Friday, December 9, 2022

More on the 'Tank Range'

Continuing my story of the tank range training facility, I should first acknowledge the hardship of the farm families who were pushed out during WWII.  Expropriation came with its own hardship and disruption as families were torn apart and had to find new places to live, but there was confusion too. . 

First, some misunderstood what expropriation actually meant, some thinking that if they did not sell voluntarily at a set price, the government could take it for nothing.  Others thought they could return after the war.  On the other side of the coin, patriotism was a big reason for selling - 'If others were giving their lives, the least we could do was give our farms'.

There was certainly resentment over how the move-out was handled.  Deadlines were rushed and no help was provided, either for finding a new farm or for the effort of moving itself. Harvest was often incomplete so the government was forced into making available dates when farmers could return, especially to complete apple picking.

The Sherman Tank, in use from 1942-52. 

Never-the-less, people moved out, soldiers and tanks arrived, and training began.  The Meaford Military Camp began operations.  Initially training focused on tank warfare, and the base continued to be quite active into the 1960s.   

The Centurion Tank, 1951 - 1977, and  
a Lynx Reconnaisance Vehicle, 1967 - 1993 

Vehicles changed over the years, and the transfer of some training to Camp Gagetown in New Brunswick led to the Meaford base being mothballed in 1970.  Only five security guards remained.   

However, reserve forces (apart from regular full-time paid forces) from the Toronto area began using the base informally to save the time and cost of a drive to Petawawa, another base in Ontario east of Algonquin Park.  It only took a year or two before plans were made to re-activate the centre as a training ground for those reserve forces.   

Several light armoured vehicles. 

Into the 1980s and the early 90s the area saw steadily increased use as the government expanded the number of reservists and new light armoured vehicles were introduced.  By the late 1980s major investment began to build a state-of-the-art facility, which it is today.  Over $80 million in construction provided new buildings and other infrastructure, so the base can support 600 trainees at any one time. 

By the mid-1990s it became the Land Forces Central Area Training Centre.  Today it provides some year round training for regular forces, and expands during summer with training for reservists.  Basic courses for infantry and artillery (the guns we hear) are held, covering rifle training as well as the use of bigger guns up to and including howitzers.  This includes full time summer employment for student reservists, as well as numerous weekend training workshops

A howitzer being fired during a training exercise two weeks ago, 
image from 4 CDTC Facebook page Nov, 28, 2022. . 

In 2013 it became the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre or 4 CDTC.   It offers both the military training as well as other workshops ranging from mental health to financial management.  Today police forces and other security units use the base for training,, and participants come from across the country as well as several other countries. 


  1. It is fascinating to learn how much Canada has invested in these facilities. So much I never knew about how it all came about. You are teaching me some essential history. Thank you.

  2. I still feel badly for the farmers, but in a time of rural depopulation, they might not have stayed the course anyway.

  3. The removal of the farm families at the Tank Range sounds, almost word for word, like the situation at our Susquehanna Ordinance Depot. The farm families and other residents were paid the market value of their property, but thought they would be able to return after the war -- which never happened because of chemical contamination of the soil resulting from expedient disposal of waste. All the farm buildings, other buildings and churches were burned except for a stone church which became the base's chapel and stands today; building, roads, railroads, a dam in the river and ammunition bunkers were constructed for use in the depot's mission of manufacturing TNT.

  4. This is an unusual story. I know times have changed and these things may not of happen today. I feel badly for the lost of freedoms of the farmers.

  5. Expropriation must be devastating. It's not as if you want to move but someone has told you that you must. The poor farmers.

  6. I feel for the poor farmers. I wonder will there ever be a day when the land reverts back to farming?

  7. A member of my immediate family was "posted" to Meaford for some years. They lived in the town. I think he was pretty happy to retire and get the heck out of there.
    Due to the lay of the land, I hear every last exploding thing that booms at Petawawa. Some of the things are so loud the house shakes. Petawawa also had expropriations around the time of the first world war.

  8. Apple harvest? Those trees don’t grow in one season. You can’t just move them either

  9. Gosh. Those poor farmers. Reminds me of our fight with the proposed gun range, but we have bylaws.

  10. That's interesting - it must have been difficult for those who were forced to move. As Linda said, it isn't as though they could take their apple trees with them.
    My nephew is in the reserves and he went to Washington state for gun training. I wonder why they didn't head to Ontario instead. Most of his training has been in Manitoba.

  11. It sounds like they are still making good use of this place for both military training and workshops.

    All the best Jan

  12. I recognized that Sherman tank right away. There is another Sherman on the side lawn of the Goderich museum. Seizing land during war time happened just south of us here in Bayfield as well when the Canadian Military moved the Indian folks out and took over the Ipperwash area. Although the Indian people are back there now there is still hard feelings to this very day and in a stand-off with police a number of years ago, one indigenous man died.