A joint Oral History Project from the Niagara Historical Society & Museum and the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library
The Military and Camp Niagara
The first military presence in the Niagara region came in 1778 with the construction of Butler’s Barracks; built to house members of Butlers Ranger’s from overcrowded Fort Niagara. In 1796 construction began on Fort George which was captured by American forces during the War of 1812 and then taken back in 1813 by the British. The Fort itself sits on part of an area known as The Commons which was bordered by Lake Ontario on the north, the Niagara River to the east, John Street to the south and King Street to the west. The modern military history of Niagara-on-the-Lake begins with confederation and the decision by the newly formed Government of Canada to establish a Military Reserve for defence of Canada in the Niagara region. This led to the camp’s use as a summer training grounds for infantry, cavalry and artillery.
World War One
In August of 1914 Great Britain declared war on Germany launching Canada and Canadian soldiers into what would be referred to as The Great War with 619,000 Canadian troops fighting in Europe. Camp Niagara and the Commons became the summer training grounds for the Second Division and also served as a training camp for a group of expatriate Poles and Polish Americans in 1917. Many citizens recall the early morning bugle reveille for the soldiers and their Sunday church parades, as well as processions to and from the steamship dock in Niagara-on -the-Lake or the train station on King Street.
World War Two
Between the First and Second World Wars the camp served as summer training grounds for the Royal Canadian Regiment and the Royal Canadian Dragoons. The camp grounds were also used by cadets from the local high school as well as members of the Canadian Officers Training Corps. In 1939 with the threat of war from Europe the Camp once again became the site of active training for military duty. Once again locals were treated to parades of soldiers and military bands, the early morning reveille, and the excitement of Saturday night dances in the Simcoe Park pavilion. With the end of the Second World War the camp continued to be used as a summer training grounds and was also the location for the 1955 World Boy Scout Jamboree. In 1966 the Camp was officially closed ending the town’s identity as a modern military town. Today the only place in Niagara-on-the-Lake to see a military parade is at the restored Fort George where British “Red Coats” re-enact military life in 1812.
Margo Fyfe – Camp Niagara
Anne Buyers – The Military in Niagara-on-the-Lake (Audio Only)
Bert Hall – Camp Niagara (Audio Only)
Bill and Beryl Fowler – The War Years in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Farmerettes (Audio Only)
Butch Grimwood – Camp Niagara (Audio Only)
Calvin Rand – Camp Niagara (Audio Only)
Joan Cooper Elliot – The War Years in Niagara (Audio Only)
Kathleen Toye – The Troops in Niagara (Audio Only)
Margaret Jennings – Operating Ambulances During World War Two (Audio Only)
Mike Dietsch – Military Parades (Audio Only)
Nick Marino – Naval Service and Post War Work (Audio Only)
Terry Boulton – The Military in Camp Niagara (Audio Only)