Open Hours: Monday 9:30 – 11:00 AM
By appointment – Contact:
Bud MacDonald – 902-897-4809
Phillip Richardson – 902-890-7459
The Heritage Room forms an integral role in Colchester Branch 026. It constitutes a tremendous reminder of the contribution made by so many in all military conflicts involving Canadian men and women on the world stage.
Artifacts from all branches of services – Land, Sea and Air – are on display and readily available. The room’s contents provide a tremendous resource for the families of Veterans and the community in general. The prospects of its importance as an academic resource are largely untouched.
Bud MacDonald responded to a call to provide assistance about twelve years ago. The Wentworth native and Military Veteran (Air Force – Flight Engineer 1948 – 1972) takes pride in maintaining the room and its contents, and making it available to all who wish to benefit from it.
Phillip served with the Nova Scotia Highlanders C Company during the 1970’s. Even though he’s assuming greater responsibility in the Heritage Room, he still considers himself in training under Bud’s watchful eye.
July 2018 – HMCS Athabaskan
The original, commissioned in February 1943, was British built. Missions included the Arctic Blockade (off Iceland), submarine patrols and convoy escort in the English Channel. She was torpedoed and sunk in the English Channel in April 1944. Her captain and 127 men were lost, 85 were taken prisoner, 42 were rescued by sister ship, HMCS Haida, and 6 reached England in a small craft.
The second version, also a Tribal-Class Destroyer, was built in Halifax, launched May 1946 and commissioned January 1948. She served as a training ship in the Pacific until the outbreak of the Korean War in which she served three tours of duty. She later served in the Second Canadian Escort Squadron (Pacific Command). In 1969, she was sold for scrapping after decommissioning in 1966.
The third Athabaskan was built at the Davie Shipyard (QC), launched November 1970 and commissioned September 1972. This Iroquois-class destroyer was a class of four helicopter-carrying, guided missile destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy, serving from 1972 to 2017. The Cold War Era ship served NATO missions in the Atlantic as part of the Standing Naval Force Atlantic, participated in the Iraq-Kuwait War in the Persian Gulf as Flagship of the Canadian Naval Task Group (1990-1991), provided disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005), was deployed for disaster relief following the Haiti earthquake (2010) and continued NATO naval exercises until decommissioned. The ship’s final Sail Past in the home port of Halifax was in March 2017. The Athabaskan was sold for dismantling by Marine Recycling at their facility in Sydney (Summer 2018).
Pictured is Branch 26 Second Vice-President, Ed Simpson, who served aboard the Athabaskan in the late 1970s. He is holding a shell casing from the ship and the ship’s Coat-of-Arms which was presented to the Heritage Room by Branch Sergeant-at-Arms and former Athabaskan crew member, Terry Farrell.
May 2018 – Helping Hand
Such was the case for Oscar Harris who became a member of Branch 26 in April of this year. He came to the Heritage Room looking for some help and direction, as well as having in his possession a wealth of family military history which can be traced back to the Battle of Little Bighorn (1876). Of particular interest was his uncle, Lewis Harris, who was killed in action in the second Battle of Arras on August 26, 1918.
Lewis Harris was a native of Little River Harbour, District of Argyle, Yarmouth County. He enlisted on December 27, 1916 in Halifax and became a member of the Canadian Medical Corps. Upon his arrival in France, he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Corps. Pictured is Lewis Harris, his Mother’s Memorial (Silver) Cross, as well as supporting documentation.
Oscar Harris has been consolidating the family’s information but has been unable to locate two service medals, or even to determine whether they were ever received by the family. Of interest are the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, both of which were to be awarded to his uncle. The British War Medal was awarded to Canadian Overseas Military forces who came from Canada between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918, or who had served in the theatre of wars. The Victory Medal was an Inter-Allied War Medal agreed upon in 1919 and was to be awarded to all ranks of the fighting forces. Oscar Harris is determined to have them as part of his collection.
He and his wife, Elaine, moved to Truro six years ago. His interest in his family’s military involvement brought him to Branch 26. He’s glad it did.
June 2017 – Battle of Normandy
On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded Western Europe in the largest amphibious attack in history. The Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June to August resulted in the liberation of German-occupied regions and contributed to the Allied victory on the Western Front.
At the end of that June 6 day, the Gold and Juno beachheads were linked, and by June 12, the other beachheads (Utah, OMAHA and SWORD) were connected bringing the 80 km stretch of Normandy coast under Allied control. The Allied foothold extended steadily over the ensuing months. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.
The Amphibious landing was preceded by aerial and naval bombardment and an airborne assault (24,000 American, British and Canadian Airborne troops). Included was the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, created in July 1942 as a response strategy in the event of German attack on Canadian soil. As it turned out, this Battalion was the first Canadian unit on the ground on D-Day.
The elite unit landed behind enemy lines between 0100 – 0130 hours on June 6. Despite heavy German resistance, the Battalion achieved its three main objectives: destruction of a major bridge, securing the left bank of the 9th Parachute Battalion (British); and taking control of a major crossroad. Of the 27 officers and 516 men from the Battalion, 24 officers and 343 gave their lives.
Following the invasion, the Battalion was reorganized and retrained to regain its strength and combat readiness. It served in ground operations in the later days of the Battle of the Bulge, then on to the liberation of the Netherlands.
Pictured is the camouflage weather-protective tunic which belonged to Don McInnis, a Truro native and proud member of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.
April 2017 – Vimy Ridge
Some say Canada came of age in the April days of 1917. It was the first time all four Divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together as one formation. At heavy costs (7,700 killed and wounded), their task of taking Vimy Ridge was accomplished.
The Canadians moved to the front line in August 1916. That winter was spent strengthening the lines, digging tunnels and underground bunkers, stockpiling supplies, all in preparation for the assault on Vimy.
At 5:30 am, April 9 (Easter Monday), the assault began. The 4th Division faced the toughest objective. It was to take Hill 145, a strategic German strong point. Assigned to that Division was the 85th Battalion, a distinctive Nova Scotia Highland Regiment.
The 85th, raised in 1915, was a working unit, on call. They did the grunt work — maintaining dumps, cleaning and repairing trenches, carrying ammunition and mopping up, while remaining battle ready.
By late afternoon on April 9th, the 4th Division was in trouble. The advancing Battalions were pinned down in the mud below Hill 145. The only fresh, available support was the 85th.
At 6:00 pm, two companies of the 85th came out of their trenches, with bayonets fixed. Once into the enemy trenches, the fighting was over in ten minutes. Hill 145 was in Canadian hands.
The “ugly duckling Battalion” made up of miners, farmers, fishermen and foresters from northern Nova Scotia earned a new label. They became the “Never Fails”. The 85th continued to distinguish itself through to the final One Hundred Days of WWI.
The mannequin is clothed in an 85th Battalion Officer’s Uniform. Comrade Wilson MacDonald’s grandfather, Henry P. MacDonald (Springhill), was a member of the 85th. Many in this area share a very similar attachment to this Battalion and its proud contribution to the war effort.
February 2017 – The Knobkierie
Pictured is an artifact that can be traced back to the Boer War (1899 – 1902). This was Canada’s first foreign war. Also known as the South African War, it was fought between Britain (with help from its colonies and Dominions such as Canada) and the Afrikaner republics of TRANSVAAL and the Orange Free State. Two hundred and seventy (270) Canadians were killed in the South African War in which Canadian troops distinguished themselves in battle overseas.
The walking stick was carved by Afrikaner Prisoner of War, P.J. Vanvuuren, while in P.O.W. Camp in Bermuda in 1902. With imagination and a piece of glass he carved the head of a dog (or maybe a baboon) holding a snake which coiled around the walking stick. The KNOBKIERIE was commonly used in South Africa for killing snakes or throwing at animals.
This artifact was retrieved by Pte. Alexander McCabe and donated to the Heritage Room by Helen Taylor in 2009. You just never know what you can find in that room.
December 2016 – Princess Mary Gift Box
Princess Mary, the 17-year-old daughter of King George Ⅴ and Queen Mary, generated a fund in November, 1914, to provide a Christmas gift for every sailor afloat and soldier at the front, wearing the King’s uniform and serving overseas. This token of love and sympathy was to be ready for Christmas, 1914.
The box (5”x3 ¼”x1 ¼”), with a hinged lid, provide something useful and permanent. For the smokers, the box contained a pipe, an ounce of tobacco, twenty cigarettes, a tinder lighter, a Christmas card and picture of Princess Mary. Non-smokers received a packet of acid tablets, a khaki writing case with paper and pencil, along with card and photo. Nurses received a tin of chocolate candy, while Gurkhas, Sikhs and Indian troops received sugar candy and relevant spices.
Eventually, the gift went to all serving at home or abroad, prisoners of war and next of kin of 1914 casualties. The fund continued beyond Armistice in 1918, by then, 2.6 million had been distributed. It’s been noted that many of the recipients repacked the gift and sent them home to loved ones.
The Princess Mary Gift Box in Branch 26 Heritage Room was donated by Ruth Kent in 2007. This box contains a “bullet pencil” and card.
October 2016 – 193rd Battalion Nominal Roll
Pictured at left, Bud MacDonald holds the Nominal Roll of Officers, Non-commissioned Officers and Men of the 193rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. The Battalion embarked from Halifax one hundred years ago (October 12, 1916) aboard the SS Olympic, en-route to England.
The members of the Battalion were recruited throughout the northern counties of Nova Scotia (Pictou, Colchester,Cumberland, Hants, Antigonish, Guysbourough). They trained as detachments in their home county, with Truro as Head Quarters, until 1916 when they mobilized with the four Battalions of the Highland Brigade in Aldershot.
Upon arrival in England (December 1916) the Battalion was dispersed to other units – 185th Cape Breton Highlanders, 25th, 85th, 58th and 17th Reserve Battalion.
Originally a non-combat Battalion organized in 1916, the recruits were destined to provide reinforcements to the Canadian Corps in the Field. The members of this Battalion, sometimes referred to as the “Cumberland Highlanders” eventually saw action throughout France.
A large number of Branch 026 Comrades can see the names of their Grandfathers who proudly stepped forward to serve.
August 2016 – No. 2 Construction Battalion
Pictured at left is Branch #26 President, Gerry Tucker, proudly holding a picture of the No. 2 Construction Battalion established one hundred years ago. The photo was placed in the Heritage Room by deceased comrade, John and Muriel Clyke.
At the outbreak of World War I, the demand for recruits was huge, but enlistment by African Canadians was largely denied. Two years into the war, on July 5, 1916, an “all black” army construction battalion was created. The No. 2 Construction was granted at the Pictou Market Wharf, then moved to Truro.
The battalion was the first and only black unit ever established in Canada. All officers, with the exception of one, were white. The Chaplain, the Reverend Dr. William White, was black and a Truro pastor, one of the few black officers in the British Empire. The unit was clearly a segregated one with a non-combatant status. When it sailed to England (March 1917) it was 600 strong, half of that number being Nova Scotian and the remainder from the United States and the British West Indies.
In May 1917, the Battalion in France`s Jura Mountain region, joined four Canadian Forestry units charged with providing lumber for the War effort. The battalion returned to Canada in January 1919 and was disbanded in September 1920.
Each July since 1993, when a granite memorial in the Battalion`s honour was unveiled in Pictou, the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia conducts an annual service to commemorate their unique unit and the enduring place in Canadian Military History.
June 2016 – Kemptown United Church tablet
Pictured to left is Phillip Richardson holding a marble tablet removed from the Kemptown United Church. It holds the names of four community members who lost their lives in the service of their country during World War II. When repairs to the church and declining members led to the closure and eventual demolition of the church, Comrade Ernie Hingley, a native of that community, felt the tablet was too valuable not to be displayed. He felt the Heritage room would be a fitting home to this artifact where it would be available as a reminder of that community’s contribution to the War effort. His great grandfather, Alexander Scott Hingley, provided the original plate for the church. Most churches in this area have provided similar recognition of congregational members who have served.
April 2016 – Books of Remembrance
Holding a very central position in the Heritage Room are two “Books of Remembrance”. These are the product of significant research started about fifteen years ago. It was Bud’s intention to catalogue the names of Truro and area residents who enlisted and were killed in the line of duty. Gathering the names was no easy task. Once a Service Number was obtained, the information was obtained from the World War II Book of Remembrance in Ottawa.
An individual page is provided on each identified person with the Casualty Details including such information as Rank, Regiment, Date of Death and Cemetery. The page number where the information was obtained from the World War II Book of Remembrance is also noted.
At the back of each of these Books of Remembrance is information on the Cemeteries where these Canadians were buried. These books could serve as a great starting point for research. Documentation of this type grows in importance as the years move on.