Museum Scores a Rare Rifle

From an article published in
The Record, New Westminster's HomeTown NewsPaper
, on Nov 12, 2002

Museum scores a rare rifle

It's a rare piece of local history, and it's taken up residence in New Westminster.

On Saturday, Nov. 3, the Royal Engineers Living History Group presented a Lancaster rifle to the museum run by the Royal Westminster Regiment Historical Society.

The rifle has a long history in British Columbia.

It first arrived with the Columbia detachment of Royal Engineers in 1859, when they were dispatched to help keep order during the gold rush days.

When the Royal Westminster Regiment was organized four years later, the Lancaster - a .577-calibre oval-bore carbine of the Enfield series - became its weapon of choice.

Basil Morgan, a volunteer with the regiment's historical society, said the weapon was an experimental one at the time. It was one of the first rifles that had rifled barrel, rather than a smooth-bore barrel.

There were very few in existence, and most have simply disappeared.

"We've been looking for one for our collection for years," Morgan said.

It was good fortune that led the Royal Engineers Living History Group their way.

That group is made up of individuals who play the roles of actual people associated with the Royal Engineers. They do extensive research into the characters, their lifestyle and daily activities to make their role-playing appropriate to the time period.

"Their research on their history is particularly well done," Morgan said.

The Royal Engineers Living History Group happened to be in town for the Hyack Festival when they visited the Royal Westminster Regiment's home at the Armouries and saw the historical collection.

The museum presents the history of various military organizations that make up the family tree of the regiment. That display includes the Royal Engineers because after they disbanded in 1863, a militia group then known as the New Westminster Volunteer Rifles formed to see to the safety of the community.

"They were just fascinated," Morgan said of the Living History Group, and the group then offered its Lancaster rifle for safekeeping.

The rifle provides a tangible link back to the early days of the colony of British Columbia and the military presence in the Royal City.

"It's just a great gift for us," said Morgan.

The Royal Westminster Regiment is based at the Armouries at Sixth Street and Queens Avenue