By Neil Schneider
It’s amazing that people will travel the world to find exciting places to visit, and never think to look in their own backyard. The other week, my family came into town, and I decided this would be a great excuse to visit the local Oshawa Museum.
The Oshawa Museum has been regularly featured by The History Channel because it has a large collection of war vehicles and relics from World War I to the near present day. What makes their exhibit even more interesting is that volunteer hobbyists called “The Ferret Club” take rusty vehicle donations, and work to restore them to operation. These vehicles then get shown off in parades or help raise money for the museum by being contracted out for use in movies. Most importantly, they are a testament to the bravery and innovation of soldiers present and past.
The Oshawa Museum is very memorable because the tour guides are either true history enthusiasts, or actual World War II veterans. The museum is a golden opportunity to get a first-hand account of what life was like during WWII, and the efforts everyone made to survive the war. If you’re Canadian, it’s also fascinating to learn just how critical Canada was to the war, and all the contributions that were made to ultimately win it.
If your visit’s timing is right, you can actually get the chance to climb into a tank. I wasn’t so lucky because they weren’t set up for this, so I will have to come back!
Through The History Channel (“Tank Overhaul”), the museum is most famous for successfully restoring both a Centurion and Sherman tank to working order. In the case of the Centurion, they had to gut one to restore another. Unfortunately, neither the Sherman or the Centurion are running anymore as their engines need to be rebuilt again.
Some of the tanks looked the part – but weren’t really tanks. For example, the Abbot is a self propelled gun that is moved to a secure location for firing artillery rounds.
Perhaps most memorable were the stories. Part of the exhibit was World War I trench fighting, and our guide told a story of how the German army used Chlorine gas. As a survival skill, one commander knew to tell his men to pee on their hanky and mask their face. The ones that did, survived, the ones that were too grossed out by the idea, didn’t survive.
I was intrigued by this WWII helmet. You can’t see it in the picture, but it has two gaping holes on either side caused by a sniper and shrapnel. Major Millen not only survived, but became a successful business man in Oshawa, Canada. It’s amazing that thanks to that helmet, he walked away with his life.
If you have the opportunity to visit Toronto, skip the CN Tower. Oshawa is all of 45 minutes outside the city, admission is only $4 a person (or less), and The Oshawa Museum will give you stories and insight that will keep you talking long after you leave.
There are several more pictures from the Oshawa Museum in MTBS’ picture gallery. Check them out and share your thoughts! Maybe there are some museums in your area that you would recommend to visitors?