Wartime Brandon, 1940
In the summer of 1939 news dispatches from Europe carried frightening portents of the threat of war.
Rumours took on a more permanent form on the morning of September 1 when the 71st Battery was mobilized and ordered to stand guard on the waterworks.
Within a matter of weeks, sugar rationing was in effect.
The provincial exhibition buildings were turned over to the military.
By early 1940, Brandon had a self-contained army encampment inside the corporate limits.
Four complete city blocks, from Ninth to Thirteenth streets between Queen’s and Richmond avenues comprised the 101st Militia Training Camp.
The investment in war not only required men and women for the services, but it also provided employment for hundreds of tradesmen.
Brandon’s civic records reveal that building permits were issued in 1941 for ‘barracks’ to a value of $97,000.
The following year a permit valued at $120,000 was issued for ‘army huts’
In next year still another permit, valued at $100,000, was required for ‘8 frame huts and hospital’
All of this construction was under the direction of the Royal Canadian Artillery Training Centre.
The city core was the site of another service.
The Wheat City Arena became an RCAF Manning Depot, virtually a complete community inside a series of connecting buildings.
There was a barber shop, tailor shop, post office, wet and dry canteens, and a 600-seat cafeteria.
They were all adjacent to the main arena, which became an indoor parade square.
During wartime this arena was generally closed to the public, but at least once during hostilities it was filled to capacity.
That was when Gracie Fields appeared in concert.
Before peace returned, tens of thousands of young airmen received their introduction to the Royal Canadian Air Force through the Manning Depot.
During this same period, a one-section plot of land north of the city was being transformed into the local headquarters of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
A dispatch in the Brandon Sun reported that the new facility, when completed, would be equipped with ‘airdromes, hangars and quarters for about 1000 men.’
By midsummer of 1940, every aspect of Brandon’s social and cultural life was under the influence of this continuing invasion of service personnel.
Before the war was a year old, twenty local teachers had joined up, and two churches were looking for ministers to replace departing members of the clergy.
Even the traditional month for brides came under military influence.
In mid-June Brandon witnessed the first service wedding, when an army chaplain officiated at the nuptials of Private Victoria Andronic and Bombardier G. G. Stewart.
Even in this case there could be no mistaking the khaki influence.
The social note announcing this historic first said that the lovebirds left the church “in a decorated gun-carriage drawn by a jeep:’
Two artillerymen escorted them to the railway depot.
Your history is important. Get it out of the drawer!
Three generations of family military history in one neat package.
Commonwealth Air Training Plan Hangar, 1941
The Hangar was constructed in 1941 for use as a training facility during WWII.
This image depicts the hangar shortly after it was built.
Source: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries
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