Description of Historic Place
Camp Hughes Military Training Site, about 420 hectares of rolling pasture land broken by small copses of trees, is located south of the Trans-Canada Highway, 10 kilometres west of Carberry. The provincial designation applies to the land, military training features (trenches, ranges for rifle, grenade and artillery training, etc.), foundation remnants of buildings and structures that once stood within the site and archaeological resources relating to military training and camp life.
Camp Hughes Military Training Site is the sole example of an early twentieth-century military field training facility in Manitoba and the only extant World War I system of training trenches known in North America. Set on generally open and undulating rural land served by two rail lines, the camp was established in 1909 on the recommendations of Sir Sam Steele, a venerated Canadian Army officer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Initially named Camp Sewell, it was ideally suited for summer militia exercises. Following the outbreak of World War I, Camp Sewell was greatly expanded in 1915 and renamed after major-General Sir Sam Hughes, Canada's Minister of Militia and Defence in 1911-1916. An extensive assemblage of trenches, grenade, rifle and artillery ranges and other facilities were developed to prepare troops for overseas service. The most important of these was the trench system that now preserves doctrines of 1916 trench warfare; its condition ranks it among the best preserved trenches on the Western Front in Europe and is a special resource unique in Canada allowing for the study of Canadian Army tactics in World War I. Ultimately, 38,748 Canadian soldiers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan trained at the Camp in 1915 and 1916. At its peak, the Camp held vast areas of tent accommodations for over 27,000 men as well as permanent military structures and a commercial main street. Largely unused after late 1916 until 1919, it was used for Militia training until it was officially abandoned in 1927. The Camp was decommissioned in 1933 with training being moved to the site of the present day CFB Shilo. The Camp was used occasionally by troops from Shilo into the 1950s and was home to a military communications bunker from the 1960s until the end of the Cold War. The site retains important built landscape features that reflect 80 years of evolution in military training techniques and operations in the 20th century. A cemetery within the site, excluded from the designation, maintained by CFB Shilo on behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, contains the graves of six trainees who died at the Camp in 1916, as well as civilians who lived in the area and were buried in the cemetery after 1920.
Source: Manitoba Heritage Council Minutes, May 26, 1990
Key elements that define the heritage character of Camp Hughes Military Training Site and its memorial function include:
- its location on open rolling prairie west of Carberry
- the location in the north-central quadrant of the site of a cemetery, distinguished at its north entrance with an A-frame gate structure, painted white, bearing a commemorative shield and title plate with the words 'Their Name Liveth For Evermore'
- the undeveloped and quiet nature of the site and public access allowing for views of the site
Key elements that define the site's use as a military training facility include:
- the constructed landscape featuring a complete 1916 training trench system, large enough for a battalion of 1,000 men (including a 'Canadian' Front Line Fire Trench system, a Support Fire Trench, two Communications Trenches, and a Reserve Trench Line as well as 'German' trench system of three lines of trenches which mimic German 1916 defensive doctrine), as well as preserved rifle range remnants (a little over one kilometre wide), grenade pits and observation post remnants, and remnants of 1915 trench systems situated throughout the site
- the foundation remnants of buildings (administration building, railway depot, post office, cinemas, commercial operations, etc.) that once stood at the site, situated mostly in the eastern area, near the railway right-of-way, and also including the Cold War-era bunker
- the archaeological resources, including surface and subsurface remains such as artifacts relating to military training and camp life throughout the site