I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited military museums in three different countries in my lifetime; visits which were both educational and incredibly fun. But I don’t have to travel any kind of distance at all to find a good military museum- there’s one only half an hour from my house, located in the grounds of Canadian Forces Base Borden! CFB Borden used to have two runways and served as a major training base for the RCAF; nowadays, it is home to the usually-biannual Borden Air Show. Sometimes CH-146 Griffin helicopters fly into the base, but today most of Borden’s activity is found on its rifle ranges and infantry training courses, or in its many buildings.
Provincial flags at Base Borden’s busiest entrance
Although the base is much quieter now than it used to be in the Second World War or Cold War, it’s still a fascinating place. Military equipment (like a Sherman flail tank, CF-101 Voodoo, and Soviet T-72 tank, to name a few examples) is scattered around the base, and the Base Borden Military Museum is an unassuming yet wonderful attraction. I was there this past September, and was pleasantly surprised by the newly-expanded museum!
A CF-5 Freedom Fighter sits beside the museum parking lot
The museum is housed in an expansive new hangar-type building; half of which contains vehicles and military firearms, with the other half containing collections of militaria, a CT-114 Tutor cockpit, a CF-5, and a huge array of aircraft scale models.
A lovely olive drab army truck from World War II
This Harley Davidson motorcycle harks from 1942
Close-up of a WWII-vintage Triumph motorcycle
I was very surprised at the wide range of artifacts and vehicles at the museum. It was awesome to see unusual objects like a boxed Triumph motorcycle and inert shells from WWI- these things made the Borden museum memorable and unique. It wasn’t just tank after tank like some museums are!
This weathered crate contains a vintage Triumph motorcycle…
…which, as detailed here, has never left the crate in almost sixty years!
A 500-pound bomb on display
I was especially interested to see a shell marked “SOMME 1914-1918”. A Welsh ancestor of mine named Billy Jones was killed at the Somme, and it sobered me to think that he experienced enormous shells like those falling from the sky before he died.
A shell marked for Ypres. Ypres saw five fierce battles during World War I
Over 1 million men were killed during the Battle of the Somme
The vehicles displayed at the museum were also diverse and interesting. They were from not only WWII but also WWI, and later conflicts too. And they were from many different countries- for example, there was an American copy of the 2-man Renault FT tank from 1917, alongside a German gun and a British Valentine tank.
This M1917 is absolutely tiny, despite the fact that it’s a tank!
The Valentine was a solid, reliable infantry tank which was widely produced during WWII
A vented German-grey muzzle
All of the museum’s vehicles were easily accessible to visitors, and one could walk among them as desired. Another great feature was that many of the vehicles’ engines were removed and displayed close by, so visitors could get a better idea of a given vehicle’s powerplant. Several vehicles also had cutaway sections or open hatches, which made it easy to see the fighting compartment inside.
The Medium Mark A Whippet tank was built for speed…
…however, it only had two 45-horsepower engines!!
A camouflaged halftrack; likely an American-made M3
The highlight of the vehicle section was undoubtedly a Soviet T-55 tank! I was certainly not expecting to see something like that at a humble local museum! The T-55 had cutaway sections in the turret and side, which showed the characteristically cramped conditions inside. It seems that Soviet tanks weren’t made for space!
The T-55’s rounded turret and 100 mm main gun
A cutaway section at the rear of the turret
This T-55 was operated by East Germany
Part of the T-55’s secondary armament comes in the form of a hatch-mounted DShK heavy machine gun
The vehicle hall was full of surprises and amazing sights, and it really only got better! My next stop was the firearms room, which was another unexpected feature- but you’ll have to wait for Part Two for that! I’m so pleased that such a fantastic and extensive museum is right on my doorstep, and I can’t wait to visit Borden again.