Don Burton’s efforts to help restore the Tillsonburg Legion’s anti-aircraft gun monument have been formally recognized by the Tillsonburg Military Club with its Local Hero Award.
“We had two very distinguished and qualified candidates this year,” said Military History Club member Frank Moore, noting the club felt it was important to recognize both in 2020 rather than hold one back until 2021.
Carrianne Hall of Tillsonburg also received a Local Hero award.
The military club annually presents its Local Hero Awards in December, recognizing individuals and organizations who have promoted military history, tradition and cultural heritage, inspiring the community through projects to make the town a better place.
“Those people – there have been 15 now – are the champions of Remembrance,” said Moore. “It’s a way for the Tillsonburg Military History Club to reach out to the youth of our community.”
Knowing the presentation could not be made at the club’s annual Christmas dinner, which has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the awards were presented Sunday, Nov. 1.
“They will be invited back when we are able to hold a Christmas dinner,” said Moore.
“It could be Christmas in July,” said Les Burden, club president/treasurer.
Burton, who joined the Tillsonburg Royal Canadian Legion Br. 153 in 2003, is chair of the local poppy campaign. He is also responsible for displaying a collection of artefacts and books at the Legion.
The refurbishment of the 1943 Mk IX 40mm anti-aircraft gun was a special project for the Legion in 2019-20.
“The Legion acquired it in 1965 when they were over on Lisgar Avenue,” said Burton. “It’s mentioned in our 50th anniversary booklet.”
“It’s the Legion’s monument,” he said. “I think it’s important… for what the Legion stands for. It’s very symbolic and it represents who we look after, the veterans who served and currently serve.”
Located in front of the Legion hall for the last 55 years, the anti-aircraft gun was in need of a refurbishment. Br. 153 conducted a community fundraiser to raise a portion of the funds required, and the remainder came from their poppy trust fund.
“In late 2019, it went to Thamesville to be refurbished,” said Burton. “It was a long process trying to find somebody to refurbish it. The two seats were basically gone… one of the pads where the gunner would put his feet, it was gone, and the floorboard underneath the seats, where the shells come out, was pretty well gone. And the tires needed to be replaced.”
The gun, which is not operational, returned in the spring of 2020.
“I would love to see another 75 years out of it,” said Burton, hoping it will remain for generations to come.
“When COVID’s gone, we will be rededicating it.”