As many of your will know, the museum was originally established in 1957 at the Regimental Depot in Calgary. The Depot Adjutant, Captain Joe Schmidt was the first Curator and the museum was authorized by the Regimental Executive Committee to help train new recruits in the regiments history. It was officially opened by Major General Chris Vokes, General Officer Commanding Western Command.
However in the late ’60s the Depot was closed and a new location was found for the museum in the historic Casa Loma, built by Toronto financier and the Queen’s Own’s longest serving Commanding Officer, Major General Sir Henry Pellatt,CVO, DCL, VD. After the First World War, Sir Henry has lost Casa Loma to the City of Toronto for back taxes. It would sit vacant before serving as a short lived hotel, and eventually be taken over by the Kiwanis Club which ran it as one of Toronto’s most iconic tourist attractions for 80 years.
Arrangements were made with Kiwanis to occupy most of the third floor which needed considerable painting and plastering to make usable. Museum objects were shipped from Calgary to Toronto, and new exhibits set up. And on June 7, 1970, the ribbon was cut and the museum officially opened.
Of course a lot has changed since 1970. In 1988 LCol Barnard was succeeded as curator by his assistant, Captain Peter Simundson who would continue in the role for another 22 years. On Peter’s retirement in 2012, Major John Stephens assumed the curator’s role.
Changes of space allocations and upgrading exhibits, labels, and interpretive panels has continued over those past fifty years. In 2014 came a new operator as the Liberty Entertainment Group replaced the Kiwanis Club of Toronto, and a new relationship with The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Trust that operates the museum on behalf of the Regiment.
Behind the scenes there was also continuous improvement in storage, cataloging and IT systems – and of course in more recent times, embracing the opportunities to reach a much wider audience through various social media platforms such as this website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr.
Today we had hoped to host an event at the museum to celebrate this anniversary but of course the best laid plans “of mice and men” can be sabotaged by a viral pandemic. Despite that our museum team continues to work remotely as best we can on a variety of projects, and we look forward to celebrating this anniversary throughout the coming year when Casa Loma and our museum return in some fashion to a new normal.
For now though we want to thank all those in the Regimental family who have supported the museum over the past fifty years – through donations of objects, financial support, and their time and effort to get us where we are today!
And while you can’t visit the museum in person right now, we encourage you to browse through our online catalog – the random image option usually brings up some interesting objects!
“Acquisition and Accessioning: Taking legal ownership of objects, especially (but not always) to add to your long-term collection through the process of accessioning: the formal commitment by your governing body to care for objects over the long term.
In legal terms, acquisition involves a ‘transfer of title’ from the previous owner to you. [It] gives you proof of ownership, and it assigns a unique number that will link each object to the information you hold about it.
Accessioning has a very specific meaning: it brings with ethical responsibilities to preserve objects over the long term…”
Collections Trust UK
Many of you will be familiar with our physical exhibits at Casa Loma, and many more of you will be familiar with our social media posting on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and of course this website. But much of what our volunteer team does is actually behind the scenes as we acquire, accession and catalogue new objects, and then either add to our exhibits or put them carefully into our collections storage so they will be safe and we know where to find them.
This post will explain our acquisition and accessioning process and Part II will explain what happens next.
Where do our objects come from?
Before we dive into the details, you might wonder where we acquire objects. The vast majority are donated to the museum as gifts – from serving soldiers, veterans, and relatives of former QOR soldiers. Occasionally they will also come from donors who have picked them up at flea markets and yard sales. From time to time we may actually purchase an item from E-Bay or online medal auction sites however our acquisition budget is extremely limited and so these are generally only very unique or rare items.
How do we decide what we want to accept?
Like most museums around the world, we have limited storage space and have to give careful consideration to what items we accept into our collection. Don’t get me wrong though – we are very grateful when people contact us with objects they think might we might want! From time to time however we have to say “thanks but no thanks.” This begs the question of how we reach those decisions.
First we have to consider the museum’s 1956 mandate:
“to encourage the study of Canadian military history and in particular the history of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, to rescue from oblivion the memories of its members, to obtain and preserve narratives in print, manuscript or otherwise of their travels, adventures, labours and observations, to secure and preserve objects illustrative of the civil, literary and military history of the Regiment, and to maintain a museum and a library.”
The museum’s interest also includes the six First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force Battalions perpetuated by the Queen’s Own Rifles and soldiers who served in them.
So clearly we’re looking for items related in some way to the regiment itself (or its perpetuated battalions), or to any members who served in it. And for the latter, these would generally be related to their service with the QOR.
There are exceptions to this. For example items that might illustrate a particular period during the regiment’s service which are not already in the collection. Recently we acquired a WWII two-piece mess tin from another museum. It was not connected any in way to the regiment or anyone who served in it but it was a common WWII object that we did not have in our collection. Another was a WWI Victory Bond Flag – again not specifically related to the QOR but certainly an important part of WWI history.
Once we’ve established that the object or objects might be relevant or useful, there are still some further considerations:
Is it legitimate?
Sometimes – particularly for sale on the internet – objects are represented as something they aren’t either intentionally or from ignorance. Sometimes half-forgotten family lore just doesn’t quite fit the facts. Is this “19th century” cap badge really from the 19th century? Does the condition of a medal ribbon and other “facts” seem reasonable?
For example a recent donor claimed a bugle (2019.08.001) had been played at the Battle of Ridgeway. The bugle cord that came with it was clearly not 150+ years old but the engraving of “Captain Sherwood’s Company” made sense. It also had the makers mark engraved on it and after some research we found that particular mark was only used for a five year period that spanned 1866. None of this proved that it was actually played at the battle but it did confirm that it was from the correct time period and certainly could have been played, so we agreed to accept it. We also need to have some assurance that the person donating the objects has the right to do so – in other words is actually the owner, or perhaps the executor of an estate.
How unique is it?
Generally we only need so many of the same items in our collection. When a wooden ash tray stand painted like a QOR soldier (2019.17.001) and used in the Sergeant’s mess was recently offered to us, it was a no brainer to say yes. However unless it was in mint condition (see below) we aren’t going to accept any more copies of Chambers 1899 history of the regiment as we already have six.
How big is it?
The practicalities of limited storage space unfortunately mean we just don’t have room to accept everything – and the larger the object, the more relevant this consideration.
What condition is it in?
Aside from storage limitations we also have a limited conservation budget so if something is in poor condition and may take considerable effort and expense to properly conserve and preserve it, then we certainly need to consider that carefully. If we already have examples of this artifact in our collection, we’ll also want to determine if the item being offered is in better or worse condition than those we already have.
Can we safely store this?
Occasionally safe storage is also a consideration. Live ammunition, or nitrate film – which has a tendency burst into flames under the wrong storage conditions – would be two examples. We recently had to find a way to safely dispose of the contents of a WWII polish tin which had become corrosive (not to mention the strong odour!) and threatened damaging other objects; however we did manage to save the tin with its paper label.
Can this still be used by the regiment?
Perhaps somewhat uniquely, our acquisition policy allows for the museum to send accoutrements in useable condition to the reserve battalion if they are needed. The most common example of this would be sergeants’ and officers’ crossbelts which are expensive and hard to source these days. These would be acquired and accessioned but not catalogued in the next steps of our normal process.
We’re going to accept them – now what?
Once we’ve taken possession of the objects we’ve agreed to acquire, we enter the donor and donation information into our accession database and assign it a number. The accession number 2020.02 would represent the second accession of 2020. An accession could be one item or hundreds of items as long as they are all being donated by the same person at the same time. An item (or object – I’m pretty much using the two interchangeably) could be a uniform piece, book, artwork, photograph, weapon, or collection of archival material such as correspondence or meeting minutes.
Once that’s done, our database allows us to quickly prepare a “Deed of Gift” which lists all the items, indicates that they person donating them is the legal owner, and legally transfers ownership (and copyright if held by the owner) to the Museum, to do with as it sees fit. It is critically important establish this ownership for the future. Luckily now, much of our administration can be handled by email including sending thank you letters and deeds of gift to be signed. Once the signed deed is returned to us, we scan it and upload to our database and also file the original copy in our office files.
The process for items that are purchased is almost identical except that the receipt is used to establish the museum’s ownership instead of the deed of gift.
The database also allows us to record the provenance or history of the ownership, as far as we know it. Provenance gives value to objects. For example a pair of WWII boots is valuable – but much more valuable if we know they belonged to Rifleman X who wore then on the D-Day landing and through to the end of the war. Or to record family lore such as “grandfather said he got the epaulettes off a prisoner of war he was escorting from the trenches to the rear areas.”
The objects are now ready for cataloging and storage but our Collections Officer will explain that process in Part II.
What if we don’t want the items?
Sometimes items offered to us have no connection to our mandate or other use to us. In that case we try our best to find and connect the donor with a more appropriate museum.
Sometimes some of items are of interest and some are not and so we can decide to accept some, all, or none. An example is a donation of 10 antique rifles – several were relevant but three were not but it was an all or nothing donation. We accepted all but eventually would sell the three and use the funding to supplement our acquisition fund. This was made known to the donor before making the donation and they were fine with this arrangement.
Sometimes we’ll accept donations for our education collection particularly when we might already have several in our museum collection. These can be used or tried on (for example uniforms) by visitors or school groups – definitely not a recommended practice for items in the actual museum collection.
And if all else fails, we just have to say thank you for thinking of us, but no thanks.
What happens next?
Next comes the detailed cataloguing of each items in the accession, including labelling and photographing, and then finding safe and appropriate storage, which is recorded so we can find it again when we need it! Our Collections Officer will describe this process in Part II of this blog series coming soon!
When then Colonel Henry Pellatt took the Queen’s Own Rifles to Britain in 1910, their trip included a visit to Aldershot Garrison, the home of the British Army and its First Corps headquarters. (Read more about the trip here.) At Aldershot, the officers of the regiment visited the Officers’ Mess, and were received by British officers including many senior and prominent ones.
To mark this special occasion, The QOR asked all attendees to sign a Visitors’ Book. The visitors recorded in this book include members of the QOR as well as members of the British Army.
Museum Board Chair Jim Lutz studied this book and tried to decipher the signatures of the various guests, some of whom were or became distinguished members of the British or Canadian armies. Here are the names he was able to decipher and identify. If you can identify other signatures, please write to the QOR Museum at email@example.com .
The first number is the page in the pdf file, not the page in the book.
The letter “L” or “R” indicates the left or right page in the book.
The last number is the line on that page.
As an example, Mary Pellatt is 2/L/1 – that is, on the second pdf page, in the left-hand column, being the first name in that column.
Signatures in the Visitors’ Book
2/L/1: Lady Mary Pellatt – Sir Henry’s wife.
2/L/4: Appears to be Maryanne Pellatt, one of Sir Henry’s sisters.
2/L/12, 2/L/13 & 2/L/14: Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Peuchen’s wife Margaret, daughter Jessie (aged 16) and son Alan (aged 13) from Toronto – Arthur Peuchen was a successful businessman and QOR officer who was on the 1910 visit to Britain. He was on the Titanic when it sunk in 1912 and became embroiled in accusations about his behaviour when the ship sank. By 1914 he commanded one of the two QOR battalions. You can read more about him in the Dictionary for Canadian Biography.
3/L/1 – 3/L/6: Officers from The Buffs, the QOR’s oldest affiliated regiments.
3/R/15: Brigadier General Ivor Maxse, commanding the 1st Guards Brigade – one of the outstanding British generals of the Great War. He served as a corps commander on the Western Front, and was known for his innovative and effective training methods.
4/R/8: Lieutenant Lord Arthur Hay, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, Blenheim Barracks (Aldershot) – Son of the Marquis of Tweeddale, killed in the Battle of the Aisne on September 14, 1914. His Commonwealth War Graves marker reads “In such a death there is no sting, in such a grave, everlasting glory”.
6/L/10: Brigadier General L.E. Kiggell, War Office – Lancelot Kiggell was Director of Staff Duties at the War Officer 1909-1913, Commandant of the Staff College from 1913-1915, and Chief of General Staff to Field Marshall Haig 1915-1918.
7/L/16: Lieutenant General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, Government House – a veteran of Isandlwana and the Second South African War, he served with distinction as commander of the British Second Army on the Western Front. In 1910 he was General Officer Commanding the Aldershot Command.
7/R/16: Major General Sir Ivor Herbert, Canadian Militia – A British officer who had served as General Officer Commanding the Canadian Militia 1890-1895. In 1910 he was a Member of Parliament and later raised to the peerage as Baron Treowen.
Written by Assistant Curator, Sergeant Graham Humphrey, CD.
For The Queens Own Rifles of Canada, the end of the Second World War was drawing to a close exactly 75 years ago today. They had fought a ferocious enemy and kept up the fine traditions and demonstrated the Latin motto In Pace Paratus.
Their journey to war began at University Armouries and Camp Borden. From there they traveled to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, England, Scotland, Normandy, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and ended in Germany. They were led by three Commanding Officers (and a number of short term acting COs from time to time):
25 Aug 1944 to 30 Nov 1945
Lieutenant Colonel S. M. Lett DSO.
During the war 563 Queen’s Own Rifleman were killed in action and buried throughout Europe. Almost 900 were wounded, with some being wounded two or three times. Through out Hong Kong, Italy, and Northwest Europe 60 other QOR personnel lost their lives and we must never forget their sacrifice. You can read all their names on our Virtual Wall of Honour.
On May 4th 1945 at 0100 hours Dog Company started to move from its position at Mittegrossefehn to continue the attack into Germany leading The Queen’s Own advance. Their only obstacles were blown bridges and road craters so they achieved their objective by 0200 hours. Baker Company began to pass through Dog Company at 0300 hours and renewed the thrust West and North into the city of Ostersander, Germany. The opposition was comprised of a couple of rear guards and Baker Company met their objective by 0600 hours while taking 14 enemy prisoners.
In the early afternoon of May 4th 1945 Charlie Company commenced its attack toward Holtrop, Germany. The objective of the Company was a crossroads. To get there the men had to advance through a terrain that consisted of agricultural fields with hedgerows set against a backdrop of an imposing forest. Charlie Company was met with fierce resistance during their advance. Their opposition included small arms as well as a 20mm Anti Aircraft gun. The consolidation occurred at 1500 hours, this resulted in three wounded while known enemy losses were of one killed. These last casualties were Riflemen T.H. Graham, A.W. Holdsworth, and A. Rosen.
With this the combat of the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada came to an end for the Second World War. A German Lieutenant Colonel named Harms accompanied by the Burgomaster, traveled from the direction of Aurich. They approached Charlie Company’s lines under a flag of truce to negotiate the surrender of Aurich. At 2000 hours the Battalion learned of the unconditional surrender of all German forces facing the 21st Army Group in Northwest Germany, Holland, the Friesian Islands, Heligoland, Denmark and all ships of the German Navy adjacent to the German General Staff Headquarters. Ceasefire was to begin officially at 0800 hours the following morning, 5 May 1945.
Take a minute today to remember the sacrifices of generations of the past and never forget.
We wanted to take this opportunity to provide a brief update from our Museum Team during these rather unique circumstances.
Before we do that however, I think it’s important to step back for a moment to look at the bigger picture. While some of us are able to stay and work from home, many of our regimental family are front line workers who don’t have that luxury – fire fighters (a LOT of firefighters actually), EMS, doctors, nurses, and many others that work in businesses deemed “essential.” We know that many others have had their livelihoods disrupted as most businesses and services are forced to close. Many of our band members for example, have seen their civilian gigs shut down indefinitely. And many others have gone operational and are waiting to assignments to support the COVID-19 or other crises which may arise.
Our thoughts are certainly with them all.
QOR Recruit Tours
The Wednesday before Casa Loma was closed, we we’re very pleased to welcome 60 new recruits for a tour of our exhibits. The museum opened in 1957 in order to train new recruits to the QOR Depot in the history of their regiment, and while thousands of Casa Loma visitor get to learn about us each year, our primary purpose continues to be sharing our history with new members of the regimental family.
The recruits were divided into two groups, and were led through our third floor exhibits by the Curator, Major John Stephens (Ret’d) and Deputy Curator Chief Warrant Officer Shaun Kelly (Ret’d). The tour also included our exhibits in Sir Henry Pellatt’s dressing room which includes a photograph of a rather slim young Henry in athletic garb, taken after winning the North American Championship for the mile run. Once again we were asked what his winning time was but once again we didn’t have an answer. Now however we do! From Sir Henry Pellatt: The King of Casa Loma, a 1982 biography by Toronto writer Charlie Oreskovich:
“In 1879, at the age of 20, Pellatt ran the mile in New York, beating the U.S. champion and setting a world record at 4:42.4.”
This is just under a minute slower than the current world record. It should be noted however that at that time there was no actual international body to certify “world” records and while it may well have been a North American record, it appears according to Wikipedia, that there were certainly runners in the United Kingdom beating that time in 1879…..for whatever that’s worth!
National Volunteer Week and the Work Goes On
Last week was National Volunteer week and so I would like to recognize our amazing team of volunteers.
On March 12th we held our last volunteer night at the castle, and in anticipation of Casa Loma’s closure, did our best to stabilize our exhibits and storage areas. Casa Loma closed a few days later until further notice.
Since that time we have continued to hold Thursday evening Zoom meetings with our volunteer team, many of whom have unfortunately, been laid off from their day jobs. Several continue to work on museum projects from home, including database updates (logging onto our computer remotely), clean up of our image collections, continuing updates to the historic timelines and other additions to the website, responding to research requests, creating resources to use at home, processing archive collections, designing promotional items, social media posting, etc.
We very much appreciate having such a dedicated team of volunteers who are willing to continue their support despite the challenges we’re all facing these days. At the same time its great to see their support and concern for their fellow team members!
And of course when the time comes, we are all looking forward to returning to the museum itself when it is safe to do so.
In Case You Missed It
Sunday 26 April 2020 was the 160th Anniversary of the formation of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. Due to the COVID-19 situation, we were not of course able to hold our usual annual parade at Moss Park Armoury. In lieu of that, we held a virtual parade through a YouTube event launch. Over 200 people were watching live and to date over 1,100 people have watch the video. In case you’ve missed it, you can watch it below.
On Thursday 6 February 2020 we held our annual volunteer recognition night at The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Officers’ Mess in Moss Park Armory.
The Regimental Museum and Archive is a completely volunteer run operation and this year the museum saw 1,444 hours of service provided by 60 volunteers. This evening is an opportunity to recognize our most regular volunteers with certificates for the total number of hours they have provided to the museum (as of December 31, 2019 and rounded to the 25 hours completed.)
Certificates of Volunteer Appreciation were presented to following by our Museum Board Chair, Mr. James Lutz:
Private Steven Hu (25 hrs)
Master Corporal Chris Thiers-Gomez (25 hrs)
*Master Corporal Mark Kusi-Appiah (35 hrs)
Corporal Mario Carvalho (50 Hrs)
Officer Cadet Steven Ye (75 hrs)
Mr. Colin Sedgwick-Pinn (100 hrs)
Photographer Ms. Anne Frazer (150 hrs)
*Ms. Meryn Winters (150 hrs)
Weapons Officer Mr. Rob Grieve (175 hrs)
*Captain Ken Kominek (200 hrs)
Collections Officer Ms. Cheryl Copson (550 hrs)
*Collections Assistant Ms. Briahna Bernard (550 hrs)
Assistant Curator Sergeant Graham Humphrey (775 hrs)
Deputy Curator CWO Shaun Kelly (Ret’d) (900 hrs)
*Unable to attend but presented later.
Those with the most “life-time” hours were also presented with $50 gift certificates for Cibo Wine Bar which were kindly donated by the Liberty Entertainment Group.
We were also pleased to present certificates of appreciation to recognize the support of the following:
Commanding Officer LCol Frank Lamie
Regimental Sergeant Major CWO Donovan O’Halloran
Casa Loma Curator Marcela Torres
Thank you to everyone who has helped support our museum in 2019 with their time and talents!
2019 has been another busy year at our museum and I’d like to share some highlights.
The Museum Board continues to meet periodically throughout the year under the Chair Jim Lutz, and recently welcomed Ms. Michele McCarthy as a new board member. The board recommends an annual budget to the QOR Trust, reviews the financial progress, and is also currently working on cooperation with Casa Loma operator Liberty Entertainment Group, reviewing options for collections insurance, and development of an emergency plan.
We continue implementing our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan, developed after extensive consultation with our volunteers, visitors, archive users, and key members of the regiment. The annual Implementation Plan is reviewed by the museum team at least quarterly and by the Museum Board at each meeting.
In February we once again held our Volunteer Recognition Night at the Royal Canadian Military Institute generously supported by one of our donors. We were joined by members of the Museum’s Board and by the Commanding Officer and MWO Johnston representing the Regimental Sergeant Major.
We said farewell to a couple of volunteers including one of our long time volunteers who moved to Ottawa. But we also welcomed three new volunteers in September including one with qualifications in photo and paper conservation, one serving member of the regiment, and one from another regiment (we must be doing something right!)
This year volunteers put in over 1,500 hours – although we know there have been lots of hours we haven’t managed to track for work done outside our usual Thursday evening work nights.
April saw us hold a special reception to officially unveil the new McEachren Tunic exhibit case which was installed in December 2018. The family of the late Regimental Sergeant Major Scott Patterson, whose estate funded the majority of this project, were present to assist with the ceremony. Also on display were a number of interesting items that are not usually on exhibit. Photos from this event can be found here on our Flickr site.
We continue to work on upgrading our exhibits. This year all our timeline and interpretive panels were reprinted directly on a much more durable plastic product that will better withstand the Casa Loma environment. It was also an opportunity to ensure consistency across all our exhibits. And with permission from the Fort Erie Museum we were able to use images of art works in their collection to re-design the interpretive panels for the Fenian Raids exhibit (image above.)
We completed two more pop-up banners on the regiment’s participation in the North-West Rebellion, and started pre-production work on banners on the QOR in The South African War.
In 2019 we processed 47 accessions – which ranged from a single item to several hundred. One significant item was the donation of a bugle believed to have been used at the Battle of Ridgeway by the bugler of Capt Sherwood’s Company – The Trinity College Rifles company. While we can’t verify that it was indeed used then, we did research the maker’s mark and confirmed that it was definitely from that period and over 150 years old.
We were also able to purchase a collection of over 500 documents believed to have been collected by Colonel George Taylor Denison II. These span 1802-1885 but the majority are general militia orders from 1855 to 1869 including the order for the Queen’s Own to mobilize for the Fenian Raids and can also be found on our Flick site.
Some other notable accessions included:
a WWI Victory Bond flag, a QOR pioneer sword and scabbard,
an early 20th century officer’s busby and box,
an 1890’s Sergeant’s mess jacket,
a North West Rebellion medal belonging to Thomas J. Cauldwell,
a 1917 German Mauser rifle,
and correspondence to and from the current Honorary Colonel and the Colonel in Chief, the Duchess of Cornwall.
We continue to update our online catalogue as we complete the cataloging process and update the database.
The collections side of operations also involves the appropriate storage of our objects and we continue to purchase appropriate archival quality storage boxes and other materials as well as additional shelving, as our budget allows.
In September the Regiment held the Change of Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Parade at Casa Loma and the museum was pleased to create an exhibit of regimental sports related material – some dating back to the 19th century, in honour of our incoming Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Vicky Sunohara. Vicky was a Canadian Olympic Hockey medalist and is currently the coach of the University of Toronto women’s Varsity Blues hockey teams. Photos of this awesome event can be found here.
In November we held our annual QOR Day at Casa Loma with over 55 volunteers and serving soldiers staffing our exhibits and programs and over 1,000 visitors attending. As always there are more photos available online!
And earlier this month we helped to facilitate another meeting of the Toronto Military Curators Network to share and discuss items of common interest – and there are lots!
We continue to share our collection and museum work on various social media platforms including our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flick – the latter has over 14,000 images! Please use the links below to follow, like, subscribe, etc. if you don’t do so already.
Lastly our thanks!
Thank you to all who have made a financial contribution this year to support our work. If you haven’t, fear not as there is still time left to make a donation to the QOR Trust and receive a charitable tax receipt for 2019. A donation of any size will help make a big difference.
On behalf of our whole museum team, thanks again for another great year and best wishes for the holiday season!
Maj John M. Stephens, CD (Ret’d)
Curator, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada
Regimental Museum and Archives
I know that many of those who follow our website are not local to Toronto, but for those that are we hope you’ll join us for our annual Queen’s Own Rifles Day at Casa Loma on this coming Saturday November 9th. Our program is included in your Casa Loma admission fee.
This is a great family day event which showcases the long and dedicated military heritage of the QOR as well as the regiment of today!
Soldiers from the Regiment with various displays displays of modern day equipment such as tac-vests, rucksacks, winter kit, mountain ops kit, communications and parachuting equipment, reconnaissance skills, etc.
Members of the Regiment with service in Bosnia
Re-enactors representing various periods including the First World War, the Second World War, Korea and Cyprus
Vintage Signallers Exhibits
Remembrance Day crafts for children
Temporary QOR Badge tattoos
The Brass Quintet from the Regimental Band giving performances in the Great Hall
Solders with ID or in uniform, veterans in an association blazer or with Veteran’s ID, and Cadets in uniform get free admission to Casa Loma on both Saturday November 9th and Sunday November 10th!
On 11 September 2019 the Regimental Museum was pleased to host the Change of Honorary Lieutenant Colonel parade in the gardens of Casa Loma. And at just before the start of the parade, Casa Loma surprised us with the giant project of the regimental badge and a Canadian flag across the whole south side of the castle!
In this unique setting the Regiment bid farewell to outgoing Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Lionel J. Goffart who has given so much support to the QOR in this role. As a token of our appreciation, Lionel was presented with a beautiful painted portrait for his family.
And we welcomed three time Olympic Hockey medalist and current coach of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s hockey team, Vicky Sunohara as our incoming Honorary Lieutenant Colonel.
During the evening the Regiment also took possession of a beautiful portrait of Queen Mary, the first Colonel-in-Chief of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada which had been commissioned by former Honorary Colonel Paul Hughes and his wife Beverly.
In honor of the Incoming’s sports background, the Regimental Museum set up an exhibit of various regimental sports objects including trophies, jerseys and photographs some of which are shown below.
QOR sports teams over the years.
You can see lots more amazing photographs of the parade, the presentations and the reception that followed on our Flickr site.
Hardly a week goes by without finding an interesting object even though our our collection is relatively small compared to many museums. One such object is an “emergency” ration used by Canadian and British troops during the South African War – also known as the 2nd Boer War – 1899-1901.
Generally produced by the Bovrill company in England, these cylindrical lead “tins” were about 14 cm (5.5″) long and 5 cm (2″) in diameter, were actually two separate tins joined together by a metal strip with a pull tab that could be used to separate the tins. The whole piece was wrapped with a paper label that instructed “Only to be used with permission of an officer.” Each section also had its own lid on which were glued instructions on how to prepare them for eating.
They usually consisted of 4 ounces of concentrated beef (Pemmican) in one end, and 4 ounces of cocoa paste in the other. Ideally both were to be used with water – the beef to be soaked for 15 or so minutes in water to create a sort of beef soup – but in theory either could be eaten from the can if necessary. They were said to be able to sustain a soldier for 36 hours if consumed in small quantities!
Normally a mobile “field kitchen” would provide at least one hot meal a day but there were occasions when this was not practical. For instance during the Battle of Paardeberg, troops were pinned down for much of a day and night.
Certainly rations have come a long way since 1899!
The Museum held their latest annual volunteer recognition reception in the Library at the Royal Canadian Military Institute on Thursday February 7th. The purpose of the evening was to give thanks and recognition to our dedicated and hardworking volunteers. In 2018 our team put in just over 1900 hours although we can be sure there were more hours that weren’t recorded!
Besides our weekly volunteers, three members of the museum’s Board of Governors were present. We were also pleased to have Commanding Officer, LCol Frank Lamie, and MWO Jeff Johnston on behalf of the Regimental Sergeant Major, who both expressed their appreciation for the work of our volunteers and the importance of the museum both internally and externally.
And of course being museum nerds, we were also pleased to receive a tour of new exhibits installed in the last year by the RCMI Museum Curator, Ryan Goldsworthy.
Museum board chair Jim Lutz presented appreciation certificates to the following volunteers who as of 31 December 2018, had provided at least 25 hours of service since 2012 (issued in 25 hour increments):
25 Hours – Mr Colin Sedgwick-Pinn
25 Hours – O/Cdt Steven Ye
50 Hours – Pte Ashley Patoine
50 Hours – Mr Matt Noel
75 Hours – Ms Meryn Winters
200 Hours – Capt Ken Kominek
425 Hours – Ms Cheryl Copson
700 Hours – Sgt Graham Humphrey
750 Hours – CWO (Ret’d) Shaun Kelly
Certificates will also be provided to the following who were unable to attend the reception:
200 Hours – Mr Alex Meyers
425 Hours – Ms Briahna Bernard
Our museum team has a great cross section of serving soldiers, former serving soldiers, museum professionals, and public historians. If you’d be interested in joining our team and helping at the museum on Thursday evenings, please see our volunteering info page and complete a volunteer application. Of if you have questions, you can email the Curator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are unable to volunteer but would like to support the work of the Regimental Museum, please consider becoming a sustaining donor!
On the evening of 9 June 2018, the Regiment marched from Moss Park Armory to St James Cemetery where they joined our museum team and other members of the regimental family to dedicate a new grave marker for Bugle Major Charles Swift.
Swift first served with The Queen’s Own Rifles in 1866 at the age of 14 as a boy musician at the Battle of Ridgeway. In 1885 Swift and the QOR were again mobilized in response to the North West Rebellion. As Bugle Major for 46 years, he helped raise the international profile of the Regiment, leading the band on tours to England in 1902 and 1910. He served with the Regiment for an incredible 57 years!
The short ceremony included a recitation of Swift’s service, a prayer of dedication, the Last Post, Rouse, and Sunset, and of course the unveiling.
After the unveiling, those in attendance broke into three groups and were led on tours of the graves of other members of the Regiment who were buried in St James – including three casualties from Ridgeway, the first Commanding Officer, and the CO who led the Regiment through most of Europe during WWII. Soldiers in each group placed small QOR flags at each QOR grave.
You can find the complete walking tour of twenty four QOR soldiers buried or memorialized at St James, below:
The Regiment then marched back to Moss Park Armory where some awards and promotions were presented, after which everyone enjoyed a BBQ dinner prepared by the QOR Association Toronto Branch.
As every member of the Regiment knows, the first soldier of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada to fall in combat was newly commissioned Ensign Malcolm McEachren of No. 5 Company. He was taking part in the Battle of Ridgeway on 2 June 1866 and died shortly after being mortally wounded in the abdomen by the American Fenian invaders.
One hundred years after that battle, the tunic he wore that fateful day was presented to The Queen’s Own Rifles by Old Fort Erie of the Niagara Parks Commission having been handed down by McEachren’s daughter.
After 152 years, it has obviously suffered its share of insect and light damage although without any condition reports surviving, its impossible to know when this damage occurred. We do know that it has faded from rifle green to almost olive drab – although not under the arms or at the back – and the light damage has also made the material brittle. And museum staff have often joked that the exhibit case it was stored in, was old enough to qualify as an artifact itself!
We can’t reverse the deterioration that’s taken place, but my goal from day 1 of becoming Curator in 2012, has been to find a way to preserve THE most valuable object in our collection for the future.
And now after 6 years it has finally become a reality! Thanks to a very generous bequest from the estate of the late Chief Warrant Officer Scott Patterson, we were finally able to place an order with Zone Display Cases for a custom-made museum quality case with frameless UV filtering glass, Abloy security locks, and an airtight exhibit compartment with desiccant tray to ensure a constant humidity level.
This week it arrived at the museum and last night our museum team set up the new case and moved the tunic into its new home which we hope will help to preserve this extremely important object for many years to come. In the new year, we will be redesigning the complete Battle of Ridgeway exhibit and of course this tunic and its new case will continue to have pride of place.
The Patterson bequest covered about 75% of the costs for this project and we are still hoping to raise the remainder before the end of our 2018 fiscal year. Thank you to all those who have contributed to date, and to those who would still like to help, you can make a donation online to the QOR Trust fund via CanadaHelps.
Yesterday at the Regimental Church, we said a final farewell to Captain (Ret’d) Larry Hicks, CD who had been a valuable member of our museum team for the past five years. Below are remarks I shared as Curator, during the funeral service.
“I’m John Stephens and I first met Larry almost 40 years ago in 1979 or 80 when I was a young Cadet Instructor Cadre officer with a QOR affiliated cadet corps, and Larry was also a young officer with the regiment. I recall that for the next ten years or so (and unlike some of his colleagues who had less time for the cadet program) he was always friendly and helpful on our occasional participation in regimental events or my visits to the mess.
By the early 1990s I was working with a cadet corps affiliated with the 48th so saw less of Larry through the army. But we were both involved with Scouting and I would sometimes see him at the 5,000 acre Haliburton Scout Reserve. It was there that I first came to know of his love of the outdoors and particularly canoeing, and of his appreciation for wildlife.
Another decade would pass until I would see Larry again at the Christmas Officers’ luncheon:
“So Larry – what’s new?” (It was always easy to pick right up again with him.)
“I’ve just retired from both the Police and the Army” he said.
“Very nice! So any plans for retirement?”
His response was along the lines of “More canoeing, more time at the cottage, and more time on my photography hobby.” My ears perked up – photography hobby? Hmmmmm….
“So what are you up to these days?” he said. “Funny you should ask” I replied with a smile.
Earlier that year I’d been recruited as the Curator for the Regimental Museum – big shoes to fill in a line of very long serving and dedicated predecessors! We’ve started re-cataloging all the objects in the collection I explained, but – baiting the trap – we really need someone with a high skill level to help us photograph them as part of that process. It would only be “one night” a week – Do you think that’s something you might consider helping with?
“That sounds like it could be interesting” Larry replied. “Great” I said, slamming the trap shut. “I’ll see you on Tuesday night!”
And so began our past five years of working closely together in preserving and sharing the regiment’s history.
I don’t recall Larry ever saying anything bad about anyone – he was easy going, ALWAYS willing to share a story, and I don’t ever recall seeing him flustered. He did have some mixed feelings about finding himself in so many photos in a museum but that’s understandable.
He approached his photography tasking as a professional, bringing all the skills and expertise from his police work and applying them to our often chaotic situation. Always offering suggestions on how to improve our process and manage the massive collection of photographs we were creating. And he was always on hand at museum and regimental events to create the newest photographic record. As per the original plan, we used his photographs in our collections database but we also created a Flickr account that has over 11 THOUSAND photographs organized in about 75 albums– almost all taken and curated by Larry. He was so valuable to our team that when he had an early conflict with our work nights – we changed the night to Thursdays!
His most recent project was he was “de-framing” hundreds of photographs from frames that were damaged or had broken glass or mold starting to form. After removing them he would take them home to scan them, then put them in acid free folders, label them, and place them in archival boxes – all with a genuine concern from preserving them for the future.
And Larry was always will to pitch in whatever task – or rush to move exhibits and cabinets – was needed on any given night.
That “one night a week” turned into over 800 hours of work for the museum over the past 5 years, and I was very pleased that the CO and RSM agreed with my recommendation that Larry be presented with the CO’s Commendation and the Command team coin at our February recognition night.
You’ll be sorely missed tonight in your makeshift photo studio tucked in the back corner of our attic storage room; and you’ll be missed at our post volunteering pub visits at Mayday Malones where we’ll raise a final glass to you; and you’ll be missed by all of us as both a colleague and a friend – sleep well.”
Our museum is extremely lucky in having original copies (i.e. one of three copies made when then were first typed) of the World War II war diaries for what would become the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (CASF).
These documents provide a wealth of information about the regiment’s participation and progress throughout the war – from the efforts to form the battalion in June 1940, through duties in Newfoundland, training in New Brunswick and England, the successful but devastating landing on D-Day, the continued fight through Europe, to finally to the German surrender on 8 May 1945.
We are also very lucky to have most of the Routine Orders issued during the war and while often administrative in nature, they help to fill in some of the gaps left by the war diaries – particularly in regards to personnel postings and casualties within the battalion.
Unfortunately the original documents are fragile and not particularly user friendly as there is no way to easily search through them. So in order to protect them, and at the same time make them more accessible, we have undertake to transcribe and post on our website all these war diaries. We’ve also scanned all of the routine orders and posted them into the war diaries at the appropriate places.
And if that wasn’t enough, we added maps to help illustrate where the battalion was at various times and where it was headed, and inserted photos from our collection into the appropriate location in the timelines. These photos add some amazing sense of place and time. Lastly we added links to more detailed profiles on our website for many of the key soldiers mentioned in the diaries by name.
Now when I say we, I really mean one of our curatorial assistants, Sgt Graham Humphrey and more recently, with the help of Kate Becker. Graham and Kate have spent literally hundredsof hours on this project over the past three and a half years – scanning, transcribing, creating maps, and inserting photos. The result though is a spectacular resource that serves to both protect our archival documents while sharing them with the world. Even without any official announcements, these page have been viewed over 16,000 times to date.
And the importance of making this information available today is even more critical as fewer and fewer WWII soldiers are left to share their stories first hand.
Bravo Zulu to Graham and Kate on their outstanding work to see this project through to the end, and I strongly encourage you to take some time read through this important story of some of our regiment’s finest hours:
I would presume that most people working in museums inherently believe that preserving history is important – I would certainly hope so at least. And while preservation can be a monumental task all on its own, it’s really only half of the challenge. The real value comes in being able to share this history – to make it accessible in some ways.
When we think of museums, the first method of achieving this that usually comes to mind is through exhibits. Visitors can see – and in some cases touch – real artefacts and are provided with additional background, context and perspectives to better understand the history we present.
This might be considered the ideal approach and while over 350,000 people visit our museum’s exhibits each year, we also know that many people around the world with some link with our Regiment, may never get that opportunity. With that in mind, we’ve tried to digitize much of our collection and make it available online, here on our website, on our Flickr site (over 10,000 photos currently), Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And we’ve also made our collection catalogue available online as well with images and descriptions of almost 2,000 objects entered to date.
All of this takes an incredible amount of work and coordination, and most of our volunteer team have contributed to this effort in some way or another. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to occasionally wondering if anyone actually accesses any of this information, and if all this work is worth it. The stats tell us that our Flickr site has had over 1,000,000 views and our website gets about 80,000 page views annually which is very exciting but still somewhat impersonal.
Occasionally though we get comments on our website about how the information helped them connect with a relative or letting us know they have more information to share – even objects to donate, and those always seem to make our efforts worthwhile.
Last month though, we received an email that couldn’t help but recharge the whole museum team:
“My name is Liz Grogan and I am the granddaughter of Sgt. J. Lutton 6164.
A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting with my 95 year old mom, John’s middle and only surviving daughter, Kathleen ( Kae) Smith who was browsing through a book I was reading for my book club called “The War that Ended Peace, The Road to 1914” by Margaret MacMillan.
Knowing that her father, my grandfather had been in WW1, I decided to google his name, and you can imagine my surprise and excitement to discover this:
I had researched his name prior to Remembrance Day on other occasions , but I had not seen this letter before!
So Mom and I sat together and I read the letter out loud as mom watched the screen. I had not scrolled through to see how long it was, so my thanks to WO Emily Kenny for her hard work!
I can’t express how magical this moment was, that I will never forget. We laughed, we cried and we were simply in awe of having this amazing opportunity to have a personal peek at the life and love between mom’s future mom and dad and my future grandmother and grandfather.
And to reflect that this letter is 100 years old is beyond magical!!”
When I read this email, I couldn’t help but smile and was clearly reminded that our efforts are definitely worthwhile!
Of course Liz was interested in how we came to have the letter. In June a stamp collector in Nova Scotia contacted us because he had this letter in his collection and had found online that we perpetuated the 198th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. We quickly accepted his offer and the letter was soon in our collection. WO Kenny just happened to be directing staff on a music course at CFB Borden for the summer and offered to transcribe the letter in her spare time so we could put it online. The letter is long and rather rambling, and proper punctuation was not Sgt Lutton’s strong point but she soon had it done and we posted it to our website.
While this was happening we also researched Sgt Lutton’s life and service. While training in England he contacted meningitis and was hospitalized for 6 months before being found unfit for overseas service and returned to Canada where he was hospitalized for another three months. Though he never made it to the trenches of France or Belgium, his story does illustrate the other dangers many soldiers faced from diseases and poor health conditions they faced just getting to the front.
Lutton was lucky enough to recover from his meningitis and married Annie in 1919. He died in 1948 and is buried in Park Lawn Cemetery.
We’re very thankful that Liz took the time to share their experience and to send us the delightful family photo below of Annie and John.
For the last several years, a dedicated team of volunteers has revolutionized the Queen’s Own Rifles Museum by preserving its treasures, recording its inventory on film, and developing dramatic displays that tell the regiment’s story to the thousands of Casa Loma visitors each year. While much good work has been done, much more can still be done. Towards that end, the Museum’s Board of Governors commissioned a strategic planning process to identify the objectives of the Museum and the many projects we could undertake in future years.
The strategic planning process began with four research projects, designed to identify what people enjoyed in the Museum and what improvements they would like. We began with a facilitated brainstorming session with 15 Museum volunteers, who gave us enough great ideas to keep us busy for the rest of the century. We also surveyed samples of visitors to Casa Loma, key members of the regimental family, and digital visitors to our website.
Based on all this research, our strategic planning team drafted a document to serve as the Museum’s strategic plan for the next five years. This team consisted of Mr. Jim Lutz, MA (member of the Museum Board and Regimental Senate), Mr. Alex Meyers, MA (Museum volunteer), and Major (Retired) John Stephens, CD (Curator of the Museum).
The strategic plan seeks to achieve the Museum’s Vision, which is to be “a modern, historical, educational and rewarding experience to ‘all’ who visit Casa Loma, and continue to be known by peers as the best example of a volunteer organized and managed ‘specialized’ museum and archival collection”. The planning team identified five strategies that will help us achieve this Vision:
Preserving the regiment’s history
Promoting the regiment’s history and current mission to the public
Serve the interests of a wider community through outreach and digital presence
Support and benefit from Casa Loma’s tourist business
Ensure the effective governance and management of the museum to accomplish the above
You may read the approved plan, and you will see the extensive list of projects we can undertake to achieve these goals. With the help of all our volunteers, supported by the Liberty Group management of Casa Loma and our regiment, we can now focus our efforts on the most productive and valuable projects we have identified to achieve our goals for the Museum.
Bugle Major Charles Swift began his 57 years of service with the regiment as a 14 year old boy bandsman at the Battle of Ridgeway and would become the longest serving Bugle Major in our history – from 1876 to 1922 – an incredible 46 years!
During the 1885 North West Rebellion he was attached to Battalion Headquarters, but his skills as an accomplished and renowned musician resulted in leading Bugle Band trips to England in both 1902 and 1910. By now a Captain, the 70 year old Swift died of pneumonia in May of 1922 and his coffin was laid to rest by his fellow Queen’s Own officers.
Because he died unmarried and had no close family, the regiment purchased his grave marker. As you can see from the photos it hasn’t weathered the last 95 years very well and the only vaguely legible wording left is his surname Swift. Sadly his memory is at risk of being forgotten.
A very distant Swift cousin recently contacted us about replacing the marker and while that isn’t practical, The Regimental Trust Fund has agreed to add a small ground level plaque similar to those created for the Ridgeway casualties a few years ago.
The cousin will be making a contribution but we also invite members of the regimental family and friends of the regiment to help us reach our goal for the remaining $2,100. Donations of any size are appreciated and a charitable tax receipt will be issued by CanadaHelps. And if you allow CanadaHelps to share your contact info with us, we’ll be sure to invite you to the plaque dedication ceremony.
On the afternoon of Thursday June 8, 2017, a plaque was unveiled next to the site of the Tip Top Tailor building by Heritage Toronto, the Dunkelman family and the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, honouring the legacy of distinguished military officer and entrepreneur Ben Dunkelman.
Below are remarks given by Lieutenant Colonel Sandi Banerjee, CD, Commanding Officer of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada:
Major General Holmes, Member of City Counsel and Heritage Toronto, The Dunkelman Family: Rose, Lorna, Deenah, Daphna, David, Jonathan, Members of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, Ladies and gentlemen.
It’s an honour for me to bring greetings from Ben’s Regiment on this historic occasion.
On the day I took command of The QOR, I received a very appropriate gift from a friend and mentor. Like Ben, this gentleman was also a warrior and Brigade Commander – he sent me a copy of Dual Allegiance, which reminded me all too well of the challenges and the conflicting demands one faces as a ‘citizen soldier’.
In his book, Ben mentions a special parade in Toronto, one to honour returning soldiers from the First World War. Thought he never glamorizes warfare, he states, “…from the moment of that Toronto Parade I have been sure of one thing: I am a Canadian, proud of Canada’s heritage and proud – if need be – to fight for it.”
Today I stand before you equally proudly of the fact that our Regiment welcomed Ben and all Canadians equally those many years ago. Without thought to religion or family background, The QOR of C has been a home to tens of thousands of proud Canadians with the same thoughts as Brigadier Dunkelman: not to seek conflict, rather to serve those who cannot protect themselves.
Toronto and Torontonians have a rich history and association with Canada’s Armed Forces. We stand in front of HMCS York, steps from Fort York Armoury and historic Old Fort York. We are standing very near the grounds where The QOR of C gathered before stepping off for Ridgeway to protect southern Ontario from invading forces 151 year ago. Though our early days, sending expeditionary forces to the Nile and Boer Wars, the World Wars, the Korean conflict, peace enforcement missions and the war in Afghanistan, or todays’ deployments in the Middle east, Africa and eastern Europe: Toronto has always supported our men and women in harm’s way.
The Regiment recently returned from two very special events overseas: the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and just prior to that, our commemorations in Normandie, where Ben and his fellow Band of Brothers served. There we received not one but two honours: The Freedom of the City of Bernier sur Mer, where we were the only Toronto Regiment to land on D-Day, and the FotC of Anisy, where again, this Toronto Regiment was the only Allied unit to achieve their D-Day objective. These came at enormous costs, but as Ben showed by his personal example, the costs of freedom, of human dignity and decency, are borne by ordinary citizens accepting extraordinary responsibilities in times of great need.
I can also tell you that the people of Normandy, of France, have never forgotten the sacrifices of this Toronto Regiment and of the million Canadians who liberated them through two World Wars.
It is entirely appropriate then, that we gather here today to similar remember: to honour a proud Torontonian and Canadian who served twice to protect those in harm’s way. I would like to thank the City of Toronto and Heritage Toronto for bestowing this honour on a member of our Regiment and our city. May it serve as a reminder to all who come across it of a great man and our joint history together, a reminder of our City and her soldiers who have carried a part of Canada with them across the globe.
Thanks also to Captain Rob Chan and his family for their efforts in working with Heritage Toronto to make this happen.