by Peter Suciu
Largest single collection on loan to Military Museum in Calgary
Advanced collectors can spend a lifetime – and no doubt a considerable part of their life’s fortune – to build their collection. A select few have even amassed collections that rival anything in a museum. While impressive, these large personal collections are seldom seen by the larger public. One noted life-long collector, however, has opted to loan his massive grouping of Canadian Expeditionary Force uniforms and equipment to a The Military Museums of Calgary, highlighting the role that Canada played during the First World War.
“The theme of the exhibit is titled ‘The Last Reunion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force,’ the largest gathering of Canadian Great War uniforms representing all Canadian regions,” Victor Tabokia told Military Trader. “A video is being filmed to not only commemorate but also to educate the public about the CEF’s role as shock troops and as the spearhead of the British Empire in the Last Hundred Days of the war.”
A self-confessed “aggressive collector,” Tabokia has been devoted to the hobby for 30 years. In that time Tabokia, who holds a Bachelors with honors in history from McGill University, has built and sold several collections, but his first love has always been the uniforms of his native Canada during the Great War. Now, it will be available to be seen by the public for the next two and a half years.
“The Great War collection is on loan and on display until the end of 2018,” said Tabokia, who is the author of Military Antiques and Collectables of the Great War, a Canadian Collection. “There are several thousand pieces on display representing every infantry brigade of the Canadian Expeditionary Force including Canadian cavalry, machine gun corps, engineers, several support units, and the Canadian Medical Corps.”
This massive grouping of Canadian uniforms is now temporary in a gallery housed in Cooper-Key Hall at the Department of National Defence facility that is known as “The Military Museums,” in Calgary, Alberta Canada. This facility also houses the regimental museums of the Princess Patricia Light Infantry, the Lord Strathcona Horse, The King’s Own Calgary Regiment, and the Calgary Highlanders are also there along with the largest Royal Canadian Naval Museum, and a Royal Canadian Air Force Museum.
Not all of Taboika’s collection will be on display however – not because he opted to hold anything back, but rather due to issues of space.
“There are approximately 80 linear feet of display, but unfortunatel,y it includes only 70 percent of what we have to show,” added Tabokia, who has provided consulting for film and television on Canadian uniform topics.
Despite the limit in space, Tabokia made sure that several standout pieces are included, such as Major Georges Vanier’s hat of the 22nd Battalion. While Major Vanier lost a leg during the war, later in life he served as Canada’s first French Canadian Governor General.
Visitors can also see a traveling clock owned by Field Marshal Julian Hedworth George Byng, 1st Viscount of Byng of Vimy; who served as Governor General of Canada after seeing service in France, Gallipoli and notably as the commander of the Canadian Corps at Vimy Ridge. Known as “Bungo” to his friends, Lord Byng remains one of Canada’s true heroic warriors.
“(The) traveling clock given to him by his father in 1883 and travelled with him around the world in British campaigns in India, Sudan, South Africa, and finally on the Western Front when he commanded the CEF until Vimy Ridge in 1917,” noted Taboika.
Another stand out is a hat that belonged to General Sam Steele, the General Officer commanding the 2nd Division.
“The iconic and legendary Sam Steele was the only Canadian present at the March West of the NWMP, the Northwest Rebellion, the Last Spike of the Transcontinental Railway, the Yukon Gold Rush, the Boer War, and World War I,” said Taboika.
This collection, which as noted will be on display until the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, truly is The Last Reunion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.