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Many communities throughout the prairies owe their existence to typically one of two things. If they were founded early enough, like places such as Rocky Mountain House or Fort St. John, then they begin as a fur trading spot that slowly grows over time. The vast majority of prairie communities though, grow because of the railway.
For Carberry, Manitoba, the growth comes from both.
Today, I am looking at this community that was founded many years ago, and has grown over the years and served many purposes, including as an important training facility during the Second World War.
In addition, unique to its smaller size, it has also been the home of many famous individuals.
The first bit of European settlement in the Carberry area started in the late-1760s when Pine Fort was established by a group of independent fur traders out of Montreal. While most forts were started by the Hudson’s Bay Company, and later the North West Company, Carberry was already unique with its independent birth.
Originally called Pine Fort, it was at a central location for the trading amongst several Indigenous groups including the Assiniboine, Sioux, Cree, and Ottawa.
Eventually, the fort was taken over by the North West Company before it was abandoned in 1811 as the Pemmican War between the Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company kicked off.
With the fort abandoned, the First Nations people began to move through the area and reside there until the 1870s when Europeans began to arrive again.
As for Carberry, it would be incorporated as a community in 1882. Most of the early settlers were British, and they would name the community after Carberry Tower, located in Scotland. That same year, the CPR established a station at De Winton, a former town that was 3.5 kilometres east of Carberry. The town quickly grew and had stores, a post office, grain warehouse and hotel.
Unfortunately for De Winton, several CPR officials purchased much of the property of the new town in the hopes of gaining big profits when the town grew around the train station. This was against the rules of the CPR and once the ruse was discovered, the company hired 100 men to physically move the train station to the present site of Carberry in the spring. This move was done in the space of 12 hours, in the middle of the night.
This was the beginning of Carberry and the first building in the new town would be the CPR station.
As for De Winton, it would fade into history.
The military has played an important role in the history of Carberry during the first half of the 20th Century, and it is something that extremely interesting.
In 1909, Camp Sewell was established 10 kilometres west of Carberry. The military training camp would have its name changed to Camp Hughes in 1915 in honour of Major-General Sir Sam Hughes, the Minister of Militia and Defence at the time.
With the outbreak of the First World War, the camp took on a new role in the training of recruits. Extensive trench systems, grenade and rifle ranges and military structures were built during 1915 and 1916.
An estimated 38,000 soldiers from the Canadian Expeditionary Force trained at the camp and the camp was for a time the largest settlement in the entire province after Winnipeg. Many of those soldiers would later take part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Most of the men would join B Company of the 226 Battalion
The sight of all those men at the camp had a long-term impact on those in the community, as described in the local history book of the community.
“The writer well remembers being there with my father and seeing 4,000 men marching in from west of the camp, four abreast. Their uniforms had red tunics, left over from the Boer War. The uniforms were changed to khaki at that time.”
There were 18 battalions and two drafts of 100 officers in total sent overseas from Camp Hughes. During the war years of Camp Hughes, Harry Reid and Alfred Ashton served as the caretakers of the camp. Annie Neighbour, whose husband was the caretaker of the camp, had a coffee shop for the troops at the camp from 1920 to 1934.
In regards to the camp, it would continue to operate until 1934 when it was closed. It would re-open in the 1960s as a Cold War remote transmitter station until it was closed in 1992.
Today, the camp is a National Historic Site of Canada thanks to the intact World War 1 battle terrain. It currently has one of the only World War One era trench systems in the entire world.
By the time of the Second World War, Carberry was once again an important spot for the military. In December of 1940, troops from the Royal Air Force arrived and established the Service Flying Training School Number 33, which would be known as RCAF Station Carberry.
The base would be part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and thousands of pilots from the Commonwealth would go through Carberry to train. The first contingent of the RAF would arrive on a cold day in December of 1940, followed soon after by the wives and children of the ground staff and instructors at the camp. Like during the First World War, residents would remember the training and soldiers for many years. As related in their local history book, “The first planes were Harvards and were very noisy. They were followed by Ansons. Pilots from all over the British Empire chives their wings here and were soon sent overseas into combat.”
Following the war, the base was disbanded and today is the site of the McCain Foods processing facility.
Several famous individuals have lived in Carberry at one time or another. The town has an unusual knack for being a part of history, or people who make history.
One unique example of this was the marriage of Hazel Margaret Ireland, a local resident, the daughter of a local couple.
She would marry a man by the name of Robert Young Eaton on Jan. 12, 1911. That young man would go on to become president Tom Eaton’s and he married Hazel at St. Agnes Church in Carberry. The event was described as such in the local history book, Carberry Plains.
“The T. Eaton Company brought a special train from Toronto, with dining car, sleeping cars and parlour car, as well as personnel silver, china, etc for the reception, which was held on the train. The train was stationed on the side track at the south end of Selkirk Street. Quite the event for our small town.”
Richard Burton, one of the greatest actors of the 1950s and 1960s, who was nominated for seven Academy Awards, was posted in Carberry as a Royal Air Force instructor during the Second World War.
Mary Carter, who was the second female magistrate appointed in Saskatchewan history, was born in Cromer but would live for several years in her childhood in Carberry.
Mitchell Grobb was born in Carberry in 1984, where he started to play the violin at the age of five. Today, he is an accomplished musician who has released several albums and frequently performs with Cirque du Soleil.
Canada’s greatest flying ace of the First World War, and a legendary figure in Canadian aviation, Wop May, was born in Carberry in 1896. After his family moved to Edmonton in 1902, May would enlist in the First World War and shoot down 13 enemy aircraft that are confirmed, along with five others. There is also the belief that it was he, not fellow Canadian Arthur Brown, who shot down the Red Baron himself. May was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1918 and left the Air Force with the rank of captain. May wasn’t done with his legendary exploits and he would play a central role in both the Race Against Death to deliver medicine to the north, and the hunt for the mad trapper. Both stories I will talk about in a future episode.
Ernest Thompson Seton would move to Carberry in 1882 at the age of 22 where he joined his brother on his homestead. It was there that he wrote The Birds of Manitoba in 1891 and was appointed the Provincial Naturalist by the Manitoba Government. He would live in Manitoba until 1930. In 1906, after reading Seton’s book The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians, Lord Baden-Powell would go on to found the Boy Scouts of America and Seton would serve as the president of the committee that founded the organization and would serve as the first Chief Scout of the organization. Today, Seton is remembered for his works that centred on animal stories and he has several parks and places named in his honour.
For a brief moment, even some of the most famous people on the planet, the Royal Family, stopped in Carberry. It was in 1970 when the train carrying Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne stopped for a rest period near the Bailey Farm. According to the local history book, “The Royal Family spent the morning riding the RCMP horses from the Musical Ride, which were there for the occasion. Later, a cup of coffee was shared with the Bailey family at their home.”
While the stop at the Bailey Farm may have seemed rather impromptu, it was planned in June of 1970, with the visit happening on July 13.
Roy Bailey rode a horse from the RCMP Musical Ride at the head of the group that went to the station to meet Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Queen Elizabeth joined Roy for a ride around the farm, along with an officer of the RCMP. Roughly 40 minutes was spent relaxing and talking with the Royal Family, while enjoying fruit juice, coffee and coffee cake. Before leaving, the Queen was presented with a plaque from the Baileys and brooch in the form of a crocus, the floral emblem of Manitoba, which was presented by Kim Bailey, the granddaughter of Roy and Nora. The Queen then presented the family with an autographed picture and Prince Phillip suggested pictures of the family together. That picture can be seen on my website.
Another amazing story, from a truly unique community.
Information for this piece comes from Wikipedia, The Canadian Encyclopedia,