If you’ve ever wondered what members of your family experienced while serving in the World Wars, or you want to learn more about Canada’s Armed Forces through the ages, then the Base Borden Military Museum is a great place to start your journey.
As you walk into the main hall, you are greeted by thousands of artifacts, photos, weapons and vehicles. There are food rations from New Zealand, Australia and Germany, uniforms from various eras, historic photos, and original documents that paint a picture of life in the military through the ages.
Sgt. (Ret’d) Jim Sadlier, museum technical advisor, says visitors are often looking for clues about their relatives’ military lives.
“We find that the kids are digging now to find out what their grandpas did in the war and they can find some answers here,” says Sadlier. “Then there are the young kids. They know all about the weapons from their video games. There really is something for everyone and every time you come in, you will find something you didn’t see before.”
For example, the “Stew Gun” was the Canadian Army’s field kitchen that travelled to various locations to feed troops. Horses pulled the unit during World War 1 and it is now on display at the Borden museum today. There’s also a mobile dental unit, complete with the original foot-pedal powered drill.
“Visitors are excited to hear how, in 1916, we had 35,000 troops living here in bell tents,” Sadlier says. “They are surprised to know that the roads you travelled on today are the same they travelled on in 1916. That really gets you thinking.”
He chuckles as he talks about children who know “everything” about the guns displayed in the weapons room, because they have learned from video games. History comes alive at the museum, and visitors can look inside tanks, climb into the cockpit of a CF-5 jet, also known as the Freedom Fighters. It’s an opportunity to imagine how the servicemen controlled them in battle.
CFB Borden was created to train more troops for Canada’s contribution to the First World War. Known at the time as “Sandy Plains”, the grounds were designated as the new training ground for Canadian Expeditionary Force battalions destined for over-seas duty. Borden has trained nearly two million people in a variety of trades from medical professionals to aircraft technicians and engineers in aerospace, electrical and mechanical fields.
The Air Force Annex contains artifacts from the creation of the Royal Flying Corps of Canada in 1917 to the founding of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Inside the hangar you will find one of the oldest and most famous aeroplanes in Canada, the AVRO 504K.
After an afternoon inside, there is more history just a short trail away where you can visit restored First World War trenches, dug by infantry soldiers training in 1916 before they entered the war in France.
The museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 9 am to 3 pm (closed for lunch 12-1) and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free for all ages and guided tours are available at a cost of $2 per person.
To honour our veterans (both local and from afar), consider attending your local Remembrance Day ceremony on November 11th. The Barrie Remembrance Day Parade commences at 10:00am on Dunlop Street East at Mulcaster and departs for the Cenotaph at Memorial Square at 10:30am. The Orillia Remembrance Day service begins at the cenotaph in front of the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital at 10:45am and is followed by a parade down Mississauga Street to the Orillia Legion. The Innisfil service begins at 10:45am in front of the memorial at Innisfil Town Hall. All ceremonies recognize two minutes of silence at 11:00am.
by Robin MacLennan