Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Until 1922 John H H Jury had owned a 300 acre farm north of Bowmanville which he called the Darch Farm. He decided to donate it to the Ministry of Education for a school to house boys who were getting into trouble and considered to be “unadjusted”. The school was to be known as the Ontario Training School for Boys. Several buildings were constructed between then and 1927 when the site was completed and opened. Classes were started and continued at the school until April 1941 when the government announced that it was taking over the school for use as a Prisoner Of War camp.
Hitler’s bombing campaign in England had raised the possibility that England could be invaded by the Nazis and the prisoners there set free to return to the battle. The boys from the school were then sent to various homes throughout Bowmanville so that the camp could be converted. Two rows of fences were constructed around the perimeter with 15 feet of grass in between to deter escape attempts. Nine guard towers were built along with a set of barracks for the Canadian soldiers who would be the guards at the POW camp. The Google Earth capture below shows the various buildings that survive today. Several others have been demolished over the past few years.
I parked up the road and walked back with the idea of scanning the property and taking pictures from the road. There were several sports fields at the south end of the compound that were used by the school and the POW camp. The gymnasium building also housed an indoor swimming pool but the POW’s were allowed to leave the camp for exercise. As long as they promised not to try and escape they were allowed to go down to the lake in the summer to go swimming and for cross country ski trips in the winter. Life in the camp was pretty good and relations with the guards were generally amicable.
The first buildings you come to along the road are the two story dorms which were used as barracks for the POW’s. Like all the buildings remaining on site, all the windows were broken before they were boarded up. Graffiti covers the walls and the drywall inside is smashed up. Most of the buildings have suffered some fire damage as people have started fires on the wooden floors during parties on the grounds.
The hospital building is one of two with a peaked roof, along with the barracks above.
The hospital in relation to the mess hall.
The historic photo below was taken from Wikipedia and shows the cafeteria building as it looked around 1930.
The cafeteria building became the mess hall when the POW camp was created here. The building became the site of the infamous Battle of Bowmanville in October 1942. In Europe, Hitler had ordered that Canadian POW’s be placed in shackles and in retaliation German POW’s were to be shackled too. 100 officers from Camp 30 were supposed to volunteer but instead barricaded themselves in the mess hall. They gained access to hockey sticks as weapons and so the 100 soldiers brought in from Kingston stormed the hall armed with baseball bats. We had to keep it fair! The most serious injury was to a Canadian soldier who was hit in the head with a jar of jam. Later, German soldiers who were holed up in the basement of the barracks were flushed out using high pressure water hoses. After the stand off was over, the Germans were placed in shackles until December 11, 1942. The mess hall is one of the buildings that remains on the site.
Two other buildings can be seen below, including the gymnasium in the background.
After the war was over the property was given back to the Ministry of Education and put back into use as the Pine Ridge Training School. It operated in this capacity until 1979 when it was closed as a boys school. It was used for various other educational uses until 2008 when it was finally closed for good. Since that time it has deteriorated badly and has been the subject of much vandalism. Several buildings have been lost to fire and a few were demolished in the past few months. In 2013 the property was listed as one of the most endangered historical sites and was finally given a historical designation to attempt to preserve it. Six buildings are to be restored and in the fall of 2017 they were boarded up again to keep the winter weather out. Security cameras and foot patrols are in place to give trespassing tickets to those who are curious enough to enter the property.
I was hoping, perhaps for the first time ever, that a security guard would show up. I had planned to ask them if I could walk around the property with them if I didn’t leave the paved walkways. Alas, no security guard when you really want one. Many people have posted online about getting tickets for trespassing so beware. There are several of these cameras set up on the site and they apparently alert the police when motion is detected.
A further abandoned building can be found across Lambs Road from the camp.
The original 300 acre site is planned for housing developments except for 66 acres that will form a park. The theory is that the buildings will be restored for their historical value but the cost to repair the recent damage may be prohibitive. We will have to wait and see what the final outcome will be. Camp 20, known as Camp Calydor was located in Gravenhurst and a story on it can be found at this link.
Google Maps Link: Camp 30
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