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Orillia’s forgotten army camp

May 2007

Orillia is a city on the edge of cottage country that provides big city
conveniences with a small town charm. The city and the surrounding area
feature a variety of recreational and cultural activities for both residents
and the thousands of people who visit each year. During the Second World
War, Orillia played host to a different group of visitors: the Canadian
Army.

With the outbreak of World War II, the Canadian Army found itself with the
monstrous task of training recruits for the theatres of battle. At the time,
the Permanent Force army had only 4,261 officers and men. The Non-Permanent
Active Militia (the reserve force) had 51,000 soldiers, but most were only
partially trained and ill-equipped for fighting a war. As a result,
numerous Army training camps sprang up across the province to upgrade the
militia and train fresh recruits.

Orillia’s army camp, officially designated as No. 26 Canadian Army (Basic)
Training Centre, opened in April 1942. This sprawling camp was built on
land locally known as the Quinn farm, roughly bordered by Rynard, Brant,
North and Lawrence Streets today, adjacent to the West Street Armoury, which
itself dates back to September 1913, just prior to the First World War.

Initially the camp trained strictly infantry soldiers, but November 1943,
when the focus changed to Armoured Corps (tanks) recruits. This proved to
be a short change as later, the camp was once again training infantry
troops, along with the Armoured troops. By November 1944, the camp was
re-designated as solely an infantry-training centre.

Throughout the war, the camp went through several name changes; No. 26
Canadian Armoured Corps (Basic) Training Centre (1943-44), No. 26 Canadian
Infantry (Basic) Training Centre (1944-45) and finally the 13th Infantry
Training Battalion (1945-46). Unofficially though, the camp was also known
as Champlain Barracks.

Over the course of the war, over 730,000 would serve in the Canadian Army.

The end of WWII saw a general downsizing of Canada’s military forces to a
peacetime strength. As a result, most of the training camps established
during the war were no longer needed as training would now be concentrated
at Permanent Force establishments such as Camp Borden. As a result,
Champlain Barracks closed in 1946.

Today, not the slightest trace remains of Orillia’s forgotten army camp.
All 42 buildings were sold to private interests and either moved or
demolished. The barracks, classroom, drill hall and administration
buildings have been replaced by tree lined residential streets, commercial
development and schools.

 

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: http://militarybruce.com/orillias-forgotten-army-camp-2/

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