Halifax museum displays new exhibit honouring Canadians who fought during the Battle of Vimy Ridge
A Maritime museum has created a new exhibit to honour the memory of thousands of Canadians who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Ninety nine years ago, during the First World War, Canadian soldiers advanced on a German held position that had already cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
Historians consider the ensuing victory a defining moment for our still young country – but a costly one, with over 10,000 casualties.
Ken Hynes is the curator of the Army Muesum in Halifax and takes great pride in educating people about the history of Vimy Ridge.
Hynes has visited the Vimy National Memorial in France, which is inscribed with the names of more than 11,000 Canadians whose final resting place was the fields of France.
“It's a very emotional experience,” says Hynes. “I suggest that anyone who has the opportunity to travel there stand and reflect on the sacrifice of Canada's soldiers.”
More than 100,000 French and British soldiers died trying to take the ridge.
The daunting task of taking Hill 145, where the Vimy memorial now stands, was eventually given to the 85th Battlion Nova Scotia Highlanders.
One of the soldiers who charged the hill on April 9, 1917 was Cpt. Harvey Crowell. He is now honoured in the Army Museum’s new display.
“The uniform in this case belonged to Major, then Cpt. Harvey Crowell, as do the medals in the case,” says Hynes. “He was mentioned in dispatches for his actions during the battle and the taking of Hill 145.”
The Army Museum in Halifax has a number of artifacts that aren't behind glass, like a Vickers machine gun that was used during the First World War.
“It's a good opportunity to give people that sense of history by allowing them to touch an artifact in a museum and I think that does make us a little bit different,” says Hynes.
More displays focusing on the First World War are in the works, however the museum is also in the process of commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Second World War.
With most remaining Canadian veterans now in their early 90s, volunteers at the museum know their time is coming to an end.
“We believe it's now or never that we show their story and tell their story, when they're still able, in a lot of cases, to bring their families and friends in here and show them what they went through in the Second World War,” says Col (Ret'd) Bruce Gilchrist, volunteer.
Family of a Second World War soldier was at the museum Friday, sharing their father's memory.
The four Keating sisters donated an 81-year-old un-opened bottle of champagne – one was given to every officer after the war ended and it's believed to be the only one left in the country.
“It's a safe place to have it and people would know the story,” says Mary Ann Keating-Cohen, daughter of a solider.
“I think it's really neat because now our children and our grandchildren can come and see this, so it's super,” says Cathy Keating-Hanley, daughter of a soldier.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Matt Woodman