Les Voltigeurs save their colours

Musicians determined to perform despite losing their instruments and uniforms

True to their training, members of Quebec's Les Voltigeurs regiment remained courageous during and after their home, Quebec City's armoury was badly destroyed in a massive fire on the evening of Friday, April 4.

While some objects from the museum were salvaged, the most precious one was the regiment's colours. Military colours are considered precious memories of the past and of fallen comrades and are a testament to battle honours. Les Voltigeurs have seven such honours. They range from battles fought in 1885 to 1917.

"(Saving the colours) represents the beginning of a second start for the regiment. It was the first thing they thought about - saving the colours. These guys have wills of steel," explained spokesperson Captain Paul Sacca.

Among the losses were the regiment's historical artifacts, its archives, uniforms, and at least $300,000 worth of instruments and a number of one-of-a-kind musical partitions. More will be known about items salvaged in the coming days.

Those instruments were to serve their musicians for two upcoming concerts - one April 19 and the other on Sunday, April 6, in Ancienne-Lorette.

"They are determined to perform, no matter what," said Sacca. The musicians, who will be dressed in civilian clothes, are looking for replacement instruments, and the shows will take place.

"I was impressed by their dignity and courage," said Sacca.

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeame's statement about rebuilding the armoury "was encouraging, and a much-needed balm," added Sacca.

In this 400th anniversary year, Sacca agreed that the loss of the armoury is huge for more than just the military community.

"This is an enormous loss on three levels," explained Sacca. "First for the military community, second for the civilian community - we've just lost one of the most beautiful buildings in Quebec City - and for the tourist community. This was one of the most photographed buildings in the city. It was designed by architect Eugene-Étienne Taché, the same man who designed the National Assembly. Lots of people were in shock."

Sacca confirmed that the building was "in a constant state of repair, given its age (and historic significance) and inspected regularly and closely. It contained the largest wooden ceiling in Canada."