Once upon a time, Canadians were able to find humour in war. Nothing could demonstrate better how much the world has changed in sixty years then the astonishment which greets me today when I show the young the wonderful cartoons of the late Les Callan (1905-1986).
“I don’t understand the drawing,” said one young woman, “But I can see it is supposed to be funny. But it must have offended a lot of soldiers.”
The cartoons did not offend our soldiers, who were glad to find coping techniques to help them survive the unspeakable, which was Western Europe in 1944-45. Mr. Callan was with our artillery, including the men I knew from Lennox and Addington county, during the invasion called D-Day which began on June 6th, 1944. He remained with them during the advance through France and Belgium. Life for the soldiers was usually pretty nasty and often a nightmare, but they were able to find comedy and continued to laugh at certain episodes fifty years later — like the time that a French farmer begged them for help. From his hysteria, they thought that the Gestapo were in his parlour, but it turned out that a cow was stuck on the farmhouse staircase. A light moment during dark days.
On June 15th, 1944, the Province of Saskatchewan had an election. Every effort was made to bring in the votes from the men serving in Europe. The RCA had, by then, just reached the Leopold Canal, where they met very forceful resistence from seasoned German troops. The above cartoon was Mr. Callan’s report.
Our troops are enduring horror and danger at present in Afghanistan, but I see no evidence that there is any humour to lighten the load. In fact, I suspect that it is politically incorrect to laugh about any aspect of the present conflict, which is a pity.