By V. Kenneth
“Yet even the military student, in his zeal to master the fascinating combinations of the actual conflict, often forgets the far more intricate complications of supply” - Winston Churchill, quote on the web page of the Royal Canadian Ordnance Museum’s website.
Nestled in the Montreal Longue-Pointe Garrison along the Saint Lawrence River is the Canadian Ordnance Corps Museum (recently renamed Canadian Forces Logistics Museum). Supported by the Logistics Branch and the Longue-Point Garrison, a full time curator, a part time documents restorer, and assorted volunteers, the museum tells the story of the supply arm of the Canadian Forces from its inception. It may seem a small building and staff, but its unique location and support allows the museum to acquire and maintain a number of vehicles, artillery pieces, and small arms. This connection also allows the entrance fee to be free but donations are welcome. The museum would be normal or even small compared to a typical American military history museum, but it is quite exemplary for its location. Because Quebec is by law bilingual, all displays have the same descriptions in English and French.
Unlike the U.S. Military, the Canadian Forces use the term “Ordnance” to cover the entire military supply spectrum and not just for weapons of war. Beginning as a civilian organization, the Canadian Stores Department was established in 1871. This became a military branch designated “Ordnance Stores Corps” in 1903 and officially renamed “Canadian Ordnance Corps” in 1907. The corps gained the “Royal” prefix in 1918 due to its outstanding service in the First World War and was thus the “Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps” (RCOC). Expansion during the Second World War took the corps from 450 all ranks to over thirty-six thousand. Then, in 1968 the Corps became the Logistics Branch of the Canadian Forces and is referred to in short as the “Log Branch.”
The museum began life as a hallway display in the RCOC School formally based at the Longue-Pointe garrison. After much effort and dedication, the museum was opened by its first curator, LCol Durnford in 1962. In 1968, the RCOC School was relocated to Camp Borden and the new location of the museum made for a heated debate. In the end, it remained at the Longue-Point garrison because of the initial location of the RCOC School and in 1972 it was moved into the old chapel on post where the displays remain to this day.
The vehicle/gun park contains a number of interesting pieces. A collection of tanks, LAVs, artillery pieces, cargo vehicles, and a CF5 fighter are set upon gravel bases and in a circle so that visitors can leisurely walk around each one. Currently, there are two tanks; an M4A2 Sherman, and a T72. Everything on display was either in service with the Canadian Forces or represents that vehicle’s service but was itself in a foreign military. Most of the vehicle hatches are locked shut, but if the curator is giving a tour, he can open them and visitors can get a hands-on experience within some of the vehicles.
Much of the small arms collection is encased in two large display cases containing a number of 20th century service handguns, rifles and machine guns. Notable items include an early production M3 Grease Gun, cut-away Lee Enfield No. 4, prototype M14 T44, and the second MP18 to be captured by Canadian forces in the First World War. A BAR, Bren, and Japanese Type 11 are also included in this display. Other machine guns spread around the museum are a Lewis Gun, MG 08 Maxim, Vickers, and M1917 water cooled machine gun. Several machine guns are not on display due to space constrictions. Anti-tank weapons are present with a Boys anti-tank rifle, M1 Bazooka, PIAT, and not on display are two 3.5mm M20 Super Bazookas and a M72 LAW. Some crew served weapons on display are a Second World War era 75mm and a Vietnam War 106mm recoilless rifles, as well as a 4.2 “Chemical” mortar.
Apart from the small arms, the uniform displays are also very well organized. Visitors can easily see the progression in types of uniforms from the late 1800s until today with the pixilated camouflage pattern in use by many militaries now. The displays are especially useful in distinguishing Canadian and British uniforms, which might appear the same to the casual observer, but are very different in design and quality. One display case shows this and the progression of load bearing equipment in use by the Canadian Forces from World War One up to today.
Curator Andrew Gregory is not content with the museum as it is now. There are numerous ongoing and future plans that will add new insight into the history and role of the Logistics Branch in the Canadian Forces. The major addition is a dedicated Archives room. The museum has a number of military documents, posters, and manuals but they are rolled up and fading away. A part time employee is currently going through every photograph and document, restoring them as much as possible. Once this task is done, the Archives room will accommodate all the materials. This room will be accessible by historians and researchers by appointment. Another project is the renovation of a Centurion main battle tank that will arrive in the summer of 2012. Some smaller plans are replacing all the light bulbs with LED lights for higher efficiency, creating information plaques for the vehicles and artillery pieces and as always, improving the individual displays themselves with new artifacts.
The Longue-Pointe garrison is just off the Montreal metro green line to Honore-Beaugrand at the Langelier stop. From here it is several blocks down Langelier Blvd. heading south until the intersection of Boul Langelier and Hochelaga streets. By car from downtown Montreal, head east on Sherbrooke and turn right on Boul Langelier. Coming from outside Montreal, it is off exit 5 on Auto Route 25 coming from the north or south. Approaching the museum a visitor will notice that there are outside entrances directly into the building. These are not visitor entrances as it is a defense establishment and all visitors have to go through the gate guard who checks for ID. There is no special permission needed to enter the Longue-Pointe garrison, one needs only to inform the guard on duty that the museum is the purpose of the visit. From here the visitor entrance is the main doorway between the 4.2 inch mortar and Llitis jeep about 100 meters away. Parking is free and is available either in the main parking lot within the garrison or in the lot just outside the museum but beyond the perimeter fence.
Canadian Forces Logistics Museum
Hours: 10 am to 4 pm Wednesday to Sunday. Call beforehand to confirm days and hours.
The Museum can handle up to 30 persons in a group visit.
Tel: garrison number (514) 252-2777, museum extension 2241
Museum website: A new website site will be online by March 1.
6560 Hochelaga Street
PO Box 4000, Station K
Montreal, Qc H1N 3R9
(Special Thanks to Curator Andrew Gregory PhD, Liza Ponomarenko, and Natalie Boyle.)
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