VISIT

MU­SEUM OF CANADA’S OLD­EST REG­I­MENT

Recoil - - Contents - BY PETER SUCIU

Royal Cana­dian Reg­i­ment Mu­seum

London, On­tario, named of course for the Bri­tish cap­i­tal city, is home to the Royal Cana­dian Reg­i­ment Mu­seum. Housed in the west wing of the his­toric Wolse­ley Hall, the first build­ing to be built by the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment es­pe­cially for its new stand­ing army in 1886, this mu­seum chron­i­cles the his­tory of one of Canada’s old­est mil­i­tary units.

First set­tled by Euro­peans be­tween 1801 and 1804, London, On­tario, is sit­u­ated along the Que­bec City-Wind­sor Cor­ri­dor, the most densely pop­u­lated and heav­ily in­dus­tri­al­ized re­gion of Canada. Ap­prox­i­mately half­way be­tween Toronto and Detroit, it’s also home to the for­mer Cana­dian Forces Base London, which was the first pur­pose-built in­fantry train­ing school erected by the Cana­dian fed­eral gov­ern­ment. It served as an early sym­bol of the estab­lish­ment of a per­ma­nent mil­i­tary force in Canada, and part of the base was des­ig­nated a Na­tional His­toric Site of Canada in 1963.

Named for Bri­tish Field Mar­shal Vis­count Wolse­ley and used for train­ing reg­u­lar and re­serve units of the Cana­dian Army since it was es­tab­lished in 1888, the 150-yearold bar­racks are the old­est build­ing in the Cana­dian Forces Base (CFB) London. It has been con­tin­u­ously oc­cu­pied by some el­e­ment of the reg­i­ment since the com­ple­tion of con­struc­tion.

At var­i­ous times, the Wolse­ley Bar­racks have been the home of the Reg­i­men­tal HQ for the 1st and 2nd Bat­tal­ions, and to­day it re­mains the home of the 4th Bat­tal­ion.

The orig­i­nal ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ings for Wolse­ley Hall from 1886 ac­tu­ally al­lo­cated space for a mu­seum, but in the past five years the mu­seum com­pleted an ex­pan­sion. As a re­sult, it now in­cludes two floors with gal­leries that chron­i­cle the reg­i­ment’s ex­ploits through­out its his­tory.

Within the build­ing are many ar­ti­facts, but the build­ing it­self is also ripe and rich with its own his­tory. “The U-shaped bar­racks were de­signed by ar­chi­tect Henry James, who even­tu­ally be­came the of­fi­cial de­signer for many other bar­racks and ar­mories through­out South­west­ern On­tario,” says Ge­or­giana Stan­ciu, Ph.D, di­rec­tor of the Royal Cana­dian Reg­i­ment Mu­seum. “What is in­ter­est­ing to note is that the plans of the build­ing in­cluded a room des­ig­nated as a mu­seum.”

To­day, the mu­seum cov­ers the his­tory of the Reg­i­ment’s mil­i­tary her­itage, in­clud­ing the his­tory of the The London and Ox­ford Fusiliers (The Cana­dian Fusiliers — City of London Reg­i­ment, and The Ox­ford Ri­fles of Wood­stock, On­tario).

TOUR­ING THE GAL­LERIES

It’s hard not to feel the his­tory as soon as you en­ter the main en­try­way, where a wooden cross from Flan­ders Field from WWI is pre­sented. From here, vis­i­tors en­ter the mu­seum via the Colonel Tom and Mig­gsie Law­son Foyer, which fea­tures gold bricks that adorn the walls, each meant to serve as a memo­rial of a loved one or mark a mo­men­tous event.

The Foyer fea­tures a pair of stained glass win­dows on ei­ther side. These were cre­ated by Cana­dian artist Christo­pher Wal­lis of Grand Bend, On­tario, each a memo­rial to a past “Royal Cana­dian,” both of whom gave much of them­selves for their coun­try.

The in­scrip­tions on the win­dows read: “Stained glass win­dow in mem­ory of Colonel Tom F.G. Law­son, Colonel of the Reg­i­ment 1981-’85. ‘A Trib­ute to his Reg­i­men­tal Fam­ily’ from his wife and chil­dren,” and “Stained glass win­dow in mem­ory of Bri­gadier T.E.D’O. Snow, Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer of The RCR 1941-’43 and Colonel of the Reg­i­ment 1978-’81. On it are the words that best de­note this much beloved Bri­gadier, ‘Gal­lant Sol­dier, Mod­est Gen­tle Man, Trusted Friend.’”

The win­dow for Colonel Law­son was de­signed and in­stalled in 1991, while Bri­gadier Snow’s was com­pleted in 1997.

The Colonel D.B. Wel­don Li­brary and Mu­seum Quiet Room (Chapel) of­fers his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences col­lected by the RCR Mu­seum, avail­able to on­site re­searchers with per­mis­sion from the cu­ra­tor. This part of the mu­seum is named in honor of Colonel Dou­glas

Black Wel­don, who served with the 47th (West­ern On­tario) Bat­tal­ion of the Cana­dian Ex­pe­di­tionary Force dur­ing World War I, and later was ap­pointed Se­cond-in-Com­mand

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