By Mike Anderson
The Georgina Military Museum’s annual Military Day is always one of the highlights of the summer.
And this year’s event, held on Saturday, June 17, did not disappoint as more than 400 visitors viewed two mock WW2 re-enactments featuring US, Canadian and German troops.
Visitors could also pay $40 to shoot blanks with a WW2 Bren Gun, the main light machine gun used by the British and Canadian armies.
There were also displays of small arms, uniforms and military memorabilia, including information about ‘Dieppe Blue Beach: Every Man Remembered,’ a non-profit research project honouring the soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Canada who participated in disastrous Dieppe Raid on August 19, 1942.
Dieppe is often referred to as Canada’s darkest day during WW2, with 916 soldiers killed, 505 wounded and 1,946 taken prisoner.
Military Day also featured a growing collection of military vehicles restored by the Georgina Military Museum (GMM), plus several vehicles brought by collectors and re-enactors.
One of the vehicles was a WW2 Willy’s Jeep used by the Special Air Service (SAS), the British Army’s special forces, during the desert campaign in North Africa.
The SAS operated behind German lines and required a specially modified jeep to travel long distances without re-supplying.
GMM President Jeff Leggett was pleased with the turnout for this year’s Military Day.
“This is our biggest event of the year. It gives everybody a chance to see what we do and allows us to interact with the community. While our patrons can visit any weekend, this spreads the word a bit more,” Leggett said.
“It’s also one of the key events for raising funds for the museum. While we receive some government funding, for the museum to grow, we need the help of visitors and donations.”
Leggett stressed that Military Day is not intended to glorify war but rather to highlight the sacrifices made by local veterans.
“We have no intention of glorifying war. We are here to educate, teach, honour and commemorate those we’ve lost. Not everybody got to come home. It’s not a cliche; it’s a fact,” he said.
“I think the impact of watching the re-enactments is stronger than any video game. This is what would have happened. Your grandparents, great grandparents, they went through this for real.”
Leggett also used the day to unveil the museum’s new ‘Wall of Honour,’ a permanent outside display featuring local veterans’ plaques.
For a small donation, family members can have a plaque dedicated to their relatives who served in the Canadian Forces.
Leggett said the museum absorbed the cost of the initial plaque, dedicated to Charles Rutherford, a local Victoria Cross recipient who fought in WW1.
The Victoria Cross was the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
“We thought it’s a more personal way to acknowledge donations made to the museum, with families honouring a loved one’s sacrifice,” said Leggett, whose grandfather, Cpl. Thomas Leggett, Royal Regiment of Canada, also has a plaque on the wall.
According to Leggett, the ‘Wall of Honour’ underlines the museum’s commitment to keeping the memory of local veterans alive.
“Ninety-eight percent of our displays inside the museum are donated, and the majority are local,” he said.
“We are proud that the museum provides a very personal experience. And we have a dedicated group of volunteers who would put an encyclopedia to shame with what they can share with our visitors.”
The Georgina Military Museum, located at 26061 Woodbine Ave in Keswick, is open on weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.georginamilitarymuseum.ca.
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