Barbara Matthews and husband, Armed Force Master Warrant Officer Dan Ferland displayed a number of wartime artifacts at the Russell Legion this Remembrance Day. Van Dusen photo
Tom Van Dusen
RUSSELL – When she discovered her husband-to-be was a compulsive collector of military artifacts, Barbara Matthews was only too happy to join him rather than try to beat him.
An educator with an interest in history, Matthews now helps husband Armed Forces Master Warrant Officer Dan Ferland organize his massive collection, going as far as to dress in period uniform when they’re hosting a public display.
That’s what Ottawa-based Ferland and Matthews did on Remembrance Day, setting up several tables laden with wartime memorabilia in the main hall of the Russell Legion where participants gathered for lunch after the annual ceremony at the Cenotaph which honours area residents who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars.
Ferland describes himself as a “big boy scout” with an insatiable interest in military materials dating back to the First World War, everything from weapons and gear, to photos and documents, to oddities such as art sculpted from brass howitzer shells. He doesn’t collect vehicles because he has no place to store them.
Decked out in a coarse First World War uniform, Ferland said he has no idea how many items he has purchased with his own money and keeps in various locations including his basement. While he doesn’t have a total, he said he knows almost unerringly where each piece is kept and can go right to it as required when mounting a display.
Matthews backs him up, doing an impromptu impersonation of her husband searching out part of his collection. She’s turned out in an authentic Second World War uniform of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps authorized in 1941 in order to release men from non-combatant roles in the war effort such as secretaries, cooks and mechanics.
“As an indication of what an impact this had at the time, the uniform won first prize at a Paris fashion show when it was first introduced.”
Ferland said he started acquiring wartime keepsakes after attending a small ceremony at Vimy Ridge in 1985 where he heard two French kids wonder allowed what was going on. He determined then and there he’d do his bit to help preserve the memory of the World Wars and not let it fade into obscurity.