Ex­hibit fo­cuses on fire­fight­ers’ war role

The Expositor (Brantford) - - NEWS - VIN­CENT BALL EX­POS­I­TOR STAFF

The Cana­dian Mil­i­tary Her­itage Mu­seum has a new ex­hibit hon­our­ing the heroic ef­forts of Brant­ford fire­fight­ers dur­ing the Lon­don Blitz in the Sec­ond World War.

“A lot of peo­ple would have learned about the Sec­ond World War and the Lon­don Blitz but I rather sus­pect not many will know about the work of fire­fight­ers, in­clud­ing many from Brant­ford,” said mu­seum vol­un­teer Bob Ion. “Gor­don Huff was a for­mer chief of the Brant­ford fire depart­ment and he was in com­mand of the corps of Cana­dian fire­fight­ers, who were over there dur­ing the Blitz.

“There were other Brant­ford fire­fight­ers there as well, in­clud­ing my great un­cle, Frank Ion, Tom Ma­son, Char­lie Town­son and Chas. Wheat­ley.”

All went to Eng­land to put out fires started by bombs dropped by the Ger­man Luft­waffe dur­ing air raids.

“They worked count­less times in per­ilous con­di­tions to res­cue peo­ple and bat­tle fires,” Ion said. “They re­ceived $1.30 pay per day from the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment.”

The new ex­hibit in­cludes a fire axe that was pre­sented to Huff, who had served five years over­seas in the First World War and had been awarded the Mil­i­tary Medal. It also in­cludes a pho­to­graph of Huff and other mem­o­ra­bilia.

The ex­hibit is just one of many changes that have been made to the mu­seum as it cel­e­brates its 25th an­niver­sary.

The mu­seum, at 347 Green­wich St., in­cludes ar­ti­facts and mem­o­ra­bilia from the First and Sec­ond World Wars, the Korean War as well as Cana­dian con­tri­bu­tions to the United Na­tions and the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion. There are pho­to­graphs, uni­forms, ve­hi­cles and a recre­ation of a First World War trench.

A re­cent ad­di­tion to the mu­seum is a First World War Ger­man light trench mor­tar, one of two cap­tured at Vimy Ridge in 1917 by the 5th Cana­dian In­fantry Bat­tal­ion. It has a range of be­tween 300 and 1,300 me­tres. The mor­tar was brought to Canada and sent by Grand Trunk Rail­way to Pene­tan­guishene Mil­i­tary Base in Novem­ber 1920.

As well, the mu­seum has on dis­play two orig­i­nal char­coal draw­ings pre­sented by Bri­tish ho­mourist and car­toon­ist Bruce Bairns­fa­ther to the Women’s Cana­dian Club dur­ing a visit to Brant­ford in March 1950. Ion said that Bairns­fa­ther spoke to the club in the au­di­to­rium at Brant­ford Col­le­giate In­sti­tute.

The dis­play high­lights the con­tri­bu­tions Bairns­fa­ther made to the morale of the troops dur­ing both World Wars.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited about be­ing able to dis­play th­ese draw­ings,” Ion said. “It’s some­thing different that not many peo­ple would re­mem­ber and it high­lights a different as­pect of the two wars and that time pe­riod.”

The mu­seum also has on dis­play the pulpit and hon­our roll from the for­mer St. John’s Angli­can Church on Col­borne Street in West Brant.

The new ex­hibits are part of a ma­jor makeover at the mu­seum that started late last year and con­tin­ued into 2018.

A new front en­trance was cre­ated and two new doors were in­stalled at the rear of the build­ing to make it eas­ier to move mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles in and out. Mov­ing the ve­hi­cles to the back of the mu­seum opened up space in front.

Walls and floors have been painted and LED light­ing has been in­stalled in the ve­hi­cle dis­play area. Plans call for the re­place­ment of all light­ing to help pre­serve ar­ti­facts, Ion said.

Pho­to­graphs of lo­cal vet­er­ans from var­i­ous wars that once adorned the walls were taken down but plan­ning is un­der­way to put them back up, said Ion.

The mu­seum now has a for­mal board room, which dou­bles as a li­brary.

The work at the mu­seum was done with the help of a city grant for just over $45,600 and funds from a bene­fac­tor and long-time mu­seum sup­porter. The cost of the work is more than $108,000.

Tra­di­tion­ally, the mu­seum re­opens in the spring but, this year, the open­ing was de­layed by about a month be­cause of the up­grades and new projects.

“This is our 25th an­niver­sary and we wanted to make sure we got it right,” Ion said. “We have a lot of spe­cial events planned as well, in­clud­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the Armistice and Canada’s in­volve­ment in the last 100 days of the First World War.

“We’re go­ing to have our open house on Aug. 5, peo­ple will see our dis­play at the Paris Fair in Septem­ber and, on Oct. 20 we have his­to­rian Andy Robertshaw com­ing to speak.”

An English mil­i­tary his­to­rian, Robertshaw is an au­thor and ed­u­ca­tor who ap­peared in pro­grammes in­clud­ing Two Men in a Trench and Time Team. As well, he was a mil­i­tary ad­viser on the film War Horse.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the mu­seum visit www.cana­di­an­mil­i­tary­her­itage­mu­seum.ca.

VIN­CENT BALL/THE EX­POS­I­TOR

Bob Ion, of the Cana­dian Mil­i­tary Her­itage Mu­seum, with a First World War Ger­man light trench mor­tar, one of two cap­tured at Vimy Ridge in 1917 and now on dis­play at the mu­seum.

VIN­CENT BALL/THE EX­POS­I­TOR

Bob Ion, of the Cana­dian Mil­i­tary Her­itage Mu­seum, with the pulpit and hon­our roll from the for­mer St. John's Angli­can Church on Col­borne Street West, now on dis­play at the mu­seum.

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