Virtutis Gloria Merces – Glory, The Reward of Virtue

by guest author Capt. B. E. Taylor, CD, MA (Ret’d)

Note that this was originally written as a university course paper and consequently follows a fairly rigid referencing protocol.  

William Kimber. Hart House and Soldiers’ Tower. May 15, 2009. Accessed June 16, 2020. https://www.flickr.com/photos/35005631@N02/3533747177

War memorials are meant to commemorate the sacrifices that have preceded their erection.  Particularly for those commemorating the dead of the Great War, they address “some of the complex issues of victimhood and bereavement.[1]  “Glory, the reward of virtue” is a translation of the Latin inscription on a carillon bell in the University of Toronto’s Soldiers’ Tower, which commemorates the university’s war dead,[2]  and suggests a linkage between sacrifice and redemption.

 

The bells in Soldiers Tower, University of Toronto.

Soldiers’ Tower is evidence that government (at all its levels) and the state are not, nor should they be, the only sources of memory and mourning.  The human sacrifices of war “should never be collapsed into a set of stories formed by or about the state,” and the erection of local and private war memorials helps to bring a local context to the lesions brought by total war.[3]

Other examples in Toronto of such non-public monuments include the war memorials of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the 48th Highlanders of Canada.  Both units perpetuate overseas battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

15th Battalion CEF (perpetuated by the 48th) marching out of Germany on the road between Esbach and Bensberg, 8 January, 1919
3rd (Toronto) Battalion, largely drawn from the Queen’s Own Rifles, crossing the border into Germany on 4 December 1918.
The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Memorials

Under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Pellatt, the Q.O.R. Ex-Members’ Association was formed October 1, 1916 on his initiative with the primary purpose of sending food and clothing to men of the QOR battalions overseas who had become prisoners-of-war.  It fell dormant after the war but was revived March 8, 1922 with Major General W. D. Otter acting as Chairman, and by March 1923 a Memorial Building Fund had been established.  A decision was made to construct a monument in Queen’s Park instead of erecting a building. That was logical, as the regiment was headquartered just down the street at the University Avenue (Toronto) Armoury located between Armoury and Queen Streets.

University Avenue Armouries

Later still, with the approval of the Rector and Wardens of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 227 Bloor St. East, it was decided that a regimental memorial would be built at St. Paul’s, the Regimental Church.[4]  That conveniently obviated the need to find a site for a suitable monument, particularly given that the 48th Highlanders already had a monument in Queen’s Park.

The regiment also perpetuates the 3rd, 83rd, 95th, 166th, 198th, and 255th Battalions, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Financing was handled by The Queen’s Own Rifles Memorial Association, a special body created early in 1928 with Brigadier-General J. G. Langton as its President.  The most publicly visible part of the memorial, a Cross of Remembrance, was unveiled and dedicated by the Rector of St. Paul’s, a former regimental chaplain, on October 18, 1931[5].

In its churchyard setting the widely recognizable regimental Cross of Sacrifice speaks for itself as a memorial to those who fought and died during the Great War (and subsequent actions).[6]  The memorial cross is modelled after the Cross of Sacrifice designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield for the Imperial War Graves Commission (now Commonwealth War Graves Commission) in 1918 that is a part of Commonwealth war cemeteries containing 40 or more graves.  The Cross is the most imitated symbol used on Commonwealth memorials[7] .

Base of the QOR Cross of Sacrifice.

Like the original, the QOR cross has a bronze longsword, blade down, mounted on the front of the cross and sits atop an octagonal base.  The Latin cross represents the faith of the majority of the dead and the sword indicates the military nature of the monument.[8]  The Cross is constructed on granite, with reproductions of the regimental and battalion badges on the base and the battle honours from two world wars[9] represented on the plinth and sub-base[10].

A Book of Sacrifice listing members of the regiment who have been killed on service is kept at the Regimental Church, St. Paul’s Anglican.

Inside the church is a small chapel to the rear of the main chancel (west side), dedicated on March 13, 1932.  A carved alabaster table stands on a granite platform (Plate 8) with a glass-topped bronze casket containing the Book of Remembrance atop it.  The names of all QOR soldiers who lost their lives in their country’s service from the Fenian Raid of 1866 to the Korean War are inscribed in the Book.[11]

At each church service at which the regiment is on parade a special party of officers and non-commissioned officers escorts the book to the front of the church.  It is presented to the Commanding Officer, who hands it to the Rector, and it is placed on the alter during the service.  The book is returned to its place of honour at the conclusion of the service.[12]

There being no colours because the QOR is a Rifle Regiment, the Book of Remembrance is the symbol of the regiment’s honour and the memory of “Fallen Comrades,”[13] held by the Church wardens for safekeeping.  Parading the book before the regiment shows the Wardens have fulfilled their trust and that the care of the book and honour are in the hands of all ranks of the regiment.  The Commanding Officer’s handling of the book symbolizes his personal responsibility and its return to the Wardens symbolizes their acceptance of responsibility for safekeeping.[14]

48th Highlanders of Canada Memorials

As with the Queen’s Own memorial, a general aversion toward war prevalent in the 1920s and early 1930s influenced the design of the 48th Highlanders monument and neither is suggestive of a spirit of militarism.  Their inspiration was clearly mourning the dead rather than celebrating military achievements.  Neither mimics Victorian battle monuments nor relies on images from archaic allegory.[15]

The 48th Highlanders perpetuate the 15th, the 92nd and 134th reinforcement battalions, CEF, and the equivalent of two more battalions sent as companies to other units.

A regimental memorial designed by Capt. Eric W. Haldenby[16] was unveiled by Governor-General Baron Byng at the Armistice Day parade in 1923.  The granite column which marks the deaths of 61 officers and 1,406 non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment, was funded by friends, members, and former members and raised during the previous summer. Unlike reliance on an almost universal form for Great War monuments (the Cross of Sacrifice), the 48th Highlanders memorial tried for an aesthetic that would combine a geometric abstraction and a figurative realism (Plate 9).  The obelisk was also an accepted part of the funerary sculpture lexicon.[17]

The South African War Memorial, built in 1910 in remembrance of Canadian participation in the Boer War, stands in the centre of University Avenue just north of Queen Street West in Toronto. The designer, Walter Seymour Allward, is perhaps best known for his Vimy Memorial in France.

The 48th Highlanders monument stands at the north end, or head, of Queen’s Park and looks up Avenue Road.[18]  That location was ideal because like the Queen’s Own, the 48th Highlanders were located in the University Avenue Armoury to the south.  The boulevard opposite the armoury already had several monuments, including the Sons of England Roll of Honour, also unveiled in 1923,[19] and the South African (Boer War) Memorial at the Queen Street intersection[20].

Inscription on 48th Highlanders Monument in Queen’s Park

The 48th memorial site in Queen’s Park was selected because it would be viewed by all south-bound traffic on Queen’s Park Circle as the roadway splits around the park.  The monument has replicas of the Regimental crest carved on each side.  These bear the words “15th Canadian Battalion,” “134 Overseas,” and “92 Overseas” on the south, east, and west sides, respectively.  A carving of a Christian Cross of Sacrifice tops each side.

Some of the 48th Highlanders First World War Battle Honours on the Memorial Monument

An inscription on the (north) face reads: “DILEAS GU BRATH 1914-­1918 To the glorious memory of those who died and to the undying honour of those who served—this is erected by their Regiment—the 48th Highlanders of Canada”[21] (Plate 11). A scabbarded sword is also carved into the stone.  Just as with the QOR Cross of Sacrifice, the 48th Highlanders’ battle honours are inscribed around the monument’s faces[22].

Unlike the Queen’s Own Rifles’ memorial, the 48th Highlanders’ tribute to its fallen is divided between the public monument and a separate accolade in its regimental church elsewhere.  Having split twice over issues in the Church of Scotland and relocating the congregation, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian remained the core of the Town of York’s first Church of Scotland congregation and has been the Highlanders’ regimental church since their founding in 1891.

St. Andrew’s follows the “reformed/ Presbyterian tradition”[23] in worship, of which chapels or shrines like those at St. Paul’s Anglican are not a big part.  Consequently, the regiment’s other memorial at the regimental church is a communion table in the chancel, dedicated on November 11, 1934.  The sergeants of the regiment donated the table in memory of their fallen comrades in World War I and it is now a memorial to the fallen in two world wars and used at every celebration of Holy Communion.

An oak communion table, the gift of the sergeants of the regiment, was dedicated on Remembrance Day, November 11, 1934 by Rev. Dr. Stuart Parker, chaplain of the regiment and minister of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, the regimental church of the 48th Highlanders of Canada.

The oaken table was created by Dr. John A. Pearson,[24] a St. Andrew’s congregant.  There are abutments, about six inches lower, at the ends of the table, and each has an oak top with a plate of glass set into a (lockable) hinged frame.  An inner shelf is approximately 10 inches below the glass on each side, on which lie records.  Like the Queen’s Own Rifles, the 48th Highlanders have a Book of Remembrance.

The right-hand abutment of the communion table contains 25 loose leaf pages listing the names and ranks of 1,818 48th Highlanders dead from the two world wars.  Two pages, with about 120 names in block script, show when the book is open.  The left-hand abutment contains the title page and dedication of the Book of Remembrance on parchment .  The regimental crest and St. Paul’s words “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand” are carved on the left table abutment.

Conclusion

First World War memorials such as those of the Queen’s Own Rifles and the 48th Highlanders were built in an age of meaninglessness stemming from the recent war and serve to mark the value of individuals.  They are not primarily “grand architectural monuments” (Plate 15) but continue a practice in countries of the Empire and Commonwealth of commemorating their role in 20th century conflicts, but without necessarily a sense of the waste and futility of war.[25]  They stand as evidence that mourners in the postwar period would not have favoured memorial aesthetics that were pure abstraction.  In a sense, they mark for us “a sense that everything is over and done with, that something long since begun is now complete.”[26]

An example of the “grand architectural monument” style favoured for many pre-First World War monuments. Another Walter Allward design, this monument on the University of Toronto campus honours nine Queen’s Own Rifles members, including three University of Toronto students, who fell at the Battle of Ridgeway in June 1866. It was sponsored and paid for by Toronto citizens, and dedicated on 1 July 1870.
References

Barnard, William T. The Queen’s Own Rifles 1860-1960. Don Mills: Ontario Publishing Company Limited, 1960.

“Battle Honours of the Canadian Army – The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.” The Regimental Rogue. Accessed June 8, 2020. http://www.regimentalrogue.com/battlehonours/bathnrinf/06-qor.htm

Beattie, Kim. 48th Highlanders of Canada 1891­-1928. Toronto: 48th Highlanders of Canada, 1932.

“Book of Remembrance,” The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum and Archives. Accessed June 8, 2020. https://qormuseum.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/book-of-remembrance.jpg 

“Books of Remembrance 1,” 15thbattalioncef.ca. Accessed June 8, 2020.   http://15thbattalioncef.ca/commemoration/books-of-remembrance-1/

Bradbeer, Janice. “Once Upon A City: Creating Toronto’s Skyline.” Toronto Star, March 24, 2016.

“Canadian Volunteer Memorial.” The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum and Archives. Accessed June 16, 2020. https://qormuseum.org/history/memorials/canadian-volunteer-memorial/

Charlebois, Marc. “A Skirmisher from The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada at the Cross of Sacrifice.” Pinterest.ca. Accessed June 16, 2020. https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/540220917773385972/

“Communion Table St. Andrew’s Church.” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation. Accessed June 17, 2020. https://www.cdli.ca/monuments/on/toronto48b.htm

“Cross of Sacrifice.” Wikia.org. Accessed June 17, 2020. https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Cross_of_Sacrifice

“Cross of Sacrifice.” Wikipedia. Accessed June 7, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_of_Sacrifice

Farrugia, Peter. “A Small Truce in a Big War: The Historial de La Grande Guerre and the Interplay of History and Memory.” Canadian Military History 22, no. 2, (Spring 2013): 63-76.

“Forever Faithful.” 15thbattalioncef.ca. Accessed June 17, 2020. http://15thbattalioncef.ca/category/uncategorized/

Gough, Paul. “Canada, Conflict and Commemoration: An Appraisal of the New Canadian War Memorial in Green Park, London, and a Reflection on the Official Patronage of Canadian War Art.” Canadian Military History 5, no. 1, (Spring 1996): 26-34.

“Haldenby, Eric Wilson.” University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Accessed June 16, 2020. https://alumni.engineering.utoronto.ca/alumni-bios/haldenby-eric-wilson/

“Historic Toronto,” Tayloronhistory.com. Accessed June 8, 2020.  https://tayloronhistory.com/tag/boer-war-monument-toronto/

“John A. Pearson.” Wikipedia.org. Accessed June 8, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_A._Pearson

Kimber, William. “Hart House and Soldiers’ Tower.” Accessed June 16, 2020.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/35005631@N02/3533747177

Laye, Tim. “Toronto – 48th Highlanders.” Ontario War Memorials. Accessed May 11, 2020. https://ontariowarmemorials.blogspot.com/2013/08/toronto-48th-highlanders.html

Nora, Pierre. “General Introduction: Between Memory and History” in Realms of Memory vol. I trans. Arthur Goldhammer, New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Pierce, John. “Constructing Memory: The Vimy Memorial.” Canadian Military History 1, no. 1 (1992): 3-5.

“Queen’s Own Rifles Association.” Qormuseum.org. Accessed June 8, 2020. https://qormuseum.org/history/queens-own-rifles-association/

“Regiment Info.” Canadian Armed Forces. Accessed June 8, 2020. http://48highlanders.com/01_00.html 

“St. Andrew’s Church (Toronto). Sensagent Corporation. Accessed June 8, 2020.  http://dictionary.sensagent.com/St._Andrew%27s_Church_(Toronto)/en-en/

“Soldiers’ Tower Carillon Inscriptions.” University of Toronto. Accessed May 11, 2020.  https://alumni.utoronto.ca/alumni-networks/shared-interests/soldiers-tower/carillon-inscriptions.

“Sons of England Memorial.” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation. Accessed June 8, 2020. https://www.cdli.ca/monuments/on/tsons.htm

“South African War Memorial (Toronto).” Wikipedia. Accessed June 17, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_War_Memorial_(Toronto)#/media/File:South_African_War_Memorial_Toronto_Nov_08.jpg

Strachan, Hew. 2013. The First World War. New York: Penguin Books.

“The 48th Highlanders Monument Queens Park.” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation. Accessed June 8, 2020. https://www.cdli.ca/monuments/on/toronto48.htm

“Weekly Services, St. Andrew’s Church.” Standrewstoronto.org. Accessed June 8, 2020.  https://standrewstoronto.org/worship/weekly-services/

Winter, Jay. “The Generation of Memory: Reflections on the ‘Memory Boom’ in Contemporary Historical Studies.” Canadian Military History 10, no. 3, (2001): 57-66.

“48th Highlanders of Canada An Infantry Regiment of Canada’s Primary Reserves.” Canadian Armed Forces. Accessed June 16, 2020. http://48highlanders.com/01_00.html

Notes

[1] Jay Winter, “The Generation of Memory: Reflections on the ‘Memory Boom’ in Contemporary Historical Studies.” Canadian Military History 10, no. 3, (2001): 58.

[2] Bell VIII commemorates Lt. James E. Robertson, BA, Ll.B.  Virtutis Gloria Merces is the motto of Clan Robertson (Donnachaidh).

[3] Winter, “Generation of Memory,” 58-59.

[4] The Queen’s Own Rifles was formerly a multi-battalion regular-force regiment, with troops based as far away as Work Point Barracks, Victoria B.C. (now part of CFB Esquimalt).  The regimental depot was in Calgary.

[5] Queen’s Own Rifles Association, https://qormuseum.org/history/queens-own-rifles-association/

[6] Peter Farrugia, “A Small Truce in a Big War: The Historial de La Grande Guerre and the Interplay of History and Memory.” Canadian Military History 22, no. 2, (Spring 2013): 4.

[7] “Cross of Sacrifice,” Wikipedia, accessed June 7, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_of_Sacrifice

[8] “Cross of Sacrifice,” Wikia.org, accessed June 17, 2020, https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Cross_of_Sacrifice

[9] As with other Rifle Regiments, a regimental colour is not carried, with the battle honours being painted on regimental drums instead. It was announced on May 9, 2014 that the QOR has subsequently been awarded the “Afghanistan” battle honour because of the numbers of its members that had served in South-West Asia. Battle Honours of the Canadian Army – The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, accessed June 8, 2020,  http://www.regimentalrogue.com/battlehonours/bathnrinf/06-qor.htm

[10] QORA

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Book of Remembrance,” The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum and Archives, accessed June 8, 2020, https://qormuseum.files.wordpress.com/ 2019/08/book-of-remembrance.jpg

[13] A traditional toast to Fallen Comrades is given at formal military dinners.

[14] William T. Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles 1860-1960 (Don Mills: Ontario Publishing Company Limited, 1960), 133.

[15] John Pierce, “Constructing Memory: The Vimy Memorial.” Canadian Military History 1, no. 1, (1992): 3-4.
Paul Gough, “Canada, Conflict and Commemoration: An Appraisal of the New Canadian War Memorial in Green Park, London, and a Reflection on the Official Patronage of Canadian War Art.” Canadian Military History 5, no. 1, (Spring 1996): 30.

[16] His architectural firm, Mathers and Haldenby (1921-1991), also designed the Toronto head office buildings of Imperial Oil, Bank of Nova Scotia, and The Globe and Mail.
“Haldenby, Eric Wilson,” University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, accessed June 16, 2020, https://alumni.engineering.utoronto.ca/alumni-bios/haldenby-eric-wilson/

[17] Kim Beattie, 48th Highlanders of Canada 1891­-1928, (Toronto: 48th Highlanders of Canada, 1932), 425.
Gough, “Canada, Conflict and Commemoration,” 7-8.

[18] Beattie, 48th Highlanders, 425.

[19] “Sons of England Memorial,” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation, accessed June 8, 2020,  https://www.cdli.ca/monuments/on/tsons.htm

[20] “Historic Toronto,” Tayloronhistory.com, accessed June 8, 2020, https://tayloronhistory.com/tag/boer-war-monument-toronto/

[21] Beattie, 426,
“The 48th Highlanders Monument Queens Park,” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation, accessed June 8, 2020, https://www.cdli.ca/monuments/on/toronto48.htm

[22] After WW II 10 battle honours were added in honour of 351 dead from that conflict.  Like the Queen’s Own Rifles, the 48th Highlanders have subsequently been awarded a battle honour for Afghanistan.
“Battle Honours of the Canadian Army – The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada,” accessed June 8, 2020, http://www.regimentalrogue.com/battlehonours/bathnrinf/06-qor.htm
“The 48th Highlanders Monument Queens Park,” Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation, accessed June 8, 2020, https://www.cdli.ca/monuments/on/toronto48.htm

[23] “St. Andrew’s Church (Toronto),” Sensagent Corporation, accessed June 8, 2002,  http://dictionary.sensagent.com/St._Andrew%27s_Church_(Toronto)/en-en/
“Weekly Services, St. Andrew’s Church,” Standrewstoronto.org, accessed June 8, 2020, https://standrewstoronto.org/worship/weekly-services/
“48th Highlanders of Canada An Infantry Regiment of Canada’s Primary Reserves,” Canadian Armed Forces, accessed June 16, 2020, http://48highlanders.com/01_00.html
“Weekly Services, St. Andrew’s Church,” Standrewstoronto.org.

[24] An architect, his other works included several buildings on the University of Toronto campus, the College Wing of Toronto General Hospital, and the “new” Centre Block on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill.
Janice Bradbeer, “Once Upon A City: Creating Toronto’s Skyline,” Toronto Star, March 24, 1016.
“John A. Pearson,” wikipedia.org, accessed June 8, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_A._Pearson

[25] Hew Strachan, The First World War. (New York: Penguin Books, 2013) 337.

[26] Farrugia, “A Small Truce,” 63
Gough, 33,
Pierre Nora. “General Introduction: Between Memory and History” in Realms of Memory vol. I trans. Arthur Goldhammer, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992): 1, cited by Farrugia, 2.

Permission is hereby granted to the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada to, with proper acknowledgement, use the following, in whole or in part, for any purpose whatsoever.

The quest for Jack Kavanagh’s last resting place

The amazing story of the identification of an emblematic and bold Canadian soldier whose last resting place was lost for 75 years.

By Francis Bleeker (© FLG Bleeker)

Introduction

Lieut. Gen. Mart de Kruif speaks about Canadian sacrifices, Canadian War Museum, photo F Bleeker, 4 May 2017

In May 1992 I was seconded to the Dutch 41 Light Brigade in Germany for a major exercise. My new boss was Major Mart de Kruif, a Dutch Grenadier Guards officer, in charge of G3, the Operations section. I was his liaison officer for the duration of the exercise. Exciting times, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After my immigration to Canada in 1998 we continue to meet at regimental events. In 2008 he takes command of Regional Command South in Afghanistan and for a whole year works with numerous Canadian staff officers.

Grave of unknown soldier, Steenderen, photo by F Bleeker 2017

Fast forward again and in 2017 now Lieutenant General de Kruif shares a panel with LGen Marc Lessard at the Canadian War Museum to talk about Canadian-Dutch co-operation in Afghanistan and the close ties between the two countries. He then talks about the heroism and the sacrifice of Canadians during the liberation of The Netherlands from the Germans in 1945 and how soldiers of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada are commemorated in Rha, a village close to his home in the Eastern part of The Netherlands. One of them does not have a grave and is remembered on a wall at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek. In nearby Steenderen there is a grave of an unknown soldier. Local amateur historians think they know who he is: Lieutenant John Gordon Kavanagh of The Queen’s Own Rifles. General Mart recites what is engraved on the monument in Rha: ‘Dying for freedom is not the worst that could happen, being forgotten is.’ Afterwards I agree to delve into this story, do more research, and see what I can come up with.

Who was Jack Kavanagh?

Jack Kavanagh (Photo by permission J.G. Young)

John Gordon Kavanagh, ‘Jack’ to family and friends, was born in Toronto on 20 October 1921, the son of John and Cora Kavanagh. He was the youngest of four children. His brothers and sister were a lot older, the difference with his sister was 13 years, 19 years with his oldest brother. His father was a handyman at Eaton’s and died when Jack was only seven years old. Jack grows up on Sandford Avenue and after 4 years of high school at Riverdale Collegiate, he finds a job in the athletics department at T. Eaton Co Ltd making $18 a week.

On the 10th September 1939 Canada declares war on the German Reich independently from the British Empire. Jack joins The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (QOR) only eight days after Canada’s declaration of war a month shy of the required age of 18. He may have fudged his date of birth by three months to get in as the date has to be amended in his paperwork later on. Initially The Queen’s Own train in ‘mufti’ because of a shortage of uniforms.

When the unit is mobilized in June 1940 he transfers from the non-permanent active militia to the regular force (CASF) and takes the oath to ‘be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty’. The regiment trains in Toronto before moving to the Dominion of Newfoundland for more training. Jack is part of the regimental boxing team and they win the Divisional Boxing Tournament in May 1941.

Finally in July 1941 The Queen’s Own cross the Atlantic by ship to Scotland where training and live fire exercises resume. The battalion moves to Southern England, first Aldershot then Pippingford Park, Sussex, south-west of London. The QOR boxing team, including Jack, is doing well again and wins the brigade and subsequently the divisional championship. The battalion keeps moving around Southern England in 1942 for training and exercises and during the fall Jack receives several reprimands and forfeitures of pay for short unauthorized absences.

Wedding Jack Kavanagh and Emily Jean Haddleton, 12 June 1943, London. (photo by permission J.G. Young)

History does not tell but it is very likely that these absences had something to do with a lady interest. Now a corporal Jack has to apply a second time to marry Emily Jean Haddleton as the first application had gone missing. Jean, who is a Red Cross nurse, grew up around the corner from Jack’s home in Toronto. He was probably frustrated by the two-month bureaucratic delay so he adds a cheeky note stating that ‘proposed wife is a member of the Canadian Red Cross Corps and has been granted permission to marry by her Commandant’, so get on with it! The wedding takes place in Kensington, London, on 12th June 1943 with comrades in arms and Red Cross nurses attending.

After that it is back to more exercises until 7th October when Jack, now an Acting Sergeant, is sent back to Canada for officer training at the Officer Training Centre in Brockville, Ontario. We can only guess how Cadet Kavanagh must have felt when the invasion in Normandy started and he heard the reports of the severe losses that The Queen’s Own incurred.

Jack is commissioned and reports for duty in England on 28 December 1944. He is ready to rejoin his unit, but disaster strikes and on 25 January 1945 he is hospitalized with pneumonia. After 11 days in hospital he discharges himself but continues to kick his heels until he is fed up waiting. He takes off without orders and makes his own way to The Queen’s Own who are in Germany just across the Dutch border. It takes some representations from the commanding officer of The Queen’s Own and the brigade commander to paper over this infraction but on 18 March Jack finally has his platoon in B Company.

Jack and his sister Mabel. (photo by permission J.G. Young)

The QOR had just come through another period of heavy fighting and heavy losses against a vicious, relentless enemy that included hand to hand combat where even the ‘rifleman’s swords’ (bayonets) were used. When Jack rejoins the QOR they are recuperating briefly in the Reichswald in home-made huts and underground shelters. On 23 March he writes an upbeat letter to his sister Mabel affectionately joking about his batman ’just a kid of 19’ and sends his love to ‘the gals at the big store’ (Eaton’s). It is to be his last letter. Coincidentally Mabel sends him an Easter card on the same day.

24 March and the QORs are on the move again as part of Operation PLUNDER. By 2 April they are back in The Netherlands, they cross the Oude Ijssel river and are getting a taste of liberating the jubilant Dutch population. On 5 April B Company is tasked to capture the hamlet of Pipelure, near Rha. The enemy had used forced labour to dig deep trenches and construct tank traps. The terrain is muddy and the trenches waterlogged. In those horrendous circumstances, without cover and supporting fire, Kavanagh advances with two platoons in the late afternoon and runs in to heavy mortar and small arms fire and is pinned down. During that action Jack is killed, it is said by a Panzerfaust, an anti-tank weapon. Four others die in the same action. The reserve platoon is now deployed to allow platoons 11 and 12 to withdraw. In the dwindling light The Queen’s Own have to fight hand to hand with the enemy before they can retire taking their wounded but leaving five dead, including Jack, behind.

Mabel’s Easter card is returned to her, the envelope is stamped ‘REPORTED DECEASED’ in capitals…

Aftermath?

Ring presented by T.Eaton Ltd (photo by permission J.G. Young)

Jack’s wife Jean and his family are advised of his death. But all they are told is that he was ‘for official purposes presumed killed in action’ in Western Europe and that his body was not recovered. He is honoured on the Memorial Wall at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek. T. Eaton Ltd. gives the family a gold ring engraved with his name in memory of their employee. Jack’s name is also included on the large bronze tablet that contains all the names of the 263 Eaton employees who sacrificed their lives. The impressive memorial has found a home at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

The City of Toronto presents the family with a framed scroll and a votive lamp. Both the recognition by Eaton’s and Toronto are a testament of the support that employers and local government gave to soldiers and their families.

In The Netherlands…

Granite monument dedicated to QOR soldiers, Rha (by permission T. Vanderplas)

The people in the Eastern part of The Netherlands honour the fallen for their freedom every spring a month before the rest of the country as they were liberated earlier. Villagers in Steenderen have been

putting flowers at the war graves in the General Cemetery on 6 April for decades. The cemetery contains the graves of 9 RAF, RCAF and Polish aircrew that crashed in the area during the war at different dates. The date on the 10th headstone, that of the unknown soldier, states 16 April 1945, thereby adding to the confusion.

In 2001 the villagers of nearby Rha erect a little monument in a remembrance garden in honour of 8 members of The Queen’s Own Rifles who fell there on 5 and 6 April 1945. Jack Kavanagh is listed among his comrades.

2017 my research begins

After volunteering to do more research in May 2017 I started by writing to a brigadier general at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). I ask the brigadier general where I can find John Gordon Kavanagh’s dental records and he refers me to another director general at VAC and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), Canadian Agency [1]. General Mart de Kruif had already mentioned that he had the Dutch War Grave Service standing by to assist in an exhumation. If we can match the dental records with the remains in the grave of the unknown soldier in Steenderen we will have a solution. DNA would be another option – if only we could locate any relatives. Others have gone before us though and failed to find members of Jack’s family.

Jack Kavanagh’s Silver Cross. (by permission JG Young)

I am in close contact with the Dutch defence attache and work with a good friend who is a Queen’s Own. The CWGC, Canadian Agency, gets back to me and confirms that Lt JG Kavanagh was killed by an anti tank weapon and that there are conflicting stories whether there was enough left to recover or that his remains were never recovered. I am told to prepare myself for a ‘very high burden of proof to be met before exhumation can be considered.’ He does not want to discourage me, but he has seen many cases where the identity of ‘unknowns’ have been confirmed, but even more unsuccessful attempts. His grim message is loud and clear…

In a reply to my update to General Mart and Colonel Christa, the defence attache, I receive Dutch material from a Dutch local historian, Karl Lusink. It is remarkable that some of his notes date back to 1984 when he tried to find out more from the farmer who owned the field in Rha where Jack fell. Unfortunately, the farmer has moved away to a nursing home and does not respond to letters. More importantly Karl provides me copies of official correspondence between the mayor of Steenderen and the Dutch Ministry of War: in November 1947 the mayor claimed expenses for the exhumation of remains on the land of farmer Garritsen at Pipelure on 10 April 1947, two years after the operation. Some personal items including a Canadian beret were also recovered.

Veterans Affairs Canada gets back to me with two more documents: a headstone change request and a document written by a Dutch-Canadian, Rev. Henkdrik Dykman, from Guelph. Both documents provide additional information about the other four soldiers who died in that location at the same time. The QOR War Diary is very clear about the number of soldiers that were killed in Rha: five. Four, riflemen Aiken, Crawford, McKenna and Woodruff are accounted for. They were buried in temporary graves at a neighbouring farm in Rha, according to said headstone change request. There is a photograph of the four temporary graves with the correct date on the crosses, 5 April 1945. I find that some dates used by various officials do not always match those in the War Diary, but these do. The four riflemen were re-interred in Holten Canadian War Cemetery in April 1946. Who can the remains in Steenderen belong to if not Jack Kavanagh? Karl Lusink sends more Dutch material from 1947 regarding a misunderstanding on the part of the Dutch War Ministry that the unknown soldier is English but which is quickly corrected by the mayor who replies that Steenderen was liberated by Canadians and the remains therefore cannot be English. It is now October 2017 and there is a new Dutch defence attache to brief. Colonel Christa has retired but continues to follow developments from The Netherlands.

Late November I receive another email from the CWGC Canadian Agency offering me to show Jack’s dental records but reaffirming what I had been advised before: the CWGC does not exhume for the sole purpose of identification. It also mentions that the location of Jack’s death is known but not if his remains were recovered. My QOR friend sends me a paper about relevant International Human Rights Law on war dead. This can get complicated.

Christmas 2017 I spend in The Netherlands and I take the opportunity to visit the location where Jack fell. It is a bleak field, flat with far horizons, next to farmer Garritsen’s farmhouse that has been turned into a bed and breakfast. It will have been different in 1945 but it is still flat with no natural cover. It would have been an infantryman’s nightmare.

Pipelure, location of Jack’s death, (photo F. Bleeker 2017)

Over the following months I conduct more research but have less time as I am in a new job. All the while I am encouraged by a few friends and some senior officers whom I meet and bend their ears at the Army Officers Mess, Ottawa, for the traditional Friday lunch. I search and find more information about Jack and his family, much of which is available online: census records, the War Diary, various books and literature. I start writing my paper and limit myself to what is essential for the identification and I include my translation of the Dutch official correspondence. A good friend who is a historian offers to review it.

In May 2018 I am copied on another email from the CWGC reiterating the non-exhumation policy and attaching the email that was sent to me before. General Mart and a Dutch documentary producer had requested guidance for DNA testing. The policy has not changed so it is declined. Coincidentally my paper is finished, and I submit it to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as I believe that is has the circumstantial evidence that will tip the balance. Days later my paper is given a reference number, ID Case No. 428. If successful, the CWGC will arrange for a new headstone but I am asked to exercise patience. I know that general Mart would like to turn a change of headstone into a major event in 2020 when the Dutch celebrate the 75th anniversary of their liberation. I inform Karl Lusink of recent developments.

Mabel Young’s Easter Card. (by permission JG Young)

In July 2018 I meet the Dutch documentary producers in the suitably solemn ambiance of the library of the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto. Bart Nijpels, Ton Vanderplas and I compare notes and agree to work together. I send them documents that they did not have, and they send me an obituary of Isabel, daughter of Jack’s brother Robert, who had died in 2011. J.G. Kavanagh’s nephew Jack and family are mentioned as is their hometown Keswick. Ton spends a fruitless day there knocking on doors. My QOR friend and I start our own search and he finds that the contact person for Isabel died in 2016, another dead end. For months we scour the internet for the nephew, Jack Young, unfortunately not a unique name.

Kavanagh’s next of kin found

In November I meet a CAF major who tells me about his ambition to become a private investigator. ‘I have just the job for you!’ I say. He comes up trumps! Within days he writes to me with the contact details of a John ‘Jack’ Young. I am anxious as I dial the number and a man answers and I ask if he is indeed the nephew of John Gordon Kavanagh. When he confirms that I blurt out ’I have been looking for you!’. Coincidentally the documentary makers have found the family as well. Over the next few months we are in close contact with the family and we exchange information about their uncle. I provide them information and advice for their trip to The Netherlands as they have been invited by Bart and Ton. When I finally meet Jack Young and his wife they show an abundance of mementos of their uncle whom they never met.

General Mart, the Dutch Embassy, the Canadian Embassy in The Netherlands, and others are all keenly waiting for the next steps, 2020 is now a year away. A friend, a recently retired general, has an ‘innocuous’ chat at my request with the Directorate of History & Heritage of the Department of National Defence in Ottawa. DHH however immediately recognizes the case: without more information this case does not ‘pass the bar’. In my contacts with general Mart I raise the possibility of a QOR representation supported and complemented by our Limburgse Jagers (Rifles) Regiment at the commemoration – provided all goes well. We meet late January 2019 in The Netherlands to discuss progress and next steps.

Thrilled the Young family travels to The Netherlands in April at the invitation of the documentary makers, Ton and Bart, and visit the monument in Rha and the grave of the unknown soldier in Steenderen. It is an emotional pilgrimage as I can make out from the many messages that they send me. I put them in touch with a dear friend of mine who is a clergyman living near Steenderen and he organizes a special service for the family on the Sunday. The family is deeply touched by the attention of the locals and the fact that they have been caring for the monuments and graves for so many years.

‘The case has merit’

In May 2019 a full year after I had submitted my research paper the CWGC advises us that ‘the documentation from the local archives included in the submissions has provided an essential link between the field grave from which the casualty was exhumed and his reburial at Steenderen as well as showing the origin of the discrepancy in the date of death. Therefore, we believe that the case has merit and have forwarded the case to the Canadian Armed Forces for their review.’ The case has merit, BINGO! Once again we are asked to exercise patience. Time is running though; if we want to organize an event in April 2020, we need a determination as soon as possible. I talk or email with people and officials in my network to see what we can do to expedite the process. I also keep in touch with the Young family, Kavanagh’s next of kin and we become friends. We attend a military appreciation game of the Belleville Senators together.

Come October I am advised that the Casualty Identification Review Board (CIRB) will meet in November and I am asked to provide contact details of Kavanagh’s next of kin. In December 2019 I am told: the CIRB did meet in November but the results have to go to the chain of command. On New Year’s Day 2020 I receive another email from General Mart asking for an update. I bug DHH and they assure me they are acutely aware of the general’s and the local community’s interest. We are now less than three months away from the 75th anniversary. I email a very senior officer at DND and I am told to be patient another week: the Army will notify the family first and I will hear promptly thereafter. And so it happens! On 24 January 2020 The Queen’s Own Rifles notify Jack Young that his uncle Lt. John G Kavanagh has been identified as the unknown soldier resting in Steenderen. I receive a call from DHH with the good news and find it quite emotional. In a call next day General Mart and I immediately start firming up our plans.

The unknown soldier identified

On Saturday, 26 January, the Commanding Officer of The Queen’s Own, his Regimental Sergeant Major and an assisting officer present themselves in uniform with medals at the home of Jack Young and his wife Debbie to notify them officially their uncle has been identified. I receive a call after they leave and Jack and Debbie are deeply impressed. They are on the loudspeaker in the car and my wife can hear how touched and relieved they are – she seems to have something in her eye. It is the culmination of years of work by many people on both sides of the Atlantic.

A suitable commemoration

We change gears immediately. I have teleconferences with General Mart, the commanding officer (CO) and his deputy of The Queen’s Own, the Canadian defence attache in The Hague, Colonel Christa and others. A plan is put together: there will be a commemoration on 5 and 6 April, six family members of Kavanagh will attend as well as ten Queen’s Own. We need to raise money and see what Veterans Affairs Canada will support. My clergyman friend has been invited to conduct the Sunday service on 5 April in the church beside the General Cemetery in Steenderen. It is like divine intervention, we can have a church service conducted by a dear friend who has been close to the story and himself the son of a resistance fighter.
The Queen’s Own Rifles are responsible for the organization of the 2020 Garrison Ball at the Liberty Grand in Toronto on 8 February. Despite the short notice the commanding officer includes a stirring announcement that one of their comrades – lost for 75 years – has now been identified. The assisting officer reads out Jack’s last letter to his sister Mabel. When the colonel publicly recognizes the Young family who are in attendance the hundreds of guests rise and give the family a standing ovation that lasts many minutes.

Lt J G Kavanagh’s new headstone. (by permission T. Vanderplas)

It is like having another day job. Calls and emails to Veterans Affairs result in the department taking care of Jack and Debbie’s travel expenses. More calls and emails and people are generously offering financial support. The Queen’s Own raise money and will send a delegation of ten soldiers. A contact at a military charity puts me in touch with Air Canada who graciously offers help with the tickets for Jack’s daughters, granddaughters and the ten Queen’s Own. Strangers and friends of friends are stepping up and contributing with money, referrals and advice, it is fantastic. The municipality, that Rha belongs to, will take care of the Youngs’ stay at Garritsen’s farm, now a bed and breakfast, where their Uncle Jack had died. The Limburgse Jagers regiment is providing accommodation and transport for The Queen’s Own. They will also send a contingent to complement the Canadian delegation at the commemorative ceremony. Christa has put together a minute by minute plan with military precision. General Mart has multiple meetings with the municipality, Christa, the Canadian attache in The Hague and my friend the clergyman. The Dutch branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch No. 5, is roped in and will send a colour party. The CWGC and the Canadian Government are pushing for the new headstone to be ready for the commemorations on 5 and 6 April. The documentary makers, Ton and Bart, are present and shoot footage when the new headstone is being engraved. The final chapter of Jack’s story will be filmed at Kavanagh’s grave on 5 and 6 April. Everything is in place just weeks before it will all happen!

On 13 March 2020, the Chief of Defence Staff issues a directive banning non-essential travel because of COVID-19: The Queen’s Own cannot go. Within days disappointed and frustrated we have to decide to postpone the commemoration indefinitely due to the Corona virus. Canada is in lockdown and The Netherlands follows shortly after. We will resurrect the plans the moment we can either later this year or on the 76th anniversary.

Epilogue

On 5 April my friend the clergyman organizes a moving little ceremony at the General Cemetery of Steenderen in honour of Lt J. G. ‘Jack’ Kavanagh under COVID-19 restrictions. It was captured on video and available on YouTube  . The children of farmer Garritsen visit the grave and lay flowers. Others lay flowers, what else than tulips, at all ten graves as locals have done for decades. General Mart also drops by to pay his respects.

Sadly, Ton and Bart had to finish their documentary without the closing chapter with the new headstone in place. It is a must watch though, and can be seen on Vimeo  for a small fee part of which will go to a Canadian military charity. The documentary is a worthy tribute to a young Canadian who is emblematic for his generation of young men and women who answered the call of their country to fight for the freedom of others on the far side of the world. 7600 of them died in The Netherlands.

Lest we forget…

[1] – Note the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is based in the UK and the CWGC, Canadian Agency in Ottawa.

BEHIND THE SCENES: CATALOGUING AND STORAGE PART II

By Cheryl Copson, QOR Museum Collections Officer. Cheryl has a BA in Archaeology from Boston University and a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. When she’s not volunteering at our museum, she is a Collection Technician: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Near East and the Islamic World department at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The museum regularly receives new donations, large and small, as outlined by our Curator in Part 1. But once they arrive at the museum, where do they go? What happens to them? How are they tracked and managed? Are they placed in a warehouse like in Indiana Jones? Left in the dark until a researcher or curator calls on them?

Through this post, I will take you through some of the steps we take to properly care for, track, and make our collection accessible to the public.

First task – Numbering!

As a bit of a refresher from Part 1, once the legal title is transferred to the museum each gift is assigned a unique “accession number”. This is based on the year the gift came to the museum and what number gift it was for that year:

The first gift of 2020 = 2020.01

The 15th gift of 2020 = 2020.15

Then each object within that gift is assigned a unique “object number” based on its accession number. This forms a “tri-part” number:

The first object in the first gift of 2020 = 2020.01.001

The 15th object of the 15th gift of 2020 = 2020.15.015

Let’s get a bit crazier! If one object has two parts – say a pair of shoes – we go even further!

Shoe 1: 2020.01.001.1

Shoe 2: 2020.01.001.2

(Okay, that’s probably far enough!) We use these unique object numbers to easily track and maintain the vast collection. For those of you familiar with our collection you might also know that we have a “5-digit” numbering system….

In the past, the QOR Museum assigned a “5-digit” sequential number to objects. Example – the white “pith” helmet in our collection – Object Number:  01141. Each artefact still gets a unique number in this series however, unlike in the “tri-part” system it is not apparent when the artefact came into our collection or with what other material. We have been working hard to re-establish those connections, and where possible reassign a tri-part number.

01141 – “Pith” Helmet https://qormuseum.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/73608F36-9D59-4928-8454-350462751772

Okay, let’s get cataloguing!

Once an object receives a number it is individually catalogued. This includes noting dates, previous owners, use, condition, dimensions, a detailed description, among other fields. We have many dedicated volunteers who catalogue the collection using paper forms like the one below.

Part of the Object Form used to catalogue material in the collection. From the PastPerfect database.

These forms are then entered into the database. Why not enter straight into the database? Well, currently only one person is able to work in the database at a time. While this creates a little extra work, it allows us to double check information as it is entered off the paper catalogue sheets and ensure it is entered into the database in a consistent manner. Consistency is key when trying to search for collections for researchers or for exhibit updates! The catalogued objects then go to our photographer, Anne, who captures them in detail. The artefact images are linked directly into our database along with being uploaded to our Flickr site. Once complete the objects are ready to be put away.

Where do the objects live?

A small portion of our incoming artefacts go immediately on display. On average, museums generally display about 10-15% of their collections. This is due to (you probably guessed it) space! For the 85-90% of objects not on display, it does not mean they are any less valuable or important. In many cases these objects may be too vulnerable to light to be brought out for extended times, are used to rotate into displays, or are duplicate examples of material already on display.

For artefacts not on display they go into storage. In a historic house that means…closets! In a few previous posts we have mentioned that our office is a former bathroom (also used for archive storage). Not surprisingly, the third floor of Casa Loma has many closet spaces. For us, these now serve as collection storage. Objects are organized based on type into several spaces – Uniform Closet, Photo Room, and the notorious Closet B! Each room has shelving or racking with a unique assigned location code. When an object is put away, this location code is recorded and inputted with the rest of the aretfact’s information into our database. Anytime an artefact is moved, the location code is updated to ensure that we always have an accurate picture of where our collections are.

Image of the shelves in our Closet B. These boxes hold fragile and oversized books.

How are artefacts stored?

The storage requirements for artefacts vary depending on many factors including their material, size, and fragility. Each artefact is assessed when it comes in and determinations are made about the best way to store it. Some standard storage methods we use are:

Uniforms – hung on padded hangers (to alleviate stress on their seams and reduces creasing), and then placed in individual Tyvek© garment bags to protect from dust, light and moisture.

Volunteer Meryn with a newly constructed padded hanger.

Books – smaller books have custom covers made for them. This reduces friction between books when removing them from storage and allows us to label the spine with important information (i.e. title and object number!). Larger or more fragile books are stored horizontally in book boxes (as seen above in our Closet B photo).

Custom book covers on shelf. Note the titles and Object Numbers on the side in pencil for easy identification!

Framed photos – placed upright on shelves (much like books would be stored) with partitions between them to ensure the backing on one frame does not damage an adjacent frame.

3D objects – placed in bags or bins to protect them from any dust and keep them organized.

What happens next?

More research! We are constantly revisiting collections to add additional information, upgrade storage, or refresh exhibits. Although many of our artefacts live in storage rooms, the QOR Museum has worked hard over the past several years to ensure much of our collection is available online. This is a good tool for researchers and family members looking for information and allows us to share our material worldwide. Many times we also receive information from the public through our website or social media on our artefacts or personnel pages. We welcome this wholeheartedly! As a volunteer-run museum, things can progress slowly sometimes – but we are always looking to grow and improve!

Fifty Years at Casa Loma

Today marks exactly fifty years since our Regimental Museum opened at Casa Loma under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel William T. Barnard, ED, CD (Ret’d) and with City of Toronto Mayor William Dennison cutting the ribbon.

Also present were Mrs Reginald Pellatt, widow of former Commanding Officer and Honorary Colonel,  Colonel Reg Pellatt, VD; the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel John G.B. Strathy, CD; and then Honorary Colonel, Colonel C. O. Dalton DSO, KStJ, ED.

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.

Major General Chris Vokes, CB, CBE, DSO, CD – General Officer Commanding Western Command – signs the guest book while officially opening the new QOR Regimental Museum at the Depot in Calgary, 1957.

Original QOR Regimental Museum at the Depot in Calgary.

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.

Mayor Dennison cuts the ribbon at the foot of the stair case assisted by Lieutenant Colonel John Strathy.

Left to right: A future RSM and Major Harry McCabe (partially visible in WWII uniform), Honorary Colonel C.O. Dalton, his wife Helen, Mayor William Dennison, Mrs Reginald Pellatt, Lieutenant Colonel John Strathy, and Rifleman Johnny Bennett in period uniform at the present arms.

From left to right: Mayor Dennison, Mrs. Reginald Pellatt, LCol Barnard, and a young Sergeant Jerry Senetchko standing sharply to attention while the Curator tells about the Ensign McEachren Tunic.

Lieutenant Colonel John Strathy points out something of interest to his mother and father, retired Colonel of the Regiment J.G.K. Strathy.

Guest enjoying refreshments at the opening.

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.

LCol Barnard with then Colonel-in-Chief, HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent at a museum relaunch event in the 1980’s.

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!

QOR Regimental Museum Team 2020

In pace paratus!
Your museum team.

#casaloma #qormuseum #qorofc #fiftyyears #50years

Behind the Scenes: Acquisition and Accessioning Part I

“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?

2019.08.001

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? 

QOR Silent Butler
2019.17.001

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?

Officer's Crossbelt
2018.03.003

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!

1910 Aldershot Officers’ Mess Visitors Book

1910 Officers’ Mess Visitors Book – QORM 00204

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.

This Visitors’ Book is in the collection of the Queen’s Own Rifles Museum at Casa Loma.

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 museum@qormuseum.org .

Here is how Jim identified signatures:

I have listed signatures by their location in the photographic pdf file of the book:

  • 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.

The QOR’s Final Days of WWII

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):

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.

QOR action May 4-5, 1945 – Click for a larger image.

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.

Ivo Kuijkhoven, Sergeant Graham Humphrey and Jork Zijlstra at the crossroads in 2015 where the QOR ended their war.

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 will Remember them.
In Pace Paratus

Turning in Rifles at the end of hostilities – June 1945

Arriving Home, Monarch of Bermuda, Halifax Dec 17, 1945

1st Battalion QOR walking out of the north side of Union Station on arriving back in Toronto

Captain Jack Pond arriving home after the war greeting his daughter.

March/April Update

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.

2020 Museum Volunteer Recognition Night

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!

If you are interested in volunteering with us, you can find more information and an application form on our website.

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Thank you for all your support in 2019!

2019 has been another busy year at our museum and I’d like to share some highlights.

Governance
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.

Volunteers
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.

Exhibits
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.

Collections
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.

Worth Noting
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.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

On behalf of our whole museum team, thanks again for another great year and best wishes for the holiday season!

Sincerely,

John

Maj John M. Stephens, CD (Ret’d)
Curator, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada
Regimental Museum and Archives

Surprise projection on the side of Casa Loma by the Liberty Entertainment Group for the Change of Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Parade on September 11, 2019.

QOR Day at Casa Loma 2019

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!

Program includes:

  • 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!

We hope you’ll be able to join us!

 

 

Change of Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Parade

Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Lionel J. Goffart, CD, OStJ

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!

Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Vicky Sunohara

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.

(L-R) Honorary Colonel, Major General Walter Holmes, Beverly Hughes, former Honorary Colonel Paul Hughes, and Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Frank Lamie

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.

Members of our Museum Team with incoming Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Vicky Sunohara

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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.

Featured Artifact – South African War Emergency Ration

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!

We don’t know where our ration came from but its possible it was brought back by Captain Edgar Henry Redway – one of thirty officers and men from The Queens’ Own Rifles to serve in South Africa.  You can read more about Redway’s experiences in his diary.

 

Volunteer Recognition Reception

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 museum@qormuseum.org.

If you are unable to volunteer but would like to support the work of the Regimental Museum, please consider becoming a sustaining donor!

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Artifact Spotlight: Major Gillmor’s Report on the Battle of Ridgeway

During some recent research, an original letter relating to the Battle of Ridgeway was “rediscovered”, it provides some good insight into the conduct of the battle by someone who would have been well aware of the events and is the subject of this Artifact Spotlight.

DSC_0695_00001
Maj CT Gillmor 1865 (from the collection of G Kush)

At the time the Queen’s Own were called to active service to fight the Fenians in June of 1866 the Commanding Officer, LCol Durie, was assigned to staff duties at the headquarters in Toronto and Maj Charles T Gillmor was acting CO. Col Booker of the 13th Regiment of Volunteers was in command of the force but Maj Gillmor commanded the 450 men of the Queen’s Own who were in the front line fighting the Fenians for much of the brief engagement. Four days after the battle while the Regiment was still on active duty in Stratford he submitted a report to Col Lourie who was with the 47th Regiment of Foot of the British Army.

Gillmor praises the conduct of all the Volunteers at the engagement and credits the partially trained and ill-equipped soldiers with a cool determination not normally found in Militia soldiers. He pinpoints the critical turning point in the battle as the moment the Volunteers mistakenly identify the advancing left flank of the red-coated 13th Battalion Volunteers as British regulars under Col Peacock who they had been expecting to relieve them, at which point the Volunteers turned and began withdrawing from the field.

The original letter is in the possession of the Queen’s Own Rifles Museum and can be viewed at the links at the bottom of the page. Here is the document transcribed with minor corrections for better understanding:

Stratford 

June 6 1866                       

“Sir,

I have the honor to report that on the 2nd Inst [of the current month] I left Port Colborne with about 450 men of the Queen’s Own also the 13th Battalion of Hamilton Volunteers and the York & Caledonia Rifles all under command of Lt Col Booker. We proceeded by train to Ridgeway Station and then marched towards Stevensville where we were ordered to meet Col Peacock at 9 to 9.30 am.

About 7 am the advanced guard of the Queen’s Own signalled the enemy as in sight, I extended three Companies with supports and advanced. The enemy were posted behind rail fences and after a few rounds retired, one officer of Queen’s Own was killed and two or three wounded. At this time a telegram was forwarded to Col Booker from Col Peacock to say that he (Col Peacock) could not leave at 5 o’clock as in his order of instruction of the night previous he had arranged to do but would do so at 7. The situation of the Volunteers was thereby rendered most critical as it seemed improbable we could hold our position for the two hours we were thus left unsupported. However, I conceived an advance and repulse of the enemy our only chance and sending out flanking parties necessary in consequence of the enemy being seen in woods right and left we advanced still driving the enemy for a mile or more having relieved Skirmishers with supports and the entire of the Queen’s Own having been engaged (some companies twice over). I asked Col Booker to relieve me with his right wing which was promptly done and his men advanced gallantly as my Skirmishers were coming in. Col Booker gave me the command to prepare for Cavalry which I obeyed but failing to see Cavalry I reformed Column and ordered the two leading companies of the Queen’s Own to extend and drive back the enemy then fearfully near us, this was done in splendid style. I had then necessarily to retire the rest of column consisting of Hamilton Volunteers and one or two companies of Queen’s Own. While retiring they observed the left wing of the Hamilton Volunteers advancing and imagining it the advance of the 16th and 47th [Regiments of Foot British Army] cheered on which the wing turned and ran and a scene of confusion ensued. I endeavoured to get the men into order aided by many officers of 13th of whom I could recognize Major Skinner and Mr. Routh the later fell close beside me while earnestly urging his men to rally. We then had to retire our ammunition being almost exhausted and, keeping the enemy in check, retired by Ridgeway to Port Colborne.

I annex list of killed, wounded and missing.

As I had never seen a shot fired before in action my opinion can be only taken for what it is worth but I do not believe ever men went into action more coolly and fought more gallantly than did the Officers and men of Queen’s Own that day. In many instances they had to advance from fence to fence one or two hundred yards under a galling fire and this was done with quiet and steady determination and I have the honor to say that I consider the conduct of all the officers and men as beyond all praise quite up to and beyond what I could have expected when like myself not a man had been in action before. So many acts of individual gallantry came under my observation that I cannot attempt a selection of names but I must mention to you the cool and gallant demeanor of Mr. Lockie who in the uniform of the London Scottish Volunteers joined us as we left Toronto and whose cool steady and unflinching bravery was the admiration of the Regiment.

I have the honor to be

CT Gillmor

 [to]

Col Lourie

47th Regt”

gillmor's report page 1
Gillmor’s report pg 1

gillmor's report page 2
Gillmor’s report pg 2

New Swift Grave Marker Unveiled

Earlier this year……

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.

The CO, a Swift cousin, and the Director of Music unveil the new marker.

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.

You can find see our complete June 6, 2018 photo album on our Flickr site.

Thanks to all those who donated to this project:

  • Josef Amodeo
  • Beverlee Bamlett
  • Kevin Bishop
  • Cheryl Copson
  • Linda Di Felice
  • Grant Dunbar
  • Kathryn Emanuel
  • Philippe Escayola
  • John Fotheringham
  • Tim Hannan
  • Graham Humphrey
  • Jason Keddy
  • Shaun Kelly
  • Darnel Leader
  • Sheila MacMillan
  • Dave Marsh
  • Henry McCabe
  • Jason McGibbon
  • Harry J. Rollo
  • Mark Shannon
  • John Stephens
  • Swift Family
  • Usman Valiante
  • John Wilmot
  • Susan Wilson
  • Andrew Zamic
  • The QOR Sergeants’ Mess
  • 2 x Anonymous donors

McEachren tunic gets new exhibit case

Ensign Malcolm McEachern, first QOR soldier to fall at the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866

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.

Former tunic case

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.

Last Post: Capt Larry Hicks, CD

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.”

In honour of Larry’s outstanding contribution to our museum’s collection of photographs, we’ve renamed our Flickr site, the Capt Lawrence G. Hicks Memorial Collection of Photographs.

QOR Auction 2018 Catalogue

QOR Auction will be held on April 25th in the Officers’ Mess at Moss Park Armoury, in support of the Regimental Museum and the soldiers’ trip to D-Day+75 in June 2019.

Below is a link to the catalogue of items – some really interesting pieces!

QOR Soldiers Auction catalogue – as of 30 Mar 18

Hope to see you there – remember to register in advance!

QOR WWII War Diaries Now Completely Online

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 hundreds of 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:

"In Pace Paratus – In Peace Prepared"