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Bomb Girls – Mural celebrates the legacy of Scarborough’s long-vanished GECO Munitions Plant

October 2021

In September 1941, a 225 acre property in what was then called Scarborough Township, became the home to Allied War Supplies Corporation’s Project No. 24, a munitions plant operated by the General Electric Company of Canada.

Known locally as GECO, the complex consisted of 172 buildings on both sides of Warden Avenue, south of Eglington Street, that were used for fuse and primer-filling of munitions, destined for the war.  Built from wood in seven months, the buildings were intended to be temporary, just for the duration of the war, with an anticipated five year lifespan.

The GECO Plant was GECO essentially a “mini-city” comprising a hospital, a cafeteria that served 1,100 meals every thirty minutes during the lunch rush, two fire halls, and extensive extra-curricular activities to help boost morale. The buildings were erected in just seven months, constructed from wood, and intended to be temporary.

By the time GECO plant closed, not long after the war in Europe ended on 7 May 1945, over 256 million units of ammunition had been filled. Surprisingly, there were no fatal accidents, a rare accomplishment and a testament to the over 21,000 employees, most of whom were women, who worked with high explosives and gunpowder twenty-four hours a day, six days a week, for four years straight.

The property and the buildings were sold to Scarborough Township in 1948, who moved some of their municipal office to the vacated buildings. Some buildings were demolished or moved, while the rest were turned into an industrial park.

Approximately twenty the original GECO buildings remain today, not bad for temporary buildings, scattered amongst dozens of new industrial and institutional buildings, including the Toronto East Detention Centre.

In 2014, a mural was painted on a bridge abutment on St. Clair Avenue, east of Warden Avenue, depicting some of the female workers, along with some of the GECO buildings.

Sources: Bomb Girls at GECO, Canada’s biggest munitions factory in Scarborough (barbaradickson.ca), (2) Bomb Girls of Scarborough | Facebook, Bomb Girls – Mural Routes, “Abandoned Military Installations of Canada Volume I: Ontario,” by Paul Ozorak.

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.

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