BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Visitors at the RCA Museum tour the revamped Gun Park displays, which were officially reopened at CFB Shilo on Thursday.
CFB SHILO — The 31 guns at the Royal Canadian Artillery Museum may have long since gone silent, but don’t underestimate the history and stories they represent.
Veterans Dirk McDonald and Don Berry look at military equipment as they tour the reopened Gun Park at the RCA Museum at CFB Shilo on Thursday. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Yesterday, the RCA Museum at CFB Shilo officially reopened the improved outdoor Gun Park, featuring 31 guns and vehicles from the First World War through today.
Base engineer Maj. Reg Sharpe played a large role in getting the largest outdoor artillery exhibit in Canada up and running, and the park and museum hold a special place in his heart.
"It’s a big piece of our history, and it’s all of our heirlooms that are collected here," Sharpe said.
Sharpe, a fourth-generation serviceman, toured the facility last Christmas with his father, Reg Sr., who was visiting from New Brunswick. The trip down memory lane had a profound impact on his father.
"When we came out of the museum he had a sombre look on his face and I asked him ‘What’s wrong?’" Sharpe said.
"He said, ‘You know how your mother has been asking me to retire? Well, I think it’s about time because everything I trained on is in that museum.’"
The tour through the building prompted Reg Sr. to apply for retirement, and this spring he will retire after nearly 40 years of service to his country.
"My mother has a true appreciation for this museum," Sharpe joked.
The museum tour also had an impact on Sharpe.
"It was a great father-son bonding experience to be able to walk through the museum with him," Sharpe said. "It was a memory that I’ll cherish forever."
The Gun Park, which already has plans to expand to 45 guns and vehicles, is an important connection to the country’s past military conflicts, ingenuity and the men and women who have so bravely operated the machinery.
"You get a true picture of many of guns that the artillery has used in conflicts," veteran Don Berry said after touring the grounds with fellow veteran Dick McDonald.
"Having served, you can go back and find the gun that you’ve worked on and it’s very nice," Berry added.
For museum director Marc George, the ability to link past veterans, family, friends and the general public to the country’s rich military history is important.
"It’s very rewarding to help and to see that connection," George said.
The many guns also recognize the sacrifice and triumphs of the artillery throughout the history of Canada.
"It really is us paying homage to the veterans who made sure these guns came back as a symbol of victory," George said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 31, 2012