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Public plea for a Summerside military museum before items become lost history

George Dalton, from left, and Randy Ross have a large and varied collection of war and military memorabilia that they hope will find a permanent home in a local museum. Ross holds a faded black and white picture of pilot officer James Harry Waugh and his wife. Waugh had an astounding escape when his parachute failed to open at 3,000 feet above Germany during the Second World War. As his aircraft hit the ground, the explosive aftermath caused the Wilmot Valley man to soar back into the sky and eventually land safely on his feet.
George Dalton, from left, and Randy Ross have a large and varied collection of war and military memorabilia that they hope will find a permanent home in a local museum. Ross holds a faded black and white picture of pilot officer James Harry Waugh and his wife. Waugh had an astounding escape when his parachute failed to open at 3,000 feet above Germany during the Second World War. As his aircraft hit the ground, the explosive aftermath caused the Wilmot Valley man to soar back into the sky and eventually land safely on his feet. - Desiree Anstey
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

Pilot officer James Harry Waugh had an astounding escape when his parachute failed to open at 3,000 feet above Germany during the Second World War.

When the aircraft hit the ground, the explosive aftermath sent the Wilmot Valley man back into the sky. 

As a result, Waugh had a second chance to open his parachute and land safely on his feet.

“The bomber plane was iced in the clouds, so the whole crew bailed out. The plane was loaded with weaponry and it set off such a big cloud when it crashed that it carried Harry and his parachute back up, like what you would see with a hot air balloon,” said historian Randy Ross, while studying an aged picture of the Royal Canadian Air Force pilot and his wife. 

“The couple lived just down the road from my family.”

It’s one of many incredible stories attached to the memorabilia Ross has collected across P.E.I.

“I have army, navy, air force, Boer War relics, and my oldest pieces date from the 1700s, but I don’t keep any of this stuff at my home,” said the collector, who has 400 war medals. 

“I have a large storage facility filled with military items that are in need of a permanent home.”

Some of the most popular and well-known German war medals Randy Ross has collected. - Desiree Anstey
Some of the most popular and well-known German war medals Randy Ross has collected. - Desiree Anstey

There is grave concern these pieces of history will be sold, lost or forgotten, as time and age have called on many of their former owners (veterans) in the same way that their country once called on them.

Veteran George Dalton said Ross has most likely “the largest private military collection in the province”.

Summerside has a storied military history, dating from the First and Second World Wars.

“Summerside had a flight school that operated under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The Canadian Forces Base (CFB) was a huge economic contributor to our community, including the Mount Pleasant gunnery school,” Dalton said of the significant sites.

Historian Randy Ross holds a Royal Canadian Air Force boot with a hidden pouch for a knife, used during the Second World War. - Desiree Anstey
Historian Randy Ross holds a Royal Canadian Air Force boot with a hidden pouch for a knife, used during the Second World War. - Desiree Anstey

“Summerside Area Historical Society in partnership with the Lest We Forget committee of the Royal Canadian Legion has worked diligently to collect our treasured military history.”

“A museum would honour and unveil light on this significant past, so we can have a brighter and stronger future."

-George Dalton

"Now we need the funds for a business plan for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), to ensure the museum will run properly for future generations."

The interest in a museum, from all sides of the spectrum, "is strong" said Dalton. 

Three Oaks Senior High School students have made several vignettes.

“Some of the students even want to join our Royal Canadian Legion committee, so this is very encouraging," said Dalton.

After years of talks, Ross and Dalton hope they “will live to see the fruition” of a military museum.

“As a taxpayer, we have to honour – the best we can – what we have in our community. Many sacrificed their lives so we can have this freedom. A museum would honour and unveil light on this significant past, so we can have a brighter and stronger future," Dalton said.

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