Camp Hughes --Designated A National Historic Site July 24, 2016
On this Day, over 500+ visitors came to see the National Historic Site Plaque unveiling. The visitors were treated to the living
history presenters who explained trench warfare. The event culminated with an attack "Over the Top" Many of the visitors were
given wooden rifles and participated in the attack. An artillery barrage took place along with a "Flypast" over the Trenches.
Bruce Tascona addressing the visitors
Pam Darling addressing the visitors as the "Camp Commandants Secretary--Miss Steeves
The Plaque unveiled
Hundreds of visitors came to view the Day.
A mock attack "Over the Top" with some of the visitors participating with wooden rifles
The Provincial Plaque dedicated in 1994.
The Camp Hughes Manitoba Provincial Heritage Site is situated south of the Trans-Canada highway, 132 km West of Winnipeg, near Provincial Road 351. Access to the cemetery and memorial plaque is via a gravel road leading south from PR 351. A "Camp Hughes Cemetery" sign points the way.
Lines of the 107th Battalion, 1916. One of many similar sites at Camp Hughes
The site consists of rolling open ground, broken by small copses of trees. The main remains of the military camp are, the cemetery, the trench system, the central camp area with some building remains and road surfaces and several battalion camp sites.
The need for a central training camp in Military District 10 (Manitoba and NW Ontario) resulted in the establishment of Sewell Camp in 1910, on Crown and Hudson's Bay Company land near Carberry, Manitoba. The site was accessible by both the Canadian Northern and Canadian Pacific Railways and the ground was deemed suitable for the training of artillery, cavalry, and infantry units.
The first summer training camp, in 1910, was attended by 1,469 soldiers. Militia soldiers continued to train in the summers up until the final pre-war camp in July 1914.
After the formation of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) in 1914, the camp was expanded to train the large numbers of new recruits. 10,994 men of all ranks attended camp in 1915. Permanent buildings were constructed, a rifle range with 500 targets was set up, and the water supply was improved.
In September of 1915 Camp Sewell was renamed Camp Hughes, in honour of Canada's Minister of Militia and Defence, Major General Sam Hughes.
In 1916, the camp trained 27,754 troops, making it the largest community in Manitoba outside of Winnipeg. Construction reached its zenith, and the camp boasted six movie theatres, numerous retail stores, a hospital, a large heated in-ground swimming pool, Ordnance and Service Corps buildings, photo studios, a post office, a prison and many other structures. The troops were accommodated in neat groups of white bell tents, located around
the central camp.
A view of the six movie theatres in the central camp area, 1916.
Only the concrete mounts for the electric generators remain.
The Camp Hughes trench system was developed in 1916 to teach trainee soldiers the lessons of trench warfare which had been learned through great sacrifice on the battlefields of France and Flanders. Veterans were brought back to Canada to instruct in the latest techniques. The trenches accurately replicated the scale and living arrangements for a battalion of 1000 men.
The battalion in training would enter the system, after first being issued their food, ammunition and extra equipment, through two long communication trenches which led up to a line of support and front-line trenches. All along the route dugouts with thick earth overhead cover housed the troops and protected them from artillery fire.
Once established, the battalion would undergo training in daily routine, sentries, listening posts, trench clearing, and finally, a frontal assault on the "enemy" by going over the top and across no-man's-land into the enemy line of trenches.
A view of a main trench. The walls are strengthened with brushwood revetting
and the forward edge with sandbags.
The same area today.
The shallow "enemy" trenches are built on higher ground as were most of the German positions on the Western Front in Europe.
An additional trench system served as a "grenade school". Here troops would practice working their way down an enemy occupied trench and finally throw live grenades from the trench into pits dug near the end.
Though much eroded after 80 years, the trench system is still essentially intact and is the only First World War training trench system extant in North America.
A decline in voluntary enlistments (culminating in the Conscription Act) caused the suspension of training in 1917 and 1918.
A view of part of the trench system in 1916. In the centre is a
sandbagged dugout with overhead cover.
The camp was re-opened after the war for summer training of the Militia. Throughout the 1920's the Militia continued to use the camp for annual training. In 1933 the camp was dismantled and much of the material, including some of the buildings, were moved to nearby Camp Shilo. The area lay untouched, occasionally used for training in the Second World War.
The Camp Hughes Cemetery is a war cemetery maintained under the auspices of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Soldiers who died while stationed at the camp could be returned to their families, otherwise they were buried at the camp itself. There are six military an 19 civilian burials in the cemetery. Details of the military burials are here: Graves at Camp Hughes Military Cemetery
Camp Hughes Cemetery Gate
The MHSM and Camp Hughes
The Military History Society of Manitoba has worked on the site since 1988 under the aegis of the Provincial Archaeologist and has gathered a large quantity of artifacts, photographic and archival material.
Because of the importance of the Camp Hughes site to the awareness and understanding of Manitoba's role in the First World War, it was designated as a Provincial Heritage Site in 1993. A commemorative plaque was set up on Cemetery Hill overlooking the area of the trench system.
The use of the land is now controlled and removal of artifacts from the site without a permit is prohibited.
Camp Hughes Heritage Days
Every year the Friends of Camp Hughes holds a Camp Hughes Heritage Day. Check the Website for upcoming dates
The Society has held several Camp Hughes Heritage days, with static displays of artifacts and equipment and fours of the trench systems and other features.
Touring the Trenches - May 2006
Ed James with visitors - Oct 2009
Paul Tascona explaining a medical aid station to visitors, Oct 2009
The Camp Hughes Self Guided Trench Brochure
Each summer the trench area is now fenced and the General Public is welcome to tour the site. Below is a map one can download and visit the Site and independently tour the National Historic Site.