Peterborough during the First World War 1914 - 1918.

Peterborough, Ontario during the First World War 1914 - 1918.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Peterborough Armouries and Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School - Then and Now

Two photographs of the Peterborough Armouries and Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School                                            
                                                                1919 - 2009.        
Credit: Google Maps (2009) and Library and Archives Canada (1919)
The Armouries building (on the left) was the base for the pre-war 57th Peterborough Rangers militia unit and during the First World War it was the home for the 93rd (Peterboro) Infantry Battalion. The Armoury also acted as recruiting depot for enlisting soldiers the Peteroborough area during the Great War and the Second World War. The Armoury is the current home to the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment.

The Peterborough Armoury was constructed between 1907 - 1909 during a period of great expansion and improvement to the Canadian Army. The Government of the time, led by Wilfrid Laurier, allocated more funding for the Department of Militia and Defense after the Boer War (South African War). Contracts were signed for new rifles, uniforms, and numerous armouries were built. During this period Canada also created its own Navy (1910). Laurier's cabinet Minister for Militia and Defense, Frederick W. Borden (cousin to future war-time PM Robert Borden), was in Peterborough for the opening of the architecturally stunning drill hall. 

The building on the right is Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School. It  was constructed at the same time as the Armouries in 1908.  The two building share some similarities in both structure, height, and colour. Local Peterborough historian and professor, Ellwood Jones, has noted that the location of the armoury, school, and nearby churches show that the city-planners wanted to centralize the Peterborough civic power one  location. During the First World War, the headmaster of PCVS, Principal Kenner, complained in the local newspaper, regarding the regularity of fire drills at the armoury; and is quoted to have said at one City Council meeting that many "young pupils are too keen on soldiering rather than studies." Principal Kenner's assessment of the level of distraction found around the PCVS and the Armoury during 1915 - 1916 seems accurate. It is not hard to imagine young pupils stuck in class, periodically gazing out to the recruits drilling on Confederation Square. During this awkward arrangement between academics and warriors, the children had to learn over the noise of rifle practice, band practice, and the bellowing of orders from the cantankerous Regimental Sargent Major.

The photos were taken 90 years apart. The 1919 photograph was shot from an WWI era RFC airplane (from Camp Borden) during the early years of aerial photography  (wing is visible in the left of the picture). The 1919 photo contrasts the 90 years of growth in Peterborough. A few hundred yards behind Murray and McDonnel Street, you can see farm fields. In 2009, all those family farms are gone, replaced by asphalt streets and homes.

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