Royal Westminster Regiment Museum (1973)

NWHPS 2018 Homes Tour The ArmouriesPhoto credit: Paul Fuoco

Photo credit: Paul Fuoco, NWHPS

Officially opened on April 15, 1973, the Museum of the Royal Westminster Regiment is the first regimental museum in Canada to be recognized as an official military museum.

With files from: New Westminster Architecture (NWPL), Wikipedia and The New Westminster Record (Theresa McManus “RWRM celebrates 40th anniversary” 26Mar2013)

Style elements:  Located in what was the original Gun Room at the Armouries, the Royal Westminster Regiment Museum is home to exhibits including photographs, medals, a memorial case paying tribute to fallen soldiers and a diorama of The Royal Westminster Regiment’s motor battalion during the Second World War. The Armouries building itself is in the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style and it’s thought to be based on the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Building of 1876.

Military significance: The Museum of the Royal Westminster Regiment was organized in 1969 and opened in 1973 to preserve the history of the Royal Engineers, the New Westminster Volunteer Rifles, the Seymour Battery of Garrison Artillery, the 104th Westminster Fusiliers of Canada, the 47th and 131st Battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the Westminster Regiment, and the Royal Westminster Regiment.

Of special note: During the Second World War the men of the Westminster Regiment saw more combat than any other Canadian fighting unit. In recognition of outstanding service Queen Elizabeth bestowed the title “Royal” upon the Regiment in 1966.

What to look for: The military displays, dating back to 1863, include uniforms, medals, weapons and photographs documenting the history. The museum has more artifacts than it can display in its current space. Some display cases are now being placed along walls inside the Armouries’ drill hall.

The Armouries

by Jim Wolf

“The Armouries” is home to the Royal Westminster Regiment which can trace its formation to the founding of the City by the Royal Engineers.

In 1895 the Dominion Government voted to build a new drill hall in New Westminster to replace the original ”Drill Shed” for the volunteers  that stood at McKenzie and Carnarvon streets.  It was designed by Dominion Government Engineer Frederick W. White in the Victorian Romanesque style with its large arched windows squared towers and flared exterior buttresses.  Local contractor David Bain completed the wood timber frame structure at a cost of $7,000 in 1897.

Opened with a community dance it was the largest open span building in the city.  After the Great Fire of 1898 the building served as the centre for accommodating all the homeless citizens from the downtown district which was destroyed on September 11, 1898. This national historic site remains as the oldest active military wooden structure in  Canada.

History of the Westminster Regiment

From its modest formation as a volunteer home defense force in 1863, this Reserve Force regiment was authorized to be formed in 1910. The Regiment came to National prominence during WWI by training and mobilizing over 6,500 men from New Westminster and the Fraser Valley. Because of their fighting spirit and dogged courage, casualties were particularly heavy; 899 lost their lives, 1718 were wounded.

Between the wars the regiment had become very much a volunteer organization holding weekly parades and exercises. In 1939 the Westminster Regiment was mobilized for active service.  As a motor regiment it saw more combat than any other Canadian fighting unit. Its casualties were 467 of which 135 were killed in action or died from their wounds. More than 4,236 officers and men passed through its ranks. During the Second World War the men of the Westminster Regiment recognition of outstanding service Queen Elizabeth bestowed the title “Royal” upon the Regiment in 1966.

The Armouries proudly serve as the home to the Regimental Museum which maintains an outstanding collection of artifacts and stories.

Visiting the Royal Westminster Regiment Museum

In 2023, the site is currently under renovation and open by appointment only. 

Contact information:

Chuck MacKinnon, (LCol Retd), The Royal Westminster Regiment Museum

phone: 604-217–6115  | email: museum@royal-westies-assn.ca  |  website: Museum – RWRA (royal-westies-assn.ca) 

  Thank you to our sponsor – New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society is a registered charity supporting the conservation of heritage homes, buildings and structures in honour of their contribution to the City’s economy, sustainability, culture and aesthetic appeal. NWHPS does this by identifying and advocating on behalf of heritage buildings in need of preservation, restoration or access to funding.