The Reenactor’s Handbook To

Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site of Canada

©Bob Campbell (2004)

Presented here by Special Permission

Last Updated April 2004

Overview of site
Overview and history of reenactment at the site
  Costumed Interpretation
  Special Events History
Current scope of reenactment and events at the site
  Note on styles of interpretation
The Role of the Volunteer
  What the site expects from you
  What you can expect from the site
Fort Resources
Appendix A: Special Events
  May (Victoria Day) long weekend
  Family Garrison Picnic
  School of the Soldier/Lantern Tour
Appendix B: Code of Conduct
Introduction   back to top

Relax! This is not a government document.  It is not a list of rules.  And it certainly is not an attempt to regulate arbitrarily the fun and passion you experience when you visit an historic site as a reenactor.


What this document is, is an attempt to better clarify what Fort Rodd Hill expects from you as volunteers and, in return, what you can expect from the site itself.


While I am the author of this document, I openly and freely admit to borrowing from other sources.  I will either quote directly when I am doing this or I will introduce my source when paraphrasing.  It is also important to note that I am writing this as a fellow reenactor with an insider’s view of Parks Canada, not as a government official.


In addition, the following group of individuals have provided insightful help, information and guidance when writing this document:


  • Ron Garner (US National Parks Service - San Juan Island National Historical Park)
  • Dr. Mark Hanus, Parks Canada volunteer
  • Midori Hanus, Parks Canada volunteer
  • Jennifer Hawkes (Parks Canada - Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse NHSC)
  • Rich McKie, Parks Canada volunteer
  • Simon Sherwood, Parks Canada volunteer
  • Don Thomas (President, Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse Preservation Society)
  • Sgt. Grant Tyler (Parks Canada - Military Curator, Western Canada & Curator, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada Museum)
  • Mike Vouri (US National Parks Service - San Juan Island National Historical Park)
  • Mary Watson (Parks Canada - Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse NHSC)


Overview of site   back to top

Fort Rodd Hill NHSC commemorates the national significance of the Victoria-Esquimalt coast artillery fortress in the defence of Victoria and the naval base at Esquimalt harbour, as part of the larger defence strategy of the British Empire and Canada, 1878 to 1956.    

Other important messages are the shift from British to Canadian responsibility for our national defence, and the evolution over time of the V-E Fortress in response to changing threats to Canada’s sovereignty.


Overview and history of reenactment at the site   back to top
Costumed Interpretation   back to top

Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site officially opened its doors to the public in 1962. Since that time the site has gone from being a nice green-space with closed ‘old buildings’ to the premier 20th Century military site in the Parks Canada system.


Costumed reenactment has evolved through two distinct phases.  During the mid-1970s, the site received approximately 2 dozen sets of replica Royal Marine Artillery uniforms.  In addition to these uniforms, approximately 6 sets of Slade-Wallace gear were reproduced to accompany the uniforms.  This equipment was used by a group of Parks Canada staff that drilled around the site.  When the number of interpretive staff was reduced from 13 to 2 over the 1980s, this program suffered a great deal.  Due to other operational duties, the remaining staff had little opportunity for costumed interpretation and the ability to drill as a group was impossible.


In the late 1990s, the site received a grant from a program called kids@parks that was used to create child-sized RMA & WWII uniforms.  In addition to these smaller uniforms, adult-sized Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) replica uniforms were created for staff use.  When these uniforms are not being used by staff, they can be requested for use by reenactors wishing to portray the CWAC.  Note: As with any other period, those wishing to portray the CWAC must research the role and be able to discuss the role of the CWAC within the Victoria-Esquimalt fortifications.


Special Events History   back to top

In addition to the acquisition of new uniforms, the development of reenactment events at Rodd Hill has greatly aided costumed interpretation.  The first military reenactment weekend occurred on the May long-weekend in 1997.  That small event has evolved into what is likely the largest annual Canadian military reenactment event west of the Great Lakes!


In 2002, the site expanded the reenactment events to include the 20th Century Garrison Family Picnic weekend in August and the School of the Soldier/Lantern Tour at the end of September.


As of the fall of 2003, a new Korean War period event is being planned by volunteers with the help of site staff.  This event will likely occur in April of 2004 and will commemorate the work of Canadians in Korea, specifically touching on the battle of Kapyong which saw the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) winning the United States Presidential Citation.


The site is always willing to entertain new ideas for reenactment events, especially those outside of the busier summer months. Please contact the site with any ideas you may have.


Current scope of reenactment and events at the site   back to top

The reenactment season at Fort Rodd Hill runs from the May long-weekend until the end of September with a breakdown as follows:


  • May (Victoria Day) long weekend.  This event encompasses the expanded era of Pacific northwest coast military and fur-trade history from 1790 to 1956.
  • Second Sunday in August - Family Garrison Picnic.  This weekend-long event concentrates on 20th Century (1900-1956) reenactment with a focus on family garrison life during peacetime at the fort.
  • Last weekend of September - School of the Soldier/Lantern Tour.  This weekend focuses on the site-specific history of the fort, from 1897 to 1956.


In addition to the above events, daily reenactments occur on a regular basis over the busier summer months.  If any reenactor wishes to volunteer in addition to the scheduled events, please contact the site at (250) 478-5849.


It is important to emphasize that reenactments at Fort Rodd Hill are based on a strong partnership between the site and the Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse Preservation Society.  Indeed, while the site may host an event and staff may support the event, the organization of the event itself is the result of planning by society volunteers and staff members volunteering their time outside of work hours.  Other than donating the use of the site and site resources, Parks Canada does not provide financial support to these events.


Note: For further information on special events, please see Appendix A: Special Events


Note on styles of interpretation: The fort currently encourages “third-person omniscient” interpretation among site staff, but reenactors are encouraged to utilize a variety of styles to give the visitor a memorable experience.  The site defines third-person interpretation as a costumed individual who places themselves in the historical context of a time period, but does not strictly adhere to the role as a first-person reenactor would.  Also known as “ghost interpretation,” third-person interpretation allows the reenactor to step out of the past and answer questions relating to other time periods.  Most importantly, it allows the reenactor to help the public put the history being portrayed into perspective.


The most successful events are usually a “mixed interpretive event,” one that utilizes both first- and third-person characterizations.  A good example of this is British Camp at San Juan Island NHP, where a costumed individual greets the public and puts the event into context for the visitor before they meet first-person reenactors.


The Role of the Volunteer   back to top
What the site expects from you   back to top
  • Each volunteer is required to carefully read and fill out a registration and volunteer form for each event.
  • Each volunteer is required to have a Criminal Records Check (not necessary if you have had one completed in the past OR hold a valid firearms (PAL/FAC) certificate).  If you have not filled out a registration form or do not have a Criminal Records Check completed, you will not be permitted onto the site as a reenactor.
  • Each reenactor is requested to use their proper modern name on all correspondence with the site (including all e-mails).  Keeping track of multiple aliases is near impossible.
  • The site Historic Weapons Supervisor has the obligation to inspect all firearms, edged weapons and potentially dangerous items (i.e. hand-grenades etc.).
  • Only reenactors who have been evaluated and approved by the Historic Weapons Supervisor may take part in Historic Weapons Demonstrations.
  • For your own protection, the site expects all participants to secure their camps and not to leave them unattended, especially if firearms are part of the display.
  • The site expects the volunteer to “develop and implement a vision of how to support the event” (Hanus 2003).
  • The site expects reenactors to research their roles and develop a program that supports the objectives of the event.  No matter how small or ambitious your role, you should be able to explain the basics of your place in the event.
  • The site does not expect reenactors to know all of the site’s detailed history.  Please remember that staff and other reenactors are there to fill in the gaps in the ‘big picture’ and that you are only required to do your part.  Feel free to direct the visitor to another reenactor or staff member who can answer their question.  It should go without saying that there is no shame in uttering the phrase “I don’t know¾but there is someone who might.”
  • The site has a small staff who are often busy with scheduled public events.  The greatest aid you can provide the site is to “anticipate and prepare for your needs by coming prepared and self-sufficient” (Hanus 2003).  This is best accomplished by working out as a group what you will need from the site and contacting the site as soon as possible.
  • The site does not provide personal bits of kit, such as eating utensils, plates, cups, bowls etc., or uniforms, unless otherwise noted in Appendix A: Special Events.
  • The site does not provide firewood or heat barriers for cooking stoves.  Please bring your own.  Occasionally, a dead-fall tree may be made available for participant use.
  • To help all volunteers enjoy the event, please remove all non-period vehicles from the site immediately after unloading¾even if the site is not open to the public.  You may park either in the parking lot or in the maintenance compound.
  • The site expects all reenactors to conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner during and after public hours.  Historical accuracy aside, use your own good judgment when choosing language and topics of conversation.  If in doubt, please consult site staff or a fellow reenactor regarding what is and what is not appropriate.  For additional information, see Appendix B: Code of Conduct.


What you can expect from the site   back to top
  • The site will make available information and registration packages before each event.
  • The site will provide, if necessary, constructive feedback and suggestions to help you ‘fine-tune’ your role in the event.
  • The site will provide, for each occasion, the theme and goals of the specific event (see Appendix A: Special Events, for more details).
  • Given the nature of the site and the inherent dangers, the site will provide you with a safe environment in which to reenact.
  • The site will provide you with any readily available resources that will aid in your reenactment.
  • The site will provide a staff member or qualified Parks Canada volunteer to be on-site at all times during the event.
  • The site will listen to all concerns and reasonable requests and will act accordingly given available resources.


Fort Resources   back to top

1. The Administration house is not to be used for reenactment purposes unless pre-arranged with Parks Canada staff.  With prior notice, the following uses will be considered:


  • Small photocopying jobs
  • Use of the kitchen facilities
  • Use of the boardroom (television and VCR available)


Note: Due to the small size of the house’s hot water tank, showers and use of the washing machine are not permitted.


2. The site has a small selection of historic uniforms that may be borrowed with advance notice.  Sizes and styles are limited so please contact the site if you are interested.


3. First-aid kits and fire extinguishers are located in all buildings and are available if the need arises.  Please contact a staff member or site volunteer in either case.


4. Women’s and men’s toilets will be open all day and night.  As these are your facilities for the duration of the event, please help keep them clean and well stocked.  If a staff member is unavailable during a busy period, feel free to restock any items needed with the supplies available.


Appendix A: Special Events   back to top


May (Victoria Day) long weekend


Theme: The various military groups of the Pacific northwest, from 1790 to 1956, and their civilian contemporaries.


Goals: To provide a venue for reenactors to demonstrate the various military and civilian groups who occupied the physical territory from Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River to the northern coast of British Columbia, from 1790 to 1956.


Objectives: It is hoped that the public will leave the fort with a better understanding of the diverse, exciting and interrelated history of the described area and time period.


Notes: Any reenactor wishing to portray the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) may borrow bits of kit owned by the site.  Sizes and availability of kit is limited.  Please contact the site for more information.  Also, the Upper Battery Guardhouse will be made available to any group willing to portray the RMA.  In addition, 20th Century reenactors wishing to use the Casemate Barracks may do so with prior notice.



Family Garrison Picnic


Themes: 20th Century (1900 – 1956) military history with a special focus on the life of families in the military during peacetime.


Goals: To relate to the visitor the experiences of families (in dependant camps) at Fort Rodd Hill during peacetime.


Objectives: It is hoped that the public will leave the event with a better understanding of the fort’s function during peacetime and experience of families during the summer garrison camps.


Notes: Reenactors wishing to use the Casemate Barracks may do so with prior notice.



School of the Soldier/Lantern Tour


Themes: Fort Rodd Hill, part of the Victoria-Esquimalt fortifications, underwent many changes during its use as a coastal artillery fortress.


Goals: To relate to the visitor a sampling of everyday activities from various time periods in the fort’s history (1897-1956).


Objectives: It is hoped that the visitor will realize that Fort Rodd Hill was only a small part of the Victoria-Esquimalt fortifications.  It is also desirable that the visitor understand that the VE Fortress adapted over time to meet the new potential threats to the area.


Notes: Any reenactor wishing to portray the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) may borrow bits of kit owned by the site.  Sizes and availability of kit are limited.  Please contact the site for more information.  Various buildings around the site may be used as barracks.  Please arrange to do so ahead of time, as space is very limited.




  • Upper Battery RMA (late 1890s)
  • Lower Battery Casemates (1915-1916)
  • Warrant Officer’s Quarters/Dependant’s Camp (Summer 1936)
  • Searchlight Engine Room (1943)
  • Belmont Battery (1951)


Note: For additional information on each individual scenario, please consult the specific event guide.


Appendix B: Code of Conduct   back to top

Although this may seem like an obvious point, everyone has a differing opinion on what is and what is not allowed in terms of behaviour at reenactments.  While certain issues may be a grey area (period slang and terminology that may be offensive today) and can be discussed with site staff, the following rules are not open to interpretation:


  • No member of the public may at any time handle a firearm, edged weapon or potentially dangerous item.  If in doubt, please ask a staff member.
  • Due to extreme food allergies and possible liability issues, the reenactors cannot offer any food or beverages to the public.
  • No reenactor shall place a visitor in a situation or demonstration with potential for unreasonable injury.  Again, if in doubt, please ask a staff member.
  • Alcoholic beverages are not allowed to be consumed on site.  Exceptions may be discussed for reenactment purposes.
  • Modern-day profanities, no matter how historic, are not acceptable.
  • It is never a good idea to lecture members of the public on their beliefs; whether it’s support for the military, firearms legislation or funding for the national parks system, we are only here to commemorate and present an important aspect of Canadian history; we are not here to argue modern issues.
  • Do not move, alter or “borrow” any of the site’s displays or artifacts.  If a display is altered, with the permission of staff, it must be put back exactly as it was before the event.
  • The wearing of medals and decorations not earned by the re-enactor is a contentious issue.  Fort Rodd Hill will not police this issue, but will leave it up to the individual and the group they are part of.  Site policy is that we are demonstrating historic uniform, not re-enacting;  for example, the CVSM (Canadian Volunteer Service Medal) was worn by any member of the armed services who had volunteered for Active Service and completed 18 months of service--our uniform demonstrations would be incorrect without it.  However, site staff will not wear decorations for bravery.  Additionally, modern decorations earned by the re-enactor should not be mixed with historic uniforms.
  • If you have done or said something you think may have negative repercussions on the event, site or Parks Canada, it is your obligation to inform site staff.  A small misunderstanding or flippant comment can be ‘controlled’ if the proper people have advance notice.


One of the most important aspects of good conduct is respect.  Treat not only the public but also your fellow reenactors with the same respect you’d expect from them.


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