History buffs will have a chance to travel back in time at Fort Rodd Hill this month, as the historic site relights its Lantern Tour.
Donning military costumes spanning the British colonial era to the Cold War, two dozen military re-enactors at five different stations will be living out day-to-day garrison life, as evening descends on the fort.
“They’ll be acting like soldiers of the time. They’ll be polishing shoes or telling stories, as if they’re getting ready for the evening. They are showcasing life at Fort Rodd Hill from 1886 to 1956,” said Sophie Lauro with Parks Canada at Fort Rodd Hill national historic site. “It is very authentic, you feel like you are back in that time.”
Fort Rodd Hill staff and members of the Victoria-Esquimalt Military Re-enactor Association will be working what Don Thomas calls miniature stage productions.
“It’s like a ghost tour. You can imagine yourself looking back in time into the barracks room with Victorian soldiers eating, mending clothing, cleaning their weapons and talking about local news of the time,” Thomas said. “It’s an interesting take on history. It gives visitors a whole different experience of the fort. It’s such a different atmosphere at night.”
The re-enactors do their homework to create authentic, detailed period characters — uniforms and boots, standard issue weapons and lingo of the time can’t veer into the wrong era. And they must keep their facts straight too — guys amid a scene from 1941 can’t start chatting about D-Day, Thomas said laughing.
“The Victorians use language and terms for their time, same for Second World War guys,” Thomas said. “For the Cold War we might throw in popular movies or who won the Stanley Cup in 1951. It helps set the scene.
“If you are walking around the fort 1942, what will you see soldiers doing? There’s probably a guy having a smoke, guys cleaning their (weapons), guys doing drills.”
Thomas himself plans to be part of a Cold War recreation which involves civil defense training, which offers detailed duties in the event of nuclear attack.
“Whoever is doing the scene needs to put it all together, and that starts six or seven months before,” he said.
The event is Sept. 24, from 7 to 10 p.m. and limited to 120 people. Park staff will guide groups of 10 to 15 by lantern light from station to station in the upper and lower batteries, allowing people to eavesdrop on conversations of different eras.
Tickets are $10 and must be purchased in advance. Tickets won’t be sold at the gate.
For more information or to purchase tickets, call 250-478-5849.