Skip to content

Exhibits allow people 'to feel the emotion' of war

St. James' Anglican Church goes all out to help mark Remembrance Day

Fred Noakes never talked about his experiences in the Second World War — but his photos told the story.

“He was a photographer in the war,” said Nancy Noakes-Morrison, Noakes’ daughter. “He flew over enemy grounds and took photos. And then they’d get down on the ground and take photos again.”

The Orillia resident couldn’t get her father to say a word about what he saw during the war. And when he died and Noakes-Morrison got a chance to go through the photos he kept tucked away in a trunk, she knew the reason for his silence.

“There were photos that showed Jewish bodies piled up in a pit,” she said. “I don’t know how he slept at night because what he saw was terrible.”

Noakes-Morrison was at St. James’ Anglican Church Saturday afternoon to see the special displays erected by the church to mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice.

She watched a slideshow of photos by artist Brian Lorimer, who painted large-sized panels depicting various scenes of the First World War.

“They’re wonderful. They’re beautiful,” said Noakes-Morrison. “They’re kind of depressing, but you’re getting an idea of what it was like.”

The vivid colours, emotions and scenes depicted in the paintings moved her daughter, too.

“I thought they were pretty cool,” said Emily Morrison. “I walked in there and was taken aback by how they were made. You could feel the emotion behind it.”

The 20-year-old believes Remembrance Day activities are crucial to educate school children, so they become aware of the seriousness of wars.

The idea to bring the exhibit to St. James' was suggested to the church by Bill and Linda Tiffin, who first saw it at the National Air Force Museum at CFB Trenton.

“You couldn’t look at the panels and not feel the intensity and feelings in the characters,” said Bill. “I have a pretty vivid imagination, but I couldn’t picture the horrors the soldiers had gone through.”

This exhibition brought those horrors to life, he said.

“It was just so overwhelming for us. We felt it needed to be shared here,” said Bill.

The prints can be viewed online at projectremembrance.ca and viewers can buy prints to help raise funds for the Support Our Troops Program. Purchases can be made online, or Tiffin’s Creative can help those who are afraid of technology.

Aside from Project Remembrance, other special exhibits were also on display at the church on Peter Street North.

The church played an important role in the Second World War. The Maple Leaf Club, a hostess house, was located at the church, where soldiers gathered for dances, to eat and play pool, among other activities.

The church was where Sir Sam Steele had been baptized, and the font was on display in the church nave.

Visitors also took a look at the special First World War stained glass artworks in the sanctuary.

Several dozen people came to the church to see the special exhibits, said Christine Hager, communications chair.

“I think it went really well,” she noted. “Everyone who came by went up to the church nave and looked at the stained glass and baptismal font for Sir Sam Steele.”

Hager said she was pleased local politicians also made an appearance.

“I’m not a fan of war by any stretch,” said Mayor Steve Clarke. “I think we need to understand the full cost of what’s involved in it. Human lives were lost and many came back with post-traumatic stress disorder. For them, the war never ended.”

Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton and MPP Jill Dunlop also attended the special event at the church.