AMHERST – George Evans was 15 when he joined the merchant marine. The first ship he served on was torpedoed by a U-boat. He spent nine days on a lifeboat in the Atlantic Ocean before being rescued. And Grade 11 history students at ARHS got to hear his story first-hand on Jan. 14 in a one-hour presentation organized by Remembering Canada’s Heroes.
Bill Green, an organizer with the group, wants to see a high school curriculum change in the Maritimes. He said the broad scope of history currently taught to our students leaves too little time for major conflicts (he thinks the first and second world wars get just 25 minutes each). He’d like to see a compulsory course on Canada in the 20th century instituted.
Remembering Canada’s Heroes has been trying to preserve military history in the interim.
“We’ve just started (here) this fall,” said Green.
They’re trying to do a one-hour lesson in each of the area’s schools. Green said they hope to expand into Halifax and eventually the valley. A similar program has been running in Ontario since 2004.
The curator of the Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum, Ray Coulson, said it’s a chance to introduce students to the museum as well, and the collection of artifacts it contains.
The presentation was made to Stephen Blum’s class. Blum said he was contacted by Green about coming into the school.
“Sometimes some people might prefer that we talked about (war) less,” said Blum. But the history teacher thinks talking about war now contributes to securing peace in the future.
Evans is 86 now. His voice thickened with emotion at times as he spoke to the class. His words weren’t always clear, but the ones that emerged hinted at a rich tale: two trips to Russia, including nine months on that nation’s north coast waiting for escort ships; a reunion with a mother and sister who thought he’d been lost at sea; mutiny on one of the lifeboats that survived the sinking of his first vessel. His story has been collected in a book, Through the Corridors of Hell, but Monday morning ARHS students got to see the old man who was younger than them when he signed up, stepped aboard and embarked on four years that evoke emotion still.