French Military M15 Adrian Helmet and Royal Canadian Air Force Group Portrait
Lisa Wilson (Curatorial Assistant) and Kelly Black (Executive Director)
November was a time of remembrance at Point Ellice House. To acknowledge those who have served in conflicts around the world , we displayed two artifacts that connect Point Ellice House and the O’Reilly family to the First and Second World Wars.
The first object has an element of mystery attached. Our collection contains a “Republique Francaise Army” M15 Adrian helmet, issued by the French Military during the First World War (FWW, 1914-1918). We believe it was brought back to Canada by Jack (Arthur John) O’Reilly after he served overseas. But why does he have a French soldier’s helmet? Was it a memento of his war experience? Was it given to him by someone he met? While we can only speculate as to its origins, we do find it interesting that this item is included in the collection.
Jack started his service in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1915, but was soon transferred to the Royal Navy Air Service where he remained until 1918. With the Air Service, Jack was stationed in England and Scotland as a kite balloon observer. This role helped enable safer military operations. Jack’s job was to watch for German U-Boats and enemy positions from balloons, often these balloons were towed behind warships.
Unlike many others, Jack made it home from the war. He finished his career as a Major, and during the Second World War (SWW, 1939-1945) Jack became an Air Raid Warden for the Pleasant Street/Rock Bay area.
Our second object on display was a group military photo taken in 1942 by Captain Robert Fort in Esquimalt. The image features Jack’s son, John Windham O’Reilly. Though not much is known about
John’s military career, we know he served in the Second World War as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
Although they did not meet until the 1960s, both John O’Reilly and Inez O’Reilly (nee Elson) served with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Inez was stationed at Air Command in Victoria and she was among the 17,000 women who enlisted in the RCAF following a 1941 decision to actively recruit women.
We are lucky to have a number of objects and documents connected to the O’Reilly’s military service – important reminders of the far-reaching and personal impacts of war.