Passionate WWI museum exhibit grew from Mark Cahill's personal collection
Published Monday, November 9, 2015 12:02PM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 9, 2015 12:50PM EST
Mark Cahill's passion for Canada's involvement in the first World War is now available for all to see.
His collection of memorabilia is now in a museum, the Canadian Centre for the Great War.
Photos, letters, postcards and telegrams are part of the collection, as well as uniforms, badges, and equipment.
Cahill's passion for the war is personal.
"My grandfather spent his 17th birthday in the trenches," said Cahill.
As a successful entrepreneur, Cahill was able to turn his passion into an enormous collection of more than 3,000 artifacts from World War One.
They are now housed in the second floor of his Montreal offices on St. Patrick St.
The collection includes items from those who survived the war, and those who did not, including a photo that Cahill always finds moving: that of a young man gassed in the trenches.
"Well, he didn't make it," said Cahill.
Chemical weapons had been used in war before, but WWI saw their use on a scale never seen before. Mustard gas and other chemical agents killed 90,000 people and wounded one million during the war.
Caitlin Bailey, the curator of the collection, is trying to put the focus on the individual.
"We are talking about the people. and people are always interested in other people. It doesn't matter, they can have lived 200 years ago, they can have lived a thousand years ago but we have a deep down connection to other people," said Bailey.
The uniform and badge from motorcycle dispatch rider Leonard Vivian James is one of her favorites.
"It's a winged bicycle wheel and he also has a photo album of little snapshots that he took in his time at the front," said Bailey.
Another display near to her heart is that of Arsene Belanger, a member of the famed Royal 22nd regiment, the VanDoos.
"The 22nd battalion has the distinction of being the only French-speaking battalion that saw service on the front line in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
The display includes brass bars, which indicate he was wounded twice in battle.
It also has the homemade goggles Belanger carried to protect against tear gas attacks.
"They have his initials, 'A', 'B', on the side.
Uniforms and fur-lined helmets highlight the exploits of the Royal Flying Corps, while there are reminders of how low-tech the war was.
"This particular saddle is a cavalry saddle so it has a holster for a rifle," pointed out Bailey.
Admission to the museum on is free but donations to the centre's foundation are accepted.