For 60 years, since the Billy Bishop Legion opened its doors in Vancouver, members have left pieces of their personal military histories inside. This particular branch of Canada’s largest war veterans’ organization now has a collection of more than 500 plaques displaying various military regimental badges.
It is the largest known collection of military plaques in Canada. It also includes paintings, photographs, books and documents from Canadian war history.
Many of the paintings and photographs are of World War aircraft. Memorabilia and images from the Korean War and Afghanistan also belong to the legion and continue to flow in.
A framed portrait of the legion’s namesake, flying ace Billy Bishop, hangs in the downstairs pub.
Bishop is a bona fide Canadian war hero. He shot down 72 planes during his air force flying days in the First and Second World Wars.
The president of the Billy Bishop Legion Derek Allen wants to ensure that the collection is protected. He is concerned that the financial challenges at the legion may result in its closure, so he established the Kits Point Military History Museum Society.
The society was created to curate and protect the collection, which is currently held at the Billy Bishop.
“It provides the security that our collection of military memorabilia will not be taken apart, distributed, got rid of in some way should our branch not be there anymore,” said Allen.
So far, the society has secured non-profit status. They are now seeking charitable status in order to raise funds. In the worst-case scenario the Society would take ownership of the legion’s collection if it is forced to close.
Allen hopes it won’t have to come to this.
“Our hope is that we keep the branch open for a very longtime, indeed, and that it will remain pretty much as it is,” he said.