Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Birds of War

(Click picture to enlarge)

I was looking through Grandma's birding scrapbook which she kept in the 1930's and 1940's and found this cartoon which was published in October 1939. Canada declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939 a day after it was learned that two Canadian women were on the unarmed ocean liner, SS Athenia, which had been sunk by German U-boats. Britain had declared war on Germany one week earlier.

The world has never been without conflict somewhere, but there has never been a war in my lifetime that had an impact as significant as the Great Wars had on the world of my grandparents and parents.

Grandad Devins at about age 22

My maternal grandparents were completing their medical training at the University of Toronto during the First World War and my grandfather's graduation was delayed as he joined the army reserves. I could imagine their dismay at hearing that Canada was once again at war just a short twenty years later.

The war even affected the birds. Airplanes were quite new to Canadian skies in 1939 and the cartoon above reflected the concern people felt about migrating birds sharing the same airspace as RCAF pilots. And this article below from Britain declared the House Sparrow to be Hitler's feathered friend as they ate precious crop seeds from farmers' fields and gardens. In war time Britain, feeding wild birds of any kind was against the law.

...something to think about as I go out and refill my bird feeders on this snowy morning!


  1. How strange that I never knew that Canada took on Germany before we Brits...

  2. Britain did declare war on Germany on Sept 3, 1939 after Germany invaded Poland. Canada declared war one week later.

  3. Ruth, that article about the sparrows is so interesting. I studied history and never ever ran across the story - learn something new everyday!

  4. Anonymous5:09 pm GMT-5

    I never knew that before! Very interesting post for sure! Thanks

  5. What wonderful souvenirs from your grandmother's scrapbook.

    Though Canada was a British Colony, we did declare war on Germany separately on September 10th because of the sinking of the passenger ships.

    Great history. Thanks for sharing.


  6. Anonymous9:11 pm GMT-5

    Thanks for your interesting article, Ruth. It's amazing isn't it, that sense of humour at the beginning. But, no one knew at that time that the war would last so long and destroy so many lives.

  7. Ruth--an interesting compilation of "birds of war" and "war on birds"!
    Wonder what the house sparrow offense was--over-eating crops? The article doesn't exactly say.

  8. Jean- I doubt this bit of trivia would be considered important enough for most history books. And that is why I didn't enjoy history in school.

    Monarch- I didn't know house sparrows were also unpopular in Europe.

    Mary- Thanks for verifying my dates. Grandma was great a "clipping" and I am sure I will find more interesting items in her scrapbooks.

    April- No one could have known how horrendous the war would be. And it affected the small town where my grandparents lived very greatly with loss of life of their men.

    KGMom- I believe the birds' crime was eating sown seeds, and the food supply was a big concern.

  9. Hi Ruth,
    What an interesting post. And I found it especially interesting that it was actually illegal to feed birds. Makes me wonder if that situation occurred now, would I break the law?? I imagine it would have been impossible in those days to even sell birdseed don't you think?
    I also wonder if the times were desperate enough that the people who killed house sparrows might have had to eat them to survive?
    So many things to wonder about.... There are still some people alive who lived through these times and many of their stories are heartbreaking.

  10. Clippings from your grandmother's scrapbook are treasures. I enjoyed the bits of history.


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