lot of money has gone into the marketing of this poster.”

Hunter is an army veteran and also enjoys a hobby as a historical re-enactor. Due to his hobby, he is a knowledgeable history buff and enjoys portraying a captain in A-Company of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

Hunter believes that the spin put on this error by the Corporate Affairs Department is unacceptable. I think this is important,” he said. “It’s our history and heritage. It’s also conveying a wrong impression. Part of the War Museum’s mandate is to educate today’s youth and the people of Canada, and they’re doing it incorrectly.

To say that the error was identified before the poster was used but the error simply ignored is an unacceptable admission for a museum to make. Surely one of the very basic tenets of a museum’s raison d’être is to portray factually events as they happened, so to identify an error and make no effort to correct it is both insulting to the public and a dereliction of their duties.

Surely this form of “discussion” on social media cannot be complimentary to the museum, and perhaps they would have been better off by simply apologizing.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE