Much credit for the original idea to create a military museum must be given to Jean-Marie Jobin, who, in 1994, was mayor of New Richmond. He had just returned from France, where he had visited a military museum in a small town. He was so impressed with the efforts of a few people to create a memorial to the liberators of France, that he came home with the conviction that the same could be done here.
A committee was formed under the chairmanship of Bert Cyr, a Royal Canadian Air Force Veteran, and it was because of his determination and perseverance that a Foundation was established, permitting the Museum to issue receipts for income tax purposes. All efforts to obtain money in the form of government grants were unsuccessful with the exception of a small amount in 2002, and another moderate amount in early 2004.
Under the direction of Phil Doddridge, a veteran of the Battle of Hong Kong, efforts were concentrated on soliciting funds from the private sector. A substantial amount was received from a patron in Montreal who wishes to remain anonymous. Another appreciable amount was received from a Hong Kong Veteran, who had written a book and donated most of the proceeds from its sale to the Museum. An appeal was made to friends and acquaintances, far and near, which generated enough money to undertake the initial phases of the project. Without the support of Hong Kong Veterans, their families, associations, and friends, the Bay Chaleur Military Museum would still be but a dream.
This building, a former church administered by the United Church of Canada, ceased to function as a place of worship a number of years ago. It was purchased in 2002, and relocated to its present site. That summer the roof was replaced with cedar shingles, for practical purposes as well as enabling it to blend in with those of the Gaspesian British Heritage Village. The head of the Building Committee, Jim Martin, then continued, with a small army of volunteers, to restore the building to its present state. This required much time and patience, since they were dealing with a structure that was over 100 years old.
The development of the Museum’s theme, the research, organization, and display of artifacts, was carried out by Rachel Dell, who had recently completed her studies in anthropology and museum curatorship. This local resident was a godsend for the Museum, because she not only brought with her the benefit of her studies, training, and enthusiasm, but had access to an intimate knowledge of the history of our area.
What you see before you are the fruits of the labour of an impressive number of volunteers, and support from many segments of the communities in the surrounding area, be they merchants, service clubs, municipal governments or citizens at large.
The overall credit must be given to Ray Smith, who, among other things, acted as president and secretary of the planning committee. Without his leadership and dedication, the project would never have reached a successful conclusion.
It was because of his strong conviction that a completed project was possible, his ability to organize and carry out his plans, and his success in recruiting a large number of willing and able volunteers, that the building was restored to its present state, and the grounds were landscaped and decorated. To Ray we owe our sincere thanks.