A Group of Volunteers In Kingsville Are Doing
Their Part To Ensure The Military Service of
Essex County Residents Is Not Forgotten
Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography by Bonnie Monminie
More than a century ago, in the immediate aftermath of World War I, it probably seemed impossible to those who lived through the horror that memory of it might ever fade. The shock to the world’s senses was so enormous that World War I was called “The Great War.” British author, H.G. Wells called it “the war to end all wars.” It was inconceivable to people alive then that anything like it would ever happen again. A little more than 20 years later, the unthinkable happened: World War II.
To those of us who have grown up in peace, these historical events often seem remote, pigeon-holed by dates, exotic names of far-flung battlefields. Though the numbers of dead and wounded are staggering, they are more than any person can really wrap their head around.
The Kingsville Military Museum, located at 145 Division Street South, was established 30 years ago to educate and remind citizens of Essex County of the sacrifices people from the area made through our history with their military service.
“When people think of veterans, they think World War I and World War II,” says Bonnie E. Monminie, the museum’s volunteer administrator. “There are still Korean veterans, Afghanistan veterans and those are the ones we should include. I was interviewing one gentleman, who served in the navy in Korea, for The Kingsville Times and he said: ‘Korea is the forgotten war.’”
Quite a tragic sentiment for a veteran of that conflict to feel. The Korean War was fought between North Korea and South Korea from June 1950 to July 1953, according to Wikipedia. Approximately 3 million people died during the conflict, the majority of whom were civilians. A coalition of
United Nation forces comprised of 16 countries, including Canada, made up the front line in the Korean War. More than 1,200 Canadians were injured or missing in action in Korea.
The exhibits in the Kingsville Military Museum span centuries of military service beginning with the United Empire Loyalists. The museum possesses artifacts and information on the Fenian Raids (which occurred in 1866 and again from 1870 to 1871), the Boer War (October 1899 to May 1902, fought in Southern Africa), World War I, World War II, Korea, the Cold War (1947 to 1991), Canada’s role in peacekeeping, as well as Bosnia and
Families of veterans in Essex County are welcome to donate artifacts from their military service to the museum.
“What always amazes me about these World War I uniforms,” Bonnie continues, “that 100 years ago, I could understand why many returning soldiers got rid of them, not wanting to be reminded of their war experience. But I am so grateful to those who kept their uniforms.”
Just the other day, Bonnie had a woman visit the museum to donate her father’s keepsakes from World War I. He had served in Mesopotamia—which includes present-day Iraq, parts of Iran, Turkey, Syria and Kuwait.
“She brought in his desert tunic, shorts, stirrups from the horse he rode,” Bonnie says. “He even saved a half-eaten biscuit, a piece of a bar soap, along with two medals.”
In a previous incarnation, the Kingsville Military Museum was contained within a donated 65-foot transport trailer that went to fairs and schools around the county. Among the people who traveled with the mobile museum was a veteran of World War II named Charlie Campbell. Bonnie tells the story of a man visiting Charlie at the mobile museum at one of its stops.
“The man said: ‘I have something for the trailer,’” Bonnie recalls. “Charlie didn’t think twice about this and eventually went on his break. When he returned, Charlie found a 15-foot torpedo next to the trailer. He transported it back to Kingsville, parking the trailer at the Royal Canadian Legion. Only then did Charlie call the bomb squad. The torpedo proved to be inactive. It’s now in our yard.”
The motto for the Kingsville Military Museum was written by Charlie Campbell: “We do not glorify the acts of war but remember the consequences and the cost of freedom. Future generations must learn about man’s inhumanity to man so they in turn will value man’s humanity.”
For more information about exhibits and hours of operation, visit the museum online at khpi.mnsi.net.