Topic: Wolseley Barracks
Thanks to the University of Western Ontario, we can explore the development of London through their online publication of local aerial photos. Among their resources can be found a series of images taken of London's urban area in the 1940s, including the neighbourhoods covering and surrounding Wolseley Barracks.
Wolseley Barracks, created in 1886 on property formerly owned by the Carling family, saw the construction of Wolseley Hall between 1886 and 1888 and the occupation of the barracks by "D" Company of the Canadian Infantry School Corps in 1888. The Infantry School Corps has become The Royal Canadian Regiment, which has had a continuous presence in London since the 1880s and still recognizes Wolseley Barracks as its Home Station today. Today the 4th Battalion of the Regiment and The RCR Museum remain quartered in Wolseley Hall.
In these aerial photos taken during and just after the Second World War, we can see the development and growth of the buildings at Wolseley Barracks during this very busy period for the base. During the War, Wolseley Barracks was the home of No. 1 District Depot which saw Canadian servicemen at the start and the end of their service, passing through Wolseley Barracks for some of their training and then again for discharge.
The 1942 arial photo shows the base area as still mostly open ground. Now bounded on the east by a solid row of civilian housing on Sterling Street, that boundary plus Oxford Street on the North, Elizabeth Street on the west and the rail tracks to the south will be the familiar base property for generations of Canadian soldiers who served in London. The base area is still anchored on its west boundary by the (still-standing) buildings of the old Quartermaster's stores in the lower left corner (now found behind McMahen Park) and by Wolseley Hall in the upper left (the home of the 4th Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, the 1st Hussars, and The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum).
Most of the First World War generation of buildings are gone in this image, starting to be replaced by the ubiquitous Second World War "H Huts," construction of which started in 1941. These buildings, named for their distictive shape were, in their simplest use, two long open barracks joined in the centre by washrooms and utility areas. These will be familiar to anyone who has served on almoat any Canadian Army base from that era to the 1990s, and some are probably still standing around the country. In the upper right of the base area, tent lines can be seen as the need for housing easily outstripped available barracks space.
By 1945 we find more "H-Huts" filling in the base, the tent lines are now gone and more training facilities have been created, the majority of these having been completed by the end of 1942. By 1946, over 30,000 servicemen would return through Wolseley Barracks for demoilization. The turning point in the function of District Depot No. 1 was V-E Day, when the emphasis changed from enrolment of recruits to discharging returning servicemen.
The aerial photos at Western Libraries Map and Data Centre are provided with the following source data:
- City of London Aerial Photographs – 1942
- Photography scale: 1:12,000
- Capture Date: Summer, 1942
- Type: Black and White
- Size: 20 x 25 cm
- Source: [Dept. of Lands & Forests]
- City of London Aerial Photographs – 1945
- Photography scale: 1:20,000 (blue)
- Capture Date: September 4, 1945
- Source: National Air Photo Library