"What is this regiment of which we are so proud? It was born in bastardy. Legitimized, lived a brief exciting life, and was laid to rest in 1945.
But its spirit lives on in this association."
— Lt. Col. C.D. Williams, CD, QC.
Victoria, B.C., 1985
Situated in room 112 of the Regina Armories is a museum of unprecedented value. Packed with hundreds of uniforms, thousands of war medals, a plethora of guns, swords, grenades and inactive military shells, the Saskatchewan Military Museum covers Canadian conflicts as early as the South African Boar War.
Officially opened on March 1st, 1984, the Saskatchewan Military Museum was the private collection of retired Major C. Keith Inches. Having exponentially grown in the years leading up to its foundation, Major Inches decided it was time to find a permanent place for his collection and was granted room 112 in the Regina Armories in 1991. Once the museum was founded however, the growth only hastened. Today, the collection includes things such as World War I wooden crosses, assault boats, paintings, personal letters, horse saddles, memorial plaques, build-your-own bomb-shelter booklets and even radioactive material. The collection is so large, in fact, room 112 doesn't even hold a quarter of it -- probably not even an eighth. The museum has storage in a half dozen rooms spanning the entire armory, from the depths of the basement to its highest towers.
"Slowly," joked Kristian Peachey, one of the museum curators, "we are trying to occupy the entire building."
And it should. The collection housed in the Saskatchewan Military Museum covers a wide variety of treasures that punctuate the history of our country. From the blood stained shores of Dieppe, to the sweltering jungles of Korea, to the dry, arid sands of Afghanistan, the stories of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who fought for our country all found their way here.
Due to the small size of the museum, and limited manpower, Kristian finds it impossible to index everything that comes in. It's not uncommon for him to come in after work and find a new pile of boxes that were donated. Sometimes, packages even arrive to his place of work, full of war medals, documents, photographs and once, a gun.
"We just don't have the manpower to do it", Kristian said while discussing the museum's vast quantity of memorabilia. They do have a few volunteers, but they could use more. However, even if they had an army of volunteers, Kristian wouldn't have any idea where to begin with organizing the collection. There are some projects underway to get the museum growing, like expanding room 112, and setting up an ambient center full of World War I "period pieces", but without space and surviving off donations and government grants, these dreams might never become a reality.
That isn't to say the museum is going anywhere, however. While small, the museum has gained an incredible reputation across the country. It frequently gets calls from other museums and researchers wondering if they have certain war relic or information about a specific solider, which they usually do.
However, there are some things the museum keeps hidden away, and those are the "liberated items" from Nazi occupied Europe.
"One of our challenges is with German stuff. We do have some German stuff; grenades, flags and whatnot. There are a lot of sensitivities about those kinds of things, so we choose just not to [display them] at this time. I'm sure soon we can, but there are a lot of veterans that come through; a lot of 80-, 90-year-old men that we would rather just not offend." Kristian continued, "The Rifles, when they were storming through Holland and whatnot, they captured Nazi flags that were on top of bunkers. They would take up this entire wall. We've always talked about doing something where we fold it up so people know what it is, but you're not actually overly showing it."
The gymnasium outside room 112 is its own exhibit as well, one that is growing just as quickly. The armories gymnasium is spotted with plaques created by banks to commemorate soldiers that banked with them, as well as towns and communities that created plaques to honor those who didn't survive the war. As the decades past, however, many of these priceless bronze memorials have been melted down and destroyed. Kristian prides himself on the ones they were able to save, but wishes they could have saved more.
Two pieces strikingly stand out from the others, and they are sitting on opposite ends of the gym. They are two beautiful stained-glass memorials, one in honor of each World War. The World War I memorial is simple, and shows two angles surrounded by truth, justice and the freedoms acquired through sacrifice. This memorial is modest and humble, and shows the sadness of the war and the impact it left on the world.
The second is very different. In it, the stained glass shows a solider, wounded on a pile of rubble, with a destroyed city in the background. By his side is Jesus Christ, offering peace and salvation from the man-made hell the world had become. This memorial is much bigger, and much brighter, showing the pride the soldiers had to fight in the war, not the sadness and humility that the First World War had. The two memorials are both beautiful in their own right, and show a very different attitude and emotion from their time periods.
Being an old building, formally used by cadets and now shared with the museum, there have of course been some reports of paranormal activity. Some cadets have even reported seeing shadowy figures on the stairwells of the towers, but when they investigate they find nobody there. Kristian too has had a very nerve wracking experience, but he asked me not to write about it in detail. He did however say that he was "very freaked out", and has since moved the mannequins around in the museum for good measure.
It would make sense, however, as the building is full of personal belongings of thousands of soldiers from over a century. One room we passed through has whole bookshelves dedicated to war medals, United Nations medals, and Boar War medals and ribbons. Another has rows and rows of infantry, navy and air force uniforms. And yet another is full of swords, drums and tank shells. All of these rooms, and all of these things inside the rooms, have seen the horrors of war, have seen the darkness of the human heart, and have seen the sacrifice that must be made for freedom. These emotions do not go away after a person dies, and resonates in the halls of the museum. Nobody would be surprised if there were spirits here.
While small, the military museum is a treasure to Regina. Shadowed by the construction of the new stadium, the military museum has every possibility of soon expanding and becoming more popular. Kristian even hopes to decorate the front of the museum with more cannons (there is already one cannon to the south of the building), and military vehicles on display on the street corners. His father and grandfather served in the war, and he wants their tales of honor and sacrifice to carry on for many generations. He wants their spirit, and that of the hundred thousand soldiers that have died for Canada, to live on in this association, and never be forgotten.
Cemeteries are a place of solace. All people, regardless of wealth, status, religion or creed are equals within a cemetery. It's a place of remembrance, respect and reconciliation. If you visit a cemetery, you are visiting the graves of lost loved ones. These may be children, pioneers, rebels or everyday people. Every grave has a story, and all are longing to be told.
Because of this, cemeteries are a library of knowledge. They hold the lessons of our past, and the wisdom of our future. As the leaves change and the days get shorter, cemeteries attract a much different crowd than that of just historians and family members. With autumn crisp in the air, cemeteries fill with thrill-seekers and paranormal believers. There is a fine line between what is and isn't acceptable within a cemetery and those who dabble into the affairs of the afterlife know this all too well. Few people go into cemeteries looking to disrespect the graves; instead, most are just hoping they can answer their own questions about life after death.
Not all cemeteries are haunted, but each holds their own stories. Keep this in mind while you read this article. If you end up visiting any of these sites, remember to step softly, speak quietly and respect the surrounding graves. You might not be as alone as you think.
Since I am Saskatchewan born and raised, it always bothered me when people said there's nothing to do in my home province. If you're looking for culture, history, food, beer, sporting events, community or a touch of quirkiness, Saskatchewan is the best place to visit!
If you've been following my blog for awhile now, you'll know I could write a whole article about places to visit in Saskatchewan (actually, I have written it). For sake of brevity, I handpicked some of my favourite places, but there are many that I left out. Are there any places you'd add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.
Nestled between the impressive Mount Royal and the majestic St. Lawrence River is Montreal, a city known for its festivals, abstract art, history and mosaic of countless cultures. Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, with a population floating around four million people. While the city is a dynamic mix of Canada's two primary cultures – French and English – there are areas of the city that are culturally specific, such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown. Known for its artistic and liberal mindedness, Montreal also boasts the largest community of homosexuals in North America in their very own "Gay Village".
Being nearly 375 years old, Montreal was pivotal to the creation of New France and Canada and at a time held control over every waterway from the St. Lawrence down to the Gulf of Mexico. Having such incredible influence over the western part of the New World, Montreal hosted the "Great Peace of Montreal" in 1701, which started sixteen years of peace between the French and over 40 different First Nation tribes in North America.
Since its early days, Montreal has been one of the most influential cities in Canada. Montreal housed "internment camps" during World War I, became an ideal location for Americans looking for alcohol during Prohibition, and was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family during World War II. Montreal held host to the incredible Expo 67, showcasing some of the most incredible architecture of that decade. The seventies saw serious political reformation in Montreal, with many Americans arriving, fleeing the Vietnam Draft. The late seventies paralyzed the city as a terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec, detonated explosives throughout the city and kidnapped and killed political figures. These actions forced the Prime Minster to enact the "War Measures Act" and deploy the military into the city to apprehend the terrorists. The eighties and nineties saw two referendums in the province of Quebec to separate from Canada, with Montreal playing a major role in both decisions. The last referendum in 1995 ended with 51% percent of Quebecers wanting to remain part of Canada and 49% wanting to separate.