We here at the Comox Air Force Museum are continually amazed at the variety of donations related to Great War that we receive at our location, 5000 Km. and 100 hundred years removed from the First World War in Europe.
In 2006 Bob Hallowell arrived at the Museum with a box of WW1 articles that had belonged to his Father and asked would we be interested in having them? Now a donation of this sort, bayonets, rifle grenades, souvenir belts etc. arriving at an Air Force museum seemed unusual but one we would welcome want to investigate further.
Souvenir belts were common to soldiers in WW1 and were made from buttons and badges of various allied regiments and often of those taken from enemy prisoners or their fallen. These badges would most often be affixed to their stable belts and worn under their tunics.The belts are not often seen today but are much sought after by collectors and dealers. The belts are often stripped of their badges as they are usually of more value sold off separately.We felt fortunate to have been offered two such belts and are pleased to have in our collection.
It is our nature too that we attempt to learn as much as possible about the original owner of the item donated. While the artefacts themselves are of great interest to us it is the bits of information attached to them that we relish the most.
Bob was well known to us as a speaker at the Air Force Indoctrination School which morphed into the Comox Air Force Museum in 1987. He was already represented in our Gallery in the Peacekeeping section having served in Pakistan and in the Air Demonstration section; he was the first “Official” Red Knight in 1959-60.
Bob’s Father Carew, his full name was Charles Meredith Carew Hallowell, had already been serving for two years with the First Canadian Hussars Active Militia when the war broke out in 1914. He sailed to England on June 6,1915 and was one of 7 officers and 166 men of the the 7th Canadian Mounted Rifles on board the Caledonian. Another amongst their ranks was Billy Bishop who was later to become Canada’s highest scoring ace in the Royal Flying Corps.
Carew sailed to France September 17,1915 and was sent back to England to recuperate after being wounded for a second time at the Somme in1917. It was during this time that he re-mustered into the Canadian Field Artillery and he was commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant.He served with the Army of the Rhine until the end of 1919.
On his return to Canada he entered Huron College and was ordained as Minister in the Church of England.He eventually died of complications from his wounds in 1936 and at the time of his death was a Pastor in Thornedale, Ontario.
Just this past summer an we received another donation of WW1 artifacts which had belonged to Muriel Short. It too included a third souvenir belt.
Muriel had followed her fiance Roger to England.Roger was going to serve in the Great War while Muriel would find work at one of the many Maple Leaf Clubs in London which Lady Julia Drummond of Montreal had to found.
These were clubs where Canadian soldiers could rest,socialize and recuperate during their time away from the Front.
This belt was discovered by Muriel under a mattress in one of the Maple Leaf Clubs where she had worked. They were unable to locate the owner of the belt so the belt returned to Canada with Muriel at the end of the War.
It is stories such as these that even one hundred years on life and meaning can be given to artifacts in our care.While these souvenir belts are not currently on display other articles from these two donations do form part of our unique World War One Gallery.