MUSEUM OF CANADA’S OLDEST REGIMENT
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