I started off my day at CFB Shilo driving THIS thing.
That’s right, an M-109 Howitzer. Technically, not a tank (as it’s not armoured), this is an indirect fire support weapon nonetheless. I owe it all to Marc George, the Museum Director of the RCA Museum, for setting me up with this incredible experience.
I was told that driving a Howitzer is just like driving a car – gas on the right, brake on the left, gears are automatic. I discovered, however, that I am a very tiny person in the driver’s seat, so much that when I tried to brake, I had to physically lower my entire body into the hatch to make the thing stop. Good thing I was only going extremely slow.
Our next stop was the RCA Museum, Canada’s National Artillery Museum, where Marc gave me a private guided tour of the highlights. Although the name may suggest otherwise, the focus here is on the gunners, and not the guns. By telling the story of the Gunners of Canada, you’re simultaneously learning about the story of Canada.
The museum is chronologically organized from pre-history to present day, exploring Manitoba and Canada’s involvement in conflicts and war, providing a diversity of stories through the use of artifacts, weapons, uniforms, vehicles, and of course, the extremely lifelike mannequins, who add a sense of humanism throughout. One item in particular that caught my eye was the first publication of “In Flanders Fields”. Outside the museum, there’s an impressive display of vehicles, weapons and equipment for the general public to see. All the exhibits are extremely informative, providing the contextual history, highlighting the diversity of perspectives, from women’s roles in conflict, to Canada’s indigenous peoples.
As somebody who has had a lifelong interest in Canadian history, who has also spent time in Ottawa’s Canadian War Museum and Le Mémorial de Caen in Normandy, the RCA Museum is up there with them and is an absolute must see.
A huge thank you to Marc George for making the M-109 Howitzer ride happen, as well as your warm hospitality during my time in both Brandon and Shilo.