Pictured right: Bruce, at Veterans Memorial Lodge.

Retired Navy Veteran Bruce McShannon was a weapons technician with the Royal Canadian Navy. Bruce’s love of the military and the history it holds started at just 12 years old when he began researching and collecting military memories. 

Bruce’s late Uncle sparked his interest in collecting. “He was killed in Holland during WWII, but my Aunt shared some of his collection.” This included Canadian and German hat badges and medals. Over the years Bruce’s collection has grown to include more than 100 medals, jacket buttons, and weapons including bayonets from the War of 1812, a Confederate sword and sabre, and a Civil War era .32-caliber Colt revolver. “There is a story behind each item,” he shared. His collection goes as far back as the Battle of Gettysburg. “I have lead bullets from that and other civil war battle sites.” Of his collection, his favourite is his British Campaign Medals. “These are valuable medals, silver and engraved with details of the recipient along the edge. There’s nothing else like them.”

Much of Bruce’s naval career was spent aboard the HMCS Quebec, Resolute, and Haida. He relished his time abroad –  meeting new people and learning their customs. His favourite port of calls were in the American Mediterranean Sea, most notably Jamaica.

As a weapons writer, Bruce was responsible for recording a daily log about the magazines and conditions of the ammunition. He was required to frequently check on supplies and report back to his officers. Following a large storm, Bruce went below the ship’s waterline, to the hold where ammunition was kept, for his routine reporting. As he got close to the ship’s magazine room, he could hear sloshing water. Opening the deck plate, he quickly saw the source or the noise. Loose rivets in the hull had resulted in an undetected leak, and now four feet of water lay in the bottom of the ship. Additional water pumps alleviated the pressure, ensuring the ship could return to port for repairs. “If I hadn’t gone down when I did, who knows, my time in the Navy could have had a much different ending.”

Bruce takes part in the Creative Arts program at Veterans Memorial Lodge. One of his favourite pieces to date is a painting depicting a scene from the Anglo-Zulu war and the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in 1879.

Bruce moved to Veterans Memorial Lodge (VML) in the summer of 2020. Settled into his new home, he enjoys his time with his fellow veterans. Bruce joined the newly formed Veterans Association group at the VML, elected as the Social Justice Executive. He and the group are spearheading an initiative to create a small dedicated museum space at VML. This will be a place to celebrate veterans and showcase military memorabilia, including some of his own military collection. “These are important pieces to our history. It’s important we don’t forget.”

When asked what message he had for younger generations, in light of the current world situation, Bruce replied, “Live honest lives, and look after your family. If you look after your family, there is more peace and no time for war.”

You can help veterans like Bruce enjoy the comforts of home and simple pleasures by making a donation today.

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