One of the longest military engagements in Canadian history, the mission in Afghanistan spanned over a decade. To commemorate Canada’s entry into the Afghanistan War, the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) Museum in London launched the Regiment’s Afghanistan oral history project in October.
The project will be a collection of memories from the theatre told by members of the RCR who completed tours in Afghanistan, under International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) between 2002 and 2014. The project is being carried out in association with The Memory Project, an initiative of Historica Canada.
A tribute to the Conflict in Afghanistan was first included to the RCR Museum during renovations and expansions in 2012. The permanent exhibition included informative displays and pieces from the combat zone. However, Executive Director of the Museum, Dr. Georgiana Stanciu felt there was something missing.
“At the time, as I was putting together the exhibition, I really didn’t have the luxury of the academic research that would give structured information and make it easier for the public to interpret. So, it was a lot of going around and asking ‘how did it happen? What did you here and there? What were your locations?’ so on and so forth. As I was going through the process I realized that the recording of the opinions, impressions and memories is absolutely necessary, and it must be part of the project.” said Stanciu.
Currently, the museum is in the process of interviewing members of the RCR, hoping to finish the interview portion by winter. Though Stanciu wishes they could interview everyone, resources only allow that the key figures in the conflict from RCR will be interviewed. These figures range from senior leadership to members of battle groups. There is no date yet for when the project will be completed.
Once compiled, the recollections will become part of the museum’s Conflict in Afghanistan permanent display and digitally archived for future generations.
“It’s definitely an important piece of Canadian contemporary history, military and otherwise. It spans over ten years and in our particular case the RCR had a really important role,” noted Stanciu.
The RCR played a significant role in the conflict, says Stanciu, suffering heavy casualties. Out of the 155 CAF members who lost their lives in Afghanistan, 27 were RCR members and 28 were in units that fought in the RCR battle groups.
Since the beginning of the mission, more than 40,000 CAF members have deployed to Afghanistan, making it the largest deployment of personnel since the Second World War.
Stanciu is hoping the oral project will help educate and create awareness amongst the general public about the mission in Afghanistan.
“We really hope to attract the public interest to the conflict itself…after all these are people who leave their families to go and do their duty. There is a lot of personal component to it. It’s still a work in progress, but I am confident there will be some buzz about it,” said Stanciu.