What military badge has in its design a replica of the Acadian chapel at Grand Pre, our provincial flower and the world-famous Bluenose?
Old sweats, badge collectors and military buffs will correctly answer this question; they will also name the Nova Scotian who designed the badge, adding that he had an Annapolis Valley, or to be explicit a Kings County connection.
Until a few days ago I knew none of these facts about the badge worn for over half a century by the West Nova Scotia Regiment, or as it is more commonly known, the West Novies. Gordon Hansford and I were doodling around with accordions in his kitchen when he told me about the badge that was designed by a Liverpool native, Francis W. “Skip” McCarthy. The symbols in the badge, the Grand Pre church and the Bluenose, stand for the areas where the West Novas originated. McCarthy designed the badge in 1936, the year the regiment was formed, his design being selected over others in a competition.
The various symbols in McCarthy’s design stand for more than the origins of the West Novas regiment. In effect, the symbols are a mini-history that represent Nova Scotia traditions. Across the face of the badge is the cross of St. Andrew, for example. The cross was taken from the ancient provincial flag and I assume is meant to acknowledge our Scottish connection.
When McCarthy designed the badge, Nova Scotia was the easternmost province (now it’s Newfoundland) and was the first place to greet the sun on a Canadian day. The eight-point sunburst McCarthy placed on the badge represents the first Canadian dawn and was correct at the time of the design. In the four triangles formed by the St. Andrew’s cross McCarthy placed the Grand Pre chapel and the Bluenose at top and bottom, and on the right and left segments our provincial floral emblem, the Mayflower.
The inclusion of the Grand Pre scene and the Bluenose are appropriate in that they represent the Annapolis Valley and South Shore origins of the West Novas. Formed in 1936, the West Novas were an amalgamation of the Lunenburg Regiments (hence the Bluenose) and the Annapolis Regiment, which is represented by the Grand Pre church.
In his history of the West Novas, Thomas H. Raddall explains that the Bluenose in the regiment’s badge symbolizes the seafaring communities of the South Shore and their old established militia companies. Raddall contends that the replica of the Acadian chapel represents the Annapolis Valley in general and the “ancient Acadian militia companies” in particular. It seems unusual that McCarthy purposely intended to represent the Acadian militia in his badge design but we have to take Raddall’s word for it. Raddall and McCarthy both lived in Liverpool and may have discussed the purpose of the symbols in the badge.
Raddall’s reference to the South Shore militia companies being old is correct. The West Novas can trace their lineage to military units that served in Nova Scotia as early as 1717. And possibly there may be more than we realize to Francis W. McCarthy’s inclusion of the Grand Pre church in his design. One of the military regiments from which the West Novas traces its lineage assisted in the deportation of the Acadians at Grand Pre.
A prisoner of war for five years, Francis W. McCarthy died of tuberculosis at the Nova Scotia Sanatorium in Kentville. His date of death is given in one source as 1947 and in another as 1950. While he designed the West Nova badge while a private in the unit, McCarthy served in another regiment during the war.