Three wartime ration books on display at the Sooke Region Museum.

CURATOR’S CORNER: Wartime artifacts at Sooke Region Museum

Sooke Region Museum takes a look at wartime artifacts which includes art, uniforms, books, medals, badges and medical supplies.

By Brianna Shambrook

As Nov. 11 approaches, the Sooke Region Museum is taking a look at its wartime artifacts which includes art, uniforms, books, medals, badges and medical supplies.

In 2015, Herald Forrest donated a first aid kit issued to a first aid station in Sooke in 1941 (2015.027.001a-v). The donor’s parents, Jim and Olive Forrest, allowed their house to be used as a first aid station as there were no nearby medical facilities. Their house was situated on Sooke Road, near Caldwell Road. This kit is unused and in excellent condition.

The kit is a black metal box with a handle and the contents include bandages, gauze, alcohol, a sling, scissors, splints, tourniquets, and cotton. Jim and Olive also completed first aid courses and their certificates of completion were also donated to the museum.

During wartime, there was a shortage of food and imported goods. To fairly distribute goods, every citizen was issued ration books. Each book is filled with coupons that could be used to claim things such as gasoline, canned food, coffee, sugar, and meats. These books are small; typically around 5 inches long and 3.5 inches, or less, high. The books are generally stapled on the left hand side and the owner’s information is written on the front cover.

The museum has several of these books issued to Sooke and Victoria residents during the Second World War. In 1978 Walter and Phyllis Jessiman donated seven ration books to the museum (1978.059.044a-g). The books donated by the Jessimans have a message for users on the inside front cover: “In wartime, goods are rationed because they are in short supply, or to prevent ‘short supply’ caused by the selfish or unnecessary overbuying by some at the expense of others’ essential needs.”

Another ration book we have was used specifically for gasoline (1978.079.018a-b). The book is dated 1945/1946 and says, on the inside, “172 units are the total number of units which will be granted to you during the rationing year in respect of Motor Vehicle bearing license Plate No.___.” Also stamped on the book are the words “This is your final book.”

The museum currently has two war displays to be viewed. One is a permanent exhibit that features artifacts from the First World War and the Second World including the ration books; the other is a travelling exhibit from the Canadian War Museum called Fighting in Flanders: Gas Mud Memory. Our gift shop also has a number of wartime books. A few of these titles are From the West Coast to the Western Front, John McCrae: Beyond Flanders Fields, War on our Doorstep, Enemy Offshore!, and From Classroom to Battlefield.

Along with reviewing wartime artifacts from the Sooke Region, we are also looking back at the efforts made by residents. For example, the Shirley Women’s Institute (SWI) was involved in the prevention of combining Thanksgiving and Remembrance (Armistice) Day into one holiday. At its Oct. 7, 1926 meeting the SWI adopted the following resolution: “Moved by Mrs. Edwin Clark, seconded by Mrs. H.J. Kirby that-Whereas the true significance of Armistice Day and Thanksgiving Day is lost by being combined in one holiday, and whereas November 11th should be kept as a holiday in honour and memory of those who made the Armistice possible, therefore be it resolved to ask women’s and other organizations to take steps to induce the Federal Government to have Armistice Day Nov. 11th proclaimed a public holiday.” The proposal had immense support and the combined holiday was prevented.

On Nov. 11, Sooke’s Royal Canadian Legion will host a parade and ceremony starting at 10:30 a.m. Please see the Legion’s Facebook page for more details on this event.

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Brianna Shambrook is the collections and exhibits manager for Sooke Region Museum.