Saanich Peninsula men and women did their bit

Sidney Museum and Archives pay tribute to those who served in new display that runs to Nov. 13 only.

Author David Clark looks over an authentic Ranger tunic

From the Boer War of the late 1800s to more modern times of conflict, residents of the Saanich Peninsula have answered the call to service.

That’s the focus of this year’s historical display at the Sidney Museum on Beacon Avenue. Running now to Nov. 13 only, the display highlights the contributions made by Saanich Peninsula residents — both at home and abroad. Gail Petersen, board secretary with the Sidney Museum and Archives, says the display has a distinct focus on the  First and Second World Wars and a nod to some of the activities people at home were doing to support the men and woman on the front.

“Overall, it’s paying tribute to service in all aspects,” she said. “It’s local. This area was a sea port and the Victoria airport was first an air force base. Even the (army) was based here.”

The museum display has brought together newspaper clippings — the News Review published many soldiers’ letters home — and artifacts from the B.C. Aviation Museum and many private collections.

One of those is from David Clark, an author and historian specializing in the activities of Canadian Rangers during the Second World War.

He has been identifying members of Saanich Peninsula Rangers units for years and hopes the museum display will garner more local stories.

Currently, Clark said he’s looking for more information and names of those who served with Rangers Company 4, Brentwood Bay.

“I hope people who come to the museum learn that there were Rangers here during the war and find out what they did. Hopefully, people recognize some of the people in the photos.

“It may be a surprise to some, to learn that these units were here, protecting the Saanich Peninsula.”

Next to the Rangers display, Dave Bryan has helped set up a tribute to all branches of the Canadian armed forces, featuring uniforms from both the First and Second World Wars.

His is a collection made up of his own artifacts and those from a large collection held by the Army Navy Air Force Veterans Association (ANAVETS) in Sidney.

“I’m known as the Curator for ANAVETS,” he said, noting some of the artifacts are on display at the organization’s home base in Sidney. But much of it is not.

They take the opportunity of Remembrance Day every year — and the museum’s annual display — to bring some of the collection out into the public eye.

“Even books,” he said, “it’s amazing the number of books written by people who live on the Saanich Peninsula about their experiences at wartime.”

Bryan said he has a collection of some 750 such books and each describes the author’s own experiences.

“I hope people get a sense of remembrance and pride in what a relatively small number of Canadians did during the war,” he said.

Canada, Bryan continued, finished the Second World War with the third largest navy, in the top five in air force strength and an army that had a very solid reputation as a formidable fighting force.

Locally, Petersen said the airport was built in the late 1930s as an air force training base for British and Canadian pilots. Brad Morrison with the Archives noted that more than 160 people actually died while training at the Pat Bay Airfield — something that isn’t widely known.

Morrison added the Museum and Archives is working with the Victoria Airport Authority to pay tribute to those servicemen at a planned memorial at Hospital Hill, overlooking the airport along Mills Road in North Saanich.

“The point of all of this,” he said, “is to educate local people about those who gave their lives and about those who came back and made new lives here.

“They are so rarely honoured.”

Petersen said in future displays, there will be more of a focus on what the people who stayed at home did to contribute to the war efforts.