Old Mill Heritage Centre in Kagawong to hold military exhibit to honour vets

Christian Shoebridge has once again loaded his WWII Harley Davidson motorcycle that was used by the Canadian Army for the military display. Since last year he has remilitarized it (the past owner had demilitarized it) and even recreated a patina to match what its condition would be if it hadn’t been altered.

New items on display this year from WWI, WWII and Korean War

KAGAWONG—The Old Mill Heritage Centre is once again hosting its annual military exhibit from November 1 to 11 featuring new unique items from WWI, WWII and the Korean War.

“This is our tenth year doing the military exhibit for Remembrance Day,” explained Old Mill Heritage Centre Curator Rick Nelson. “This is the third year since collector Christian Shoebridge has come on board and he has brought in a lot of amazing items again this year for the exhibit.”

The crown jewel of this year’s exhibit is Mr. Shoebridge’s Korean War era Jeep.

“There were only a small handful made and many didn’t come back after the war,” explained Mr. Shoebridge. “It is interestingly made by Ford for the Canadian Army. There are only about 500 left on the planet—I had to find three and piece them together to form one running, drivable unit. I even found an original amphibious trailer. This is really a unique piece of Canadian history and it turned out quite well. I used time period photos to get it correct, right down to the tires.”

Mr. Shoebridge has also brought back his WWII Harley Davidson motorcycle that was used by the Canadian Army. Since last year he has remilitarized it (the past owner had demilitarized it) and even recreated a patina to match what its condition would be if it hadn’t been altered.

“We’re still in the process of setting the exhibit up and selecting items for display, but I can say there will be a lot of different pieces from last year,” shared Mr. Shoebridge. “I like to change it up each year—keep it interesting.”

There will be a collection of uniforms and field equipment on display. “A lot of the pieces are one of a kind and tell a story,” noted Mr. Shoebridge, who added that the description of the pieces and their history will be displayed with the items.

He told The Expositor that following WWI, there was a lot of concern about bringing diseases back to Canada, so a lot of the uniforms and equipment were burned.

Another new display will be items that soldiers brought back with them from WWII, representing what they saw and experienced during their time overseas.

Several medal sets will be on display, which Mr. Shoebridge has found over the past year, primarily from WWI.

Last year, Mr. Shoebridge loaned his copy Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which was autographed to Hitler’s lawyer. This year Mr. Shoebridge has found one of the first English translations of the book from 1938.

“It is a very dry book, but if you read between the lines it outlines what his plans were,” said Mr. Shoebridge. “People didn’t take him seriously outside of Germany, if they had or read the book it would have prevented a lot of what happened.”

Also as part of this year’s exhibit is a collection of edged weapons from as early as the Civil War from various countries.

“I’ve been doing a lot of research over the last year as well, and have tracked down some more information about some pieces in my collection or to  find pieces to complete equipment,” added Mr. Shoebridge. “It is just hard trying to determine what to include with the space we have.”

For the collection of personal items from WWII Canadian soldiers, there will be a pairing of German personal items. “I think it is interesting for people to see what the issued equipment, rations etc. was for the Canadian versus the German soldiers,” he said. 

“There will be a lot of unpublished photos from both sides,” continued Mr. Shoebridge. “These are people’s personal photos from both sides—German and Canadian.”

Mr. Shoebridge said that there will be many additional new items to the ones mentioned and that he hopes people from near and far come to view the exhibit.

“This exhibit gives us the opportunity to commemorate our veterans and honour their sacrifices,” said Mr. Nelson. “You would normally have to travel to Ottawa to see similar items, but they will be right here on Manitoulin next month.”

The Old Mill Heritage Centre Military Exhibit will be run from Tuesday, November 1 to Friday, November 11 from noon until 4 pm and 6 pm until 8 pm daily.