Bid to rename Bay Street Armoury launched

Bid to rename Bay Street Armoury launched

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Two advisory groups of the Bay Street Armoury have made a formal request to rename the National Historic Site in honour of General Sir Arthur Currie.

The name-change application was submitted to the federal government branch responsible for name changes to federal buildings, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, in late March. The application came from members of the 5th B.C. Field Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery Foundation and The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) Board of Regimental Trustees.

Retired Brigadier-General Mike Heppell, a member of the regimental trustees, is spearheading the call to rename the armoury and says he is doing his best to inform the community about the reasoning behind the name change.

“The thinking behind our motion is to have such a unique and historic building named after a prominent military leader synonymous with Victoria, instead of being named after a street,” said Heppell. “Currie was a local reserve military commander who went off to the First World War, was appointed to command large formations, had a very analytical mind and never lost a battle.”

Currie rose through the ranks during his military career, starting out as a pre-war reservist gunner in the Canadian militia in 1897 while he worked as both a teacher and businessman. Commissioned as an officer in 1900, he commanded the newly-created 50th Regiment Gordon Highlanders in 1913 and was later appointed Commander of the 2nd Canadian Brigade when war broke out in Europe.

Ironically, it was Currie himself who was opposed to the construction of the armoury while he was Commanding Officer, 5th (BC) Artillery Regiment; instead, he wanted a much larger facility than what had been proposed.  The two pre-war regiments commanded by Currie, 5th (BC) Brigade and 50th Gordon Highlanders, are a part of the lineage of the two Reserve Army units that have occupied the Bay Street Armoury since its construction.

Originally called the Bay Street Drill Hall, the facility was completed in 1915 to provide training for local militia units of the First World War. Featuring 19th Century Tudor Revival features in its design, the armory resembles a medieval castle with its outer defensive walls pierced by massive doors guarded with twin towers and a portcullis.

Heppell served as Commanding Officer, The Canadian Scottish during the 1970s and is also a former Victoria Fire Department Chief. He emphasized the name-change request is still in its early stages and there is no indication of when or if a name change might occur.

“We are informing the public about our application and need their support and want to make sure the information is out there,” said Heppell.

The two advisory groups are made up of former commanding officers, veterans and members of the community. Aside from running the armory’s two museums and maintaining historical assets, they provide advice to Commanding Officers of both units on historical traditions of their respective units. 

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