An important Canadian tradition involves the wearing of Remembrance Day poppies each November. Today, I want to share a story about one of our clients who shared a family keepsake that became an important historical find.
Our expert in all things military is Tim Stewart – History Teacher and Archivist for the Toronto Scottish Regiment. Tim wrote this story for the Toronto Scottish Newsletter:
During WW II, Toronto Scottish served outside of the regiment in Hong Kong, North Africa, Sicily and Italy, but are you aware that at least one Toronto Scot served in Gibraltar in 1941-42?
I wasn’t aware of this until I received a call from Downsizing Diva who was working with a client when they discovered something they thought I might be interested in.
As it turned out, this client was the niece of Clifford William Baker and Edwin Alfred Baker, both original 1939 Toronto Scots. When I visited the home, I was shown a stack of paper and photos, neatly arranged beside a cutlery box.
Both of the client’s uncles were hard rock miners, recruited in Sudbury by the Toronto Scottish Regiment. She also knew Alfred had worked in Gibraltar.
When I heard the words, hard rock miner and Gibraltar, I thought he may have served with the Royal Canadian Engineers and received the Gibraltar Key.
According to his service file, Alfred Baker went overseas with the Toronto Scottish. In February 1941, he was transferred to the RCE as a driller and spent 22 months in Gibraltar.
The primary task of the Canadian Engineers at Gibraltar was to carve out a subterranean hospital within the rock itself, including additional passageways, to provide safe haven from any aerial attack.
But, the British wanted to extend the airport runway to accommodate the heavy bombers needed to invade North Africa and Canadians provided the expertise. Using diamond-drills, they blasted the rock and used the debris to extend the runway.
In recognition of this extraordinary work, the Canadians were given the Gibraltar Key, a circular medal superimposed on a stylized key to represent Gibraltar, the key to the Mediterranean. The obverse displayed a hard rock miner, with a caption that read: Gibraltar 1941-42 – Royal Canadian Engineers. On the back, was the name and number of each recipient
When I looked in Alfred Baker’s cutlery box, there it was — his Gibraltar Key! Not only are these medals very difficult to find, but this particular medal had been presented to a member of the Toronto Scottish Regiment – B76076, Cpl Baker E.A.
Today, Cpl. Alfred Baker’s Gibraltar Key has a place of honour in the Toronto Scottish Regiment Museum; our client was invited to the Official Unveiling of the display honouring the work done by her uncle all those years ago.
What a proud moment it was for all involved.