When the Royal Canadian Mint first called retired Military Engineer Warrant Officer Ed Storey, CD asking him to be a historical advisor on a military coin, he knew his lifelong “pack rat” tendency had finally found its purpose.
Storey has been collecting military equipment and uniforms since the 1970s. From the start, he was as interested in the stories behind the artifacts as the items themselves. As a result, he’s gained deep knowledge of what people in the military wore, how they wore it, and what it was like for soldiers to use this equipment. He is a published author and universities and museums have called on his knowledge. Even still, he hesitates to call himself an “expert”.
“To me, ‘expert’ implies perfection,” Storey says. “I see myself as an enthusiast. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with this. It’s not just ‘history’, it’s someone’s story. We owe it to them to get it right.”
Storey’s first consultation for the Mint came during preparations for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. A coin design called for a hobnail bootprint in the sand to commemorate the Normandy beach landings, and the Mint needed to know what the bottom of a Canadian soldier’s boot would have looked like at the time. Storey’s collection included a few pairs of boots from that era, and he was able to provide the design team with photographic reference.
“The devil’s in the details,” Storey says. “I know that from my work as a cartographer. When you work on a map project for a long time, you can have a hundred things right—but once it’s printed, someone will notice that one thing you got wrong.” He says he admires the Mint’s dedication to getting the details as right as they possibly can be.
For Storey, V-E Day and Canada’s military history aren’t just vocational interests; they’re personally significant as well. His uncle served in the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, 4th Canadian Armoured Division. He fought from the Normandy breakout to the liberation of the Netherlands and into Germany, and then served as part of the occupation force, returning home in 1946. Storey’s father was a career soldier as well, and Storey himself did tours in the former Yugoslavia, Honduras, Bosnia and Afghanistan. Storey’s son now follows in the family tradition and is currently a Reservist in the Royal Canadian Navy.
“There’s a lot that goes through my head every November 11,” he says. “I think about my father, my uncle and my own experiences, and I think I’m now starting to get a sense of what some of the older vets have felt for decades.”
Sharing those feelings with a new generation is part of why he was pleased to advise on the Mint’s commemorative End of the Second World War collection. He believes it’s important to remember Canada’s sacrifices and achievements, and that realistic, accurate details on coins can help draw people in and give the depicted events a kind of immediacy.
The 2020 Fine Silver Proof Dollar honouring the 75th anniversary of V-E Day is a great example of that, placing those who fought on the front lines in the spotlight while also drawing the viewer into the celebratory scene behind them. It’s that party atmosphere that resonates most with Storey.
“You can see the emotion on everyone’s face: things can go back to normal. It’s almost like the ending of a fairy tale.”
FROM WARRIORS TO PEACEKEEPERS
Storey says that, in many ways, the Second World War laid the template for Canada’s role as peacekeeper in the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st.
“We were never a colonial empire in the way other nations were,” says Storey, “so after the war, the United Nation trusted that we were sincere and honest brokers—there was no ulterior motive. That reputation has kind of stuck.” He notes that to be good peacekeepers, soldiers need to be good warriors, too, and Canadians proved they were both throughout the Second World War and after. For their concern for people who had suffered under occupation during the war, Canadians earned a reputation as “compassionate and trustworthy victors.”
That’s a concept many young Canadians are familiar with, even though the Second World War, and our role in it, seems an ancient and unrelatable memory. But for Storey, the two are inextricably linked, and he’s proud to contribute to coins like the Proof Dollar that can help keep the more distant memories closer.
He says he’s proud to contribute to the Mint’s coins in the ways he’s been able to. And he’s earned newfound respect from his wife.
“For all my collecting, she likes to say I live in the ‘Dork Forest’,” Storey laughs. “So I’m happy all my useless knowledge is good for something!