“NURSE VIOLET”

“NURSE VIOLET”

  In 1995, a woman donated a Queen Alexandra Nursing Sister’s uniform, medical equipment, medals, badges, autograph book, photographs, and a 1930s era obstetrical nursing book.  The donor didn’t have much information, explaining that they were given to her family when she was a child, by a woman guest in their Black Creek home.  the uniform and artifact had been used by the family’s children as costumes.  The donations are now incorporated into our WWI Nursing Sister display.       One of our former volunteers, Corrine, explains the process of updating the display and the discoveries made during that time ~ “The process of updating the display with a new state of the art “personnequin” with realistic features and posable hands, tweaked our curiosity about the items used to dress our nurse.  With the help of Allison Hetman, Mel Birnie, Brian O’Cain, and Robert Lesage, we did some detective work and came up with some basic facts that raise yet more questions.   Informally known as Nurse Violet, the original owner of the uniform and artifact was a woman named Jean McPherson, born in Orangeville, Ontario on July 5th, 1886.  Jean’s records contained no information on her parents, so it proved difficult to find any relatives.  Military documents indicated that she had her medical for the Canadian Medical Service on September 8th, 1916, and her unit at that time was listed as the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service (QAIMS).  She sailed from Montreal on the SS Scandinavian on October 12, 1916 but no destination was listed.  Entries in her diary suggest that she was in France in 1916,...
“WAR BIRDS” ~ PIGEONS AT WAR

“WAR BIRDS” ~ PIGEONS AT WAR

Seventy years ago a carrier pigeon performed the act of “heroism” that saw it awarded the animal’s equivalent of the the highest award, the Victoria Cross – the Dickin Medal. It was the first of dozens of animals honoured by the veterinary charity P.D.S.A during WW2. On 23 February  1942, a badly damaged RAF bomber ditched into the cold North Sea. The crew were returning from a mission over Norway, but their Beaufort Bomber had been hit several times and crashed into the sea more than 100 miles from home. Struggling in freezing waters – unable to radio an accurate position back to base – the men faced a cold and lonely death. But as the aircraft sank, the crew had managed to salvage their secret weapon – a carrier pigeon.  The blue chequered hen named Winkie, was set free in the hope it could fly home to its base near Dundee in Scotland, and so alert the airbase colleagues to their predicament. During World War 2, carrier pigeons were routinely carried by RAF bombers for this very real danger, though in an era prior to GPS and Satellite Beacons, rescue was far from certain. But Winkie did make it home, after flying 120 miles, and was discovered, exhausted and covered in oil from taking rests at sea. The pigeon did not carry any message, but the RAF were able to determine the probable location of the downed aircraft. A rescue mission was launched and in a short time the crew were located and they were recovered by the Air Sea Rescue Service.     Winkie became the toast of the base. A year later the Dickin Medal...
THE EVOLUTION OF OUR NEW DISPLAY AREA

THE EVOLUTION OF OUR NEW DISPLAY AREA

On September 12th, our Museum celebrated its 30th Anniversary, and on that day, unveiled our new hallway display area.   This major addition to our Museum took considerable time to bring to fruition.  It began with a vision of what might be… it began with the Museum’s Director and Programme Manager conferring with volunteers to share ideas… it began with… a hallway filled with storage cabinets… and then with the help of a team of volunteers, bit by bit, it came together…                                  ...
FROM THE GALLERY- DID YOU KNOW THE AIR FORCE HAD A NAVY?

FROM THE GALLERY- DID YOU KNOW THE AIR FORCE HAD A NAVY?

This surprising and interesting story begins in 1929, when the then very young RCAF approached the Dept. of Oceans and Fisheries for advice on the type and size of boats the air force required at the time. The air force requirement was for a vessel capable of carrying people, stores and towing in all weather. They needed the towing capability because at the time the air force operated seaplanes. Not much was done at this time other than a committee was set up to study the problem! It took another  two years before any boats or crews were brought into the force. This happened in Trenton, Ont., where two powered dinghies and two 37′ seaplane tenders were introduced. These were followed by the first armored target towing tugs used by the RCAF. Meanwhile, #4 (flying boat) Squadron, stationed in Vancouver, BC, acquired a collection of craft which by 1937, consisted of three a/c tenders, one scow and three outboards. By the end of 1939, just at the start of the Second World War, the RCAF was the proud owner of 75 vessels, although 25 of these were row boats! The RCAF only had four high speed rescue craft, two of which were docked in Vancouver and Prince Rupert; the other two were in Nova Scotia.     Four years earlier, the RCMP had agreed that in an emergency it would transfer its marine assets to the RCN. In 1938, this policy was modified to say that both aircraft and boats be transferred to the RCAF. Although considered inferior to the boats on order, the air force did accept nine...
OUR FAST BIRDS GET A BATH

OUR FAST BIRDS GET A BATH

The annual washing of our fighter aircraft took place recently.  As you can imagine, keeping the planes clean and maintained when they are exposed to the elements is a constant battle.  Luckily for the Museum, a crew from 888 Wing takes on the responsibility of power washing and scrubbing the four fighter aircraft in the park (the CF-100 Canuck, the CF-101 Voodoo, the CF-104 Starfighter and the T-33 T-Bird).  I am happy to report, no major water fights broke out during the project and a light lunch was enjoyed by all back at 888 Wing.  A big thanks to Duke and his team for their continued support of the Museum and the Air Park.    ...
FROM OUR ARCHIVES ~ THE BREADNER HELMET

FROM OUR ARCHIVES ~ THE BREADNER HELMET

Our Museum has a dedicated group of volunteers who sit as members of our Collections Management Committee.  When an artifact is donated, it is evaluated on its relevance to the museum, its condition, and its rarity. This story began when Don Magor of Campbell River inquired if our museum would be interested in the donation of a WWI German pilot’s helmet.  The helmet was a battlefield souvenir from his grandfather, the former Chief of the Air Staff RCAF Overseas 1944-45, Lloyd S. Breadner. In this case, the artifact was part of the story of the birth of the Royal Canadian Air Force and coincided with the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.  Therefore, this artifact was extremely relevant to our museum. Don, one of the volunteers on the committee, noted that there was an inscription in the helmet that was barely legible. “Hun brought down near (Mnt…?) April 23 17. The fact that the owner of the helmet was an important personage in the RCAF and having this inscription was more information than the museum usually receives with a donation, but we wanted to see if we could find more of the story. Our research showed that L.S. Breadner was a pilot serving with Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) No. 3 Squadron at Marieux (Montplaisir), France and we were able to find first person accounts of his actions in aerial combat 17 April, 1917. (These are related in Jon Guttman’s “Naval Aces World War I” and “Canadian Airmen and the First World War” by S.F. Wise.)   In his own account of the battle, he...

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