Military matrimony and a metal menagerie

Posted on April 19, 2012


I recently had the good fortune to be invited to the wedding reception of pals Emily & James.  It was held at the Army Officer’s Mess in downtown Ottawa.  Sounds kind of rough and tumble, right?  Names can be deceiving my friends!  This place is the greatest!  It’s located right on Somerset, just in from Elgin, and if you live in the captial you’ve probably been by it a hundred times and thought “hmm, rather unassuming”.  But, head inside and it’s a different story altogether.  The joint is old school Canadian lux, with wood and regalia everywhere.  There are painted portraits of notable officers hung about the place.  There are nice old chairs.  There is a bar for some hard drinking to forget about Dieppe and the Somme and all that.  My favourite room was entirely wood panelled with a lovely portrait of Her Majesty hung with pride (and looking, I have to admit, kind of foxy).  This place is seriously cool, and pretty much exactly like what at least parts of my very own crib would look like if I had lots and lots of money.

The wedding was grand (note to people getting married: homemade pies are WAY better than any fancy cake), and most notably featured all the Cadbury mini-eggs one could eat.  Killer.  At one point I retreated to the washroom to freshen up after breaking several bridesmaids’ hearts and doing the worm (obviously), and noticed, on the second floor, a huge mounted collection military insignia of some sort.

One of perhaps a dozen such displays of cool military badges

I looked a little closer and found a brief explanation, reading:

The Gardam badge collection displayed here in the Army Officer’s Mess is the result of a hobby, which began during the Second World War.  Pice by piece these badges were collected at the side of the Great North Road (M1) in England as Army convoys stopped and I traded eggs for cap badges.

Christine Hoff who was a First and Second World War ambulance driver in Toronto left the Hoff collection to me.  She collected badges from the wounded and her collection became one of the finest in Canada.  It was left to me with the stipulation that it was never to be broken up and sold off.  In 1984 when I retired from the Army, I donated the collection to the Canadian War Museum, with the same stipulation.

May the collection bring back memories to the viewer, settle arguments about Canadian Army history, and be a great addition to this wonderful institution.  My thanks to everyone involved in the project.

– XXX  I didn’t get the name in the photograph I took!  Someone help!!

Collectors: this is how it’s done.  Share your stuff with the world, and never sell it for filthy lucre.  There’s no honour in it.  The collection consists of scores of these cool little badges, and the iconography is just gorgeous.  Classic stuff from that era.  I took a bunch of pictures, and here they are.  Some of them are blurry.  I’m sorry.

Vikings!  Moose!  Cats!  Tanks!  Castles!  The devil!  You couldn’t ask for this to be much cooler, really, could you?  Shockingly, there are NO results for this collection when searching google, which I think is a shame.  Kudos to the people who put it together.  It’s really something.  If you have links to more info or pictures post them in the comments.

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Posted in: The Obscure