Exhibition Camp 1

Needing a place to put all the troops recruited in Toronto, the Army settled on the Exhibition Grounds, the lakeshore site of Canadian National Exhibition. Founded in 1879 as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, with its own Crystal Palace, the “Ex” was a showcase of industrial, technical, and agricultural accomplishments. In 1912, it was renamed the Canadian National Exhibition to reflect Toronto’s national aspirations, and its grounds covered nearly 350 acres (142 hectares).(1) Its permanent buildings  provided accommodation for many military purposes, and its open spaces, plenty of room for tents.

CNE military_camp_WWI

The late summer/early fall exhibition continued to take place throughout the war, with most soldiers vacating the grounds for the duration, but others remaining to entertain visitors with demonstrations of military skills and technology.

In fall 1916, one of the exhibits in the Machinery Hall was that of W.H. Banfield and Sons of Toronto, manufacturers of shrapnel shells for the 18-pounder guns to which Percy was introduced that summer.

CNE Machinery_Hall_1916_sm CNE

The banner says “We’re both needed to serve. Fill up the Ranks! Pile up the Munitions!” There had been a dire shortage of ammunition in 1915. In March that year, the guns were firing shells seventeen times faster than the rate at which they were being produced, and lack of ammunition was one of the reasons Sir John French (Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force) called off the attack at Neuve Chapelle. “Cessation of the forward movement is necessitated today by the fatigue of the troops and above all, by the want of ammunition,” he told Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War.(2)

Fortunately, the situation improved.

(1) History of the CNE(2) A. Fortescue Duguid. Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919. Vol. I From the Outbreak of War to the Formation of the Canadian Corps August 1914-September 1915. 1938. 194.

The images can be found on the CNE’s Heritage Site in the 1910s photo gallery.

Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”

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