With Remembrance Day fast approaching, our staff were “ as usual “ in a remembering mood. Thinking about Fort Edmonton Park’s efforts to preserve Edmonton’s memories of the First World War, it was a few moments before we realized that this year is the 5th anniversary of dedicated, costumed interpretation of the RETURNED SOLDIER at Fort Edmonton Park!
In honour of this landmark, we thought an exploration of the veterans’ uniform would be a suitable electronic expression of what this role has meant for the park.
It is important to note that interpretation of the Great War has occurred on 1920 Street for many years, but the addition of the uniform has greatly impacted and expanded the possibilities we have to share this important story with our visitors.
WHY THE UNIFORM?
The simple answer is that our visitors respond extremely well to the tangible nature of the veterans’ uniform in a way that they might not to an interpreter in ˜civvies.’
It has been suggested, rightly, that the RETURNED SOLDIER retaining his uniform for every day wear is a bit of a stretch. Veterans received $35 dollars upon discharge as a clothing allowance, and a humourous cartoon even shows and frazzled veteran in ˜that first civvie collar.’ However, the costume serves as such a strong, utterly tangible touchstone for the visitor and the interpreter that the uniforms have been obtained.
If you were to ask our interpreter why he’s wearing his uniform when the war is over (it is 1920 Street, after all), you might hear a number of the following reasons!
The RETURNED SOLDIER is a member of the Canadian Militia, which included an Edmonton Battalion 1st Battalion (perpetuating the 49th) and 2nd (perpetuating the 9th) as well as three reserve battalions perpetuating other wartime units. It is this regiment that is now known as the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. The LER Museum was a wonderful help to us when we were developing the soldier persona and resources.
The RETURNED VETERAN is using his uniform as a political tool. Not so far from today, veterans of the Great War were active in seeking what they perceived as their due from a sometimes reticent Government. Our interpreter often encourages visitors to support the ˜Calgary Declaration’, an Albertan-based movement for fair compensation for soldiers.
The RETURNED VETERAN is using his uniform as a marketing tool. Many advertisements of the day used the image of the returned fighting man to hawk their wares, or propagandize for the government.
The RETURNED VETERAN has not yet been discharged. The mass discharge of most Edmonton soldiers occurred on and around March 22, 1919. Others took part in the Russian civil war. As our 1920 Street has a bit of a flexible timeline, some of our programs take place in 1918 or 1919.
Join us soon as we get one of our veteran interpreters to tell you about his uniform!