Spirit of the Guard
In 2018, the Fort Henry Guard Club of Canada partnered with the St. Lawrence Parks Commission to revitalize the Guard Memorial Room at Fort Henry. This new display outlines the significance and the history of the Fort Henry Guard who interpret Ronald L. Way’s vision of a living museum.
In addition to the familiar memorabilia that has historic significance to the Fort Henry Guard, the presentation now gives visitors a better understanding of the methods and quality of interpretation performed at the Fort, provides contemporary information about the Guard and includes articles, photographs, and videos to illustrate its unique heritage.
Special thanks to the Kingston Association of Museums, Art Galleries & Historic Sites and the City of Kingston Heritage Fund for providing the funding for the project. Thanks, also, to Club Archivist, Daniel Rose, FHG 2186 and Fort Curator, Alex McLean, FHG 2100 for their hard work and dedication to seeing this project through to completion.
Access to the Spirit of the Fort Henry Guard Exhibit is provided courtesy of the Fort Henry Guard Club of Canada.
Fort Henry Guard Club President Michelle Foxton, FHG 1670, was one of the first women to join the Fort Henry Guard in 1993.
In this video, Michelle talks about some of the history and highlights of the Guard.
Spirit of the Fort Henry Guard Interpretive Panels
When Fort Henry opened as a living history museum in 1938, the Fort Henry Guard (FHG) was formed to interpret the historic site. The FHG is united by the common purpose of re-enacting the lives of British soldiers garrisoned at the Fort at the time of Confederation.
The precision required to recreate the music and drill manoeuvres of the British Army of 1867 has earned the FHG international acclaim. The FHG has paraded with the United States Marine Corps, 8th and I Barracks, Washington, D.C. since 1954, and performed at the Royal Tournament in the United Kingdom.
Today, the FHG is made up of Canadian university and college students who have no modern military affiliations. Diligent training and discipline ensure that 19th century British military drills become second nature. To complete the picture of garrison life at Fort Henry, non-solder roles such as soldiers’ wives are recreated by Domestic Interpreters.
A Culture of Success
Staff at Fort Henry use a unique vocabulary to communicate training and programming goals. Certain terms are inspired by the Queen’s Orders and Regulations, the Standing Orders of the British Army, adding another layer to historic interpretation.
FHG: Fort Henry Guard
Recruit: Member of the FHG who is in their first summer
Returnee: Members of the FHG who has worked for at least one season
Junior Non-Commissioned Officer: Returning member of the FHG with additional leadership role
Senior: Drill and Interpretive Instructor
Drill Squad: Infantry Rifle Subunit
Drums: Military Musicians
Domestic Interpreters: Re-enact civilian life at Fort Henry
Basic Foot Drill (BFD): Drill based on 1867 British Orders and Regulations
The FHG completes the same tasks performed by soldiers in 1867. FHG and Domestic Interpreters maintain uniforms and equipment, execute precision BFD and accept corrective actions.
The Fort Henry Guard Club of Canada recognizes Guard and Domestic Interpreters who have excelled in the execution of their duties by presenting them with special awards at the annual Awards Night.
Women in the Fort Henry Guard
After the Employment Equity Act was introduced by the Ontario government in 1993, the first 16 women joined the ranks of the Fort Henry Guard (FHG) as military interpreters.
Alongside their male counterparts, women carry out duties to the same high standards of drill expected of soldiers in the British Army of 1867. Women and men in the FHG adhere to the same policies regarding personal appearance with makeup and jewellery removed and hair cut short or placed securely under headgear.
As women were not permitted to serve in the British Army in 1867, female FHG interpret male soldiers. Intriguingly, there were women who served admirably as soldiers in the British Army disguised as men. One example was military surgeon Dr. James Miranda Barry. Dr. Barry was posted to Upper and Lower Canada from 1857-59 as inspector general of military hospitals, one of the highest British Army medical positions.
Today, men and women in the FHG perform with equal distinction. Women have risen through the ranks and several have attained the highest position of Captain of the Fort Henry Guard.
A special bond forms among new recruits as they train and work together at Fort Henry. Many Fort Henry Guard (FHG) return to Fort Henry for several seasons over the course of their post-secondary education. The friendships and relationships forged and reinforced over the summer are often maintained throughout the year.
The passion for history and interpretation at Fort Henry often continues after FHG leave. There are several instances of children following in the parents’ footsteps by applying to work at Fort Henry.
The Fort Henry Guard Club of Canada
Formed in 1988, the principle purpose of the Guard Club is to support the current FHG. In addition to coordinating the reunion celebrations every five years and sponsoring the annual Awards Night, the Guard Club connects former FHG from around the world through publishing The Guardsman newsletter.
In 1971, the Guard Memorial Room was named on behalf of the Fort Henry Guard. Officially dedicated at the second FHG reunion in 1973, the Guard Memorial Room acknowledges the successes of the Fort Henry Guard throughout the years. Originally reserved exclusively for FHG and alumni, today the Guard Memorial Room is open to everyone, showcasing the people and events that have made the FHG renowned worldwide.
The Fort Henry Guard (FHG) has earned local, national and international recognition and fostered enduring relationships in the process. The FHG is a cultural ambassador for the Province of Ontario and welcomes tourists from around the world.
Involved in Kingston’s heritage landscape, the FHG participates in City of Kingston events including parades, festivals and tourism promotions. The FHG also assists the Kingston Historical Society in commemorating the death of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, annually on June 6.
One of the strongest bonds of camaraderie exists between the FHG and the United States Marine Corps, 8th and I Barracks, Washington, D.C. An example of this mutual respect was exemplified by General Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., a four-star General and 20th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, who served as Honourary Commander of the FHG from 1955 until his passing in 1990. Both units have exchanged gifts, including ceremonial drums, as symbols of this unique relationship and many enduring acquaintances are formed during these joint performances.