Bay Street Armoury on display

The main drill hall at the Bay Street Armoury during the building’s 100 Anniversary celebrations in November 2015. Photos by John Azar

The main drill hall at the Bay Street Armoury during the building’s 100 Anniversary celebrations in November 2015. Photos by John Azar

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Military Reserve units of Vancouver Island will cap off tributes to the 100th Anniversary of The Battle Vimy Ridge with an April 9 open house at the historic Bay Street Armoury.

The Open House runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free to the public. It will pay tribute to the Island’s reserve units: The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) and the 5th (BC) Field Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery, 11 (Victoria) Field Ambulance, 39 Service Battalion, and 39 Signal Regiment, plus local cadet units.

LCol Stephen Sawyer, Vimy 100 Open House Co-Chair and Commanding Officer Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), says the event is family-themed and helps the Canadian Armed Forces educate and build stronger ties with the community.

“Many people who drive down Blanshard Street or Bay Street see our Armoury, which looks like a castle, but nobody really knows what’s inside,” says LCol Sawyer. “We love having the opportunity to open up the doors and have an open house that commemorates one of the most significant moments in Canadian history. It is an excellent way for reservists on Vancouver Island to connect with the community.”

Inspired by a military “Then and Now” theme, the Open House will include displays by military units and over 35 local museums, archives and history and heritage groups, a tea party featuring costumes and dress of the day, demonstrations, and performances from three military bands, and other musicians taking part in commemorative music programs throughout the day.

At 12:30 p.m., there will be a brief ceremony for the arrival of Guest of Honour Brigadier General (Ret’d) J.E.L. Gollner.

“Our event really speaks to the major impact the First World War and the Battle of Vimy Ridge had on the entire community in Victoria,” said John Azar, Open House co-chair and historian. “During the war, any individual who lived in Victoria either had a family member fighting in the war or knew someone that was there.”

LCol Sawyer also noted the weekend-long Vimy 100 observations are of special significance to the Canadian Scottish Regiment because they are the only regiment on Vancouver Island to wear Vimy Battle Honours on their uniforms, and also because one of their own, Private William Johnstone Milne (1892 to 1917), earned the Victoria Cross for his bravery at Vimy and is one of four First World War Victoria Cross recipients in the regiment.

The Open House will conclude a busy weekend for the approximately 50 reservists from Victoria, Nanaimo and Comox that make up the regiments with a Freedom of the City April 8 at City Hall followed by a march to the Cenotaph and Legislature grounds. The military tradition dates back to Roman times when highly decorated military regiments approached the walls of a city and ask permission to enter and march its streets. It was last performed by the regiment during its 100th anniversary in 2012.

Later that day, during Park’s Canada’s “A Salute to Vimy 100” at Fort Rodd Hill, members of the 5th Field Regiment will perform a 100-round rapid fire artillery salute paying tribute to soldiers who died while fighting for Canada at The Battle of Vimy Ridge.

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