The morning of 2 June 1866 was hot and humid as the volunteers of the Queen’s Own and 13th Battalion marched down main street of Ridgeway, Ontario towards battle with the invading Fenian Army. 150 years later, Saturday 4 June 2016 was just as hot and humid but for the volunteers of the Queen’s Own Museum and Archives the biggest enemy was trying to assemble the army tentage as they set-up their display at the Crystal Ridge Arena in Ridgeway. The museum volunteers had been preparing since early spring when it was decided that the museum would participate in the commemoration event of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway.
It was agreed upon that despite the risk, we would take one of our most important artifacts; the tunic belonging to Ensign Malcolm McEachren who fell in the battle that day and would become the first soldier to die in battle from the regiment. The tunic would be the centre piece of the display.
The volunteers also produced a set of pop-up signs and posters describing the battle and the part the Queen’s Own played in it.
At the last minute it was determined that the Snider Enfield rifle that was carried by Rifleman John Mewburn during the battle until he was shot would also be available to be put on display thanks to a generous and trusting owner. The rifle was taken back to the University of Toronto by his student comrades after he fell in battle. It was held by the school for many years but it is said it was sold-off after a fire in the late 1890’s.
The day turned out to be a complete success; almost 500 people visited the display, the weather was perfect, the volunteers were able to to tell the story of the regiment and its soldiers, and all the artifacts were returned safely to the museum and their owners.
On Thursday March 31, we were pleased to host the launch of the “From Vimy to Juno” travelling exhibit and education program. The exhibit was created by the Juno Beach Centre in partnership with the Vimy Foundation and with funding support from the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Thanks to the Liberty Entertainment Group, operators of Casa Loma, the reception was held in the beautiful Casa Loma library with about 150 people present through the evening.
The formal remarks phase of the event was MC’d by Juno Beach Centre Executive Director Jenna Zuschlag Misener and included remarks by Jeremy Diamond, Executive Director of the Vimy Foundation; Major Shawn Stewart, Deputy Commanding Officer of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada; and the Juno Beach Centre Association President Mr Don Cooper. The formal portion of the evening was concluded by the Honorable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs who spoke and formally announced the Government of Canada’s support of this project.
We were also pleased to have three regimental skirmishers present and a brass quintet from the Regimental Band which performed throughout the evening.
A contingent of re-enactors from both WWI and WWII also provided excellent displays and contributed to the exhibit atmosphere with their period dress.
Thanks also to our museum volunteers who helped through the evening.
At the end of the night the exhibit was moved to the Austin Room on the third floor and accessible from our Museum area where it will remain until April 17 when it will then move on to its next location.
The exhibit includes a major educational component and JBC has worked with Lisa Kaplan at Casa Loma on how this can be effectively used by visiting school groups over the coming weeks.