Fort Henry Guard set to mark 85th anniversary

The epaulette of the Fort Henry Guard on their “midnight blue” uniform. Photo by Jeff Stewart.

While the stone walls of old Fort Henry date back over 185 years, those who pound those stones with their well-polished boots as they go about their daily drills did not arrive at the fort until 20th Century.

None the less, it is they who bring Fort Henry alive, for without the Fort Henry Guard, the landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site wouldn’t be half the glimpse into the early happenings of Kingston – and Canada – that it is. And their legacy, now 85 years in the making, is far from insignificant, particularly in terms of the things that define Kingston’s modern history.

As such, the Fort Henry Guard will celebrate their 85th anniversary this coming weekend on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. The event will recognize the first parade of the Fort Henry Guard, which took place on August 1, 1938.

Since that date in 1938, millions of tourists have visited Fort Henry, with many of those tourists citing the parade of the Fort Henry Guard as the highlight. According to the Fort Henry Guard Club, the Guard have paraded in venues ranging from the Royal Tournaments in London, England, to the Marine Barracks of Washington, DC, to Parliament Hill in Ottawa. To mark their 85th anniversary, a Sunset Ceremony will take place at Fort Henry on August 5, 2023, at 7:30 p.m.

The Fort Henry Guard then and now: On the left, members of the Guard on the opening day of Fort Henry in August 1938 (Photo via Fort Henry Guard Club). On the right, the modern Fort Henry Guard inside the same walls some 80+ years later (Photo by Dennis Jarvis).

This will also be the first Sunset Ceremony of the 2023 season, the Fort Henry Guard (FHG) Club shared. The ceremony will include performances of the Fifes and Drums, the Drill Squad, and the Artillery detachments of the FHG, as well as a special event: a march-past of FHG alumni, who are coming together over the anniversary weekend for a reunion.

Of course, the Sunset Ceremony with conclude with a fireworks display, marking the 85th anniversary of the FHG, and the start of the 2023 Sunset Ceremony season.

“This is a significant milestone for the Fort Henry Guard and we are looking forward to marking the occasion,” said Michael Murphy, President of the Fort Henry Guard Club of Canada, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for the tourism sector.

“It is wonderful to have this opportunity to come together and celebrate the 85th anniversary.”

The Artillery of the Fort Henry Guard perform with military precision. Photo via Fort Henry.

Fort Henry was  built from 1832 to 1837, one of the central parts of a network of fortifications built to defend Kingston and the Rideau Canal against attacks from the south. The fort was decommissioned in the 1890s, sadly left to fall into disrepair. However, from 1936 to 1938, Fort Henry was restored, under the direction of Ronald L. Way. Way’s vision allowed Fort Henry to open in 1938 as a “living history” museum, where civilian interpreters – the Fort Henry Guard – were trained using military drill manuals from the 1867 period.

“When Fort Henry opened as a museum, the concept of interpreters in costume bringing history to life was revolutionary,” Murphy expressed.

“While the addition of new exhibits and programs means that there’s always something new to see at Fort Henry, we are proud that the Fort Henry Guard continues to play a crucial role.”

Tickets for Saturday’s Sunset Ceremony in honour of the 85th anniversary of the Fort Henry Guard are available through the Fort Henry website, as are tickets for Sunset Ceremonies on Wednesday evenings through the remainder of August.

The epaulette of the Fort Henry Guard on their shoulder of their “Infantry Red” uniforms. Photo by Jeff Stewart.

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