--November 14, 2016.
It may just be the best kept secret in Sherbrooke. The Army Navy Air Force Veterans in Canada, Unit 318, has a military museum dedicated to the memory of the men and women of the Eastern Townships who fought in Canada’s wars.
Located on the second floor of the ANAF Unit 318 club, better known to locals as “The Hut,” the museum contains over a thousand items ranging from the Fenian invasion of 1866 to the recent fighting in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
The museum was the brainchild of the late Ron Murphy who fought with the Cameron Highlanders in World War II. During his term as President of Unit 318 Murphy decided that The Hut needed a place to preserve the memories of the men and women who served their country and their community in the military during both times of war and peace.
Murphy was joined by the late Charlie Gordon, another WW II veteran, and together they began collecting items from fellow vets, their families and other Units across the country. As well as collecting memorabilia, Charlie Gordon also crafted a number of tables into which were embedded medals, insignia and photos of historical significance. These tables are now on display in the museum.
Like all military museums the one at The Hut has a collection of military weapons. Rifles from both WWI and WWII are displayed along with, amongst others, a rifle from the Boer War, the first lever action rifle used by the Canadian Army carried by a Townshipper during the Riel Rebellion and a muzzle loading Kentucky long rifle.
The museum also has perhaps one of the best collections of uniforms of any private museum in the country. It features the uniforms of not only local units – the Sherbrooke Hussars, the Sherbrooke Fusiliers – but those of the Royal Canadian Navy, the 79th Cameron Highlanders, the Royal Canadian Air Force, German military helmets from WWI and a large collection of military head gear.
The museum is not just about guns and bayonets however. Over the years it has become the repository of hundreds of items that reflect, perhaps more closely, the human side of the conflict. There are numerous artifacts that show what every day life was like: mess kits, canteens, diaries, and the scrapbooks of family members following the progress of the war. There are photographs, newspapers, letters and Christmas cards.
One corner of the museum is now dedicated to the fall of Hong Kong and the fate of the soldiers who were forced to surrender – a large number of whom were from the Eastern Townships. Among the photographs and newspaper articles there is also a collection of letters sent from a soldier from Scotstown - forced to work in a Japanese coal mine – to his family and their letters back to him.
Unfortunately, the museum is not open on a daily basis. Financing is done entirely through donations and precludes anything resembling a full-time staff. It is supported, as are all aspects and functions of The Hut, by a crew of dedicated volunteers who give freely of their time and efforts. Nevertheless, anyone interested in visiting the museum and exploring the contribution that Townshippers have made to their country’s freedom can do so. The museum can be opened upon request during business hours, Monday to
Friday from 1:00 until 5:00 p.m.
For guided tours or groups, contact email@example.com or phone The Hut at (819) 346-9122.