Sixth year in a row the Parks Canada fort, which typically serves as a War of 1812 reenactment site, will play host to World War I commemorations. Photo credit: Fort George National Historic Site
Fort George, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, is most renowned for its depiction of daily life during the War of 1812. For one weekend annually, however, the historic site moves, in the words of The Tragically Hip, “ahead by a century”.
Peter Martin currently serves as special events coordinator for Parks Canada.
“The (Fort George) location was rebuilt to be a War of 1812 fort, and typically that’s what you’ll see,” Martin shared in a recent interview with The Niagara Independent.
After the War of 1812 concluded, Martin explained, the rich history of the area continued to unfold. “(1815) is not where the story ends… shortly thereafter, Butler’s Barracks was constructed – a huge military installation that housed tens of thousands of troops,” he said. “So, when we turn the clocks ahead to 1914, we encounter the experiences of another generation of men and women who were caught up in a monumental historical conflict.”
From the ruins of the original Fort George came Camp Niagara, a location where soldiers would complete intensive training prior to joining their buddies and chums in the trenches of World War I.
“Rather than a traditional battle reenactment, like what you would see in our War of 1812 offering, this weekend we’ll be portraying life at Camp Niagara during The Great War, roughly one hundred years ago,” Martin said. “There will be costumed soldiers, firing demonstrations, a medical ward, and even a reproduction model of an era-specific ambulance.”
The weekend will also include presentations from the Polish Army, Nursing Sisters, and other groups of particular interest. “These will provide a great learning opportunity, as there is so much history in the area, and many amazing stories to tell.”
The observance, currently in its sixth year, was developed during the Great War Centennial memorializations. “It was originally a passion project of mine,” Martin shared. “I was very fortunate to take part in the Vimy commemorations in 2017, and it has been wonderful to see this event become something we do every year.”
At the end of the day, Martin believes that hosting commemorations of these kinds plays an important role in honouring all those who served and sacrificed during times of conflict.
“It really brings to life what you may not be able to read in a book (which, by the way, I certainly love to do)… but this really allows you to see, hear, smell, feel, touch and imagine what it was really like,” he said. “Imagine being in all wool, during the pouring rain, how loud the rifles really were, etc…. it’s about giving a small glimpse into what really happened.”
“Commemorations attempt to tell the story about what these people really went through”.
Fort George in the Great War will be held on June 24 and 25 from 10am-5pm. Admission is $17.75 for adults, $16.00 for seniors, and $5.25 for those younger than 18.
Nick Redekop completed his Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree in Labour Studies at Brock University. He has previously served in municipal and federal politics. In his free time, Nick enjoys following sports, taking part in outdoor activities, and reading biographies. Nick resides in Niagara Falls