The Cornwallis Military Museum has been put together as a
tribute to all those women and men that both built and trained at one of
Canada's largest Military Training Bases.
Thousands of Canadian men and women spent at least 6 weeks during their Basic Training for the Canadian Military on these lands in Deep Brook, Annapolis County, Nova Scotia.
These people went on to serve their country in times of peace and in conflict. They gave, sometimes the ultrament sacrifice so that we may enjoy the style of life we have in Canada today.
This is where their military careers started for most of them. Talk to almost any Canadian Soldier who enlisted prior to 1994 and they will remember their training at Cornwallis.
The land where Cornwallis was built and much of present day Clementsport was granted to Loyalist Captain Douwe Ditmars of Long Island, NY in 1783. Capt. Ditmars built a house which is still being used in Clementsport. He also donated the land for the old St Edwards Church which is also a museum today.
John Ditmars, grandson of Capt. Ditmars had the land cleared and farmed the area where the base was later built. Later this land was owned by Colonel Hallet Ray who represented the area as a member of parliament. The house that later became the Base Commander's house was built by Colonel Ray as his private home.
He later sold the land to Albert
Morton who sold it again to E.P. Morse in the 1930's. Mr. Morse was a
wealthy retired business man who wanted to develop the area.
He had the present west gate built and was building a house for himself, which became the Officer's Mess.
Unfortunately Mr. Morse died suddenly before completing his project and the land was bought by the Department of National Defense. Naval training was being done at Halifax but with the onset of WWII breaking out more room was needed. The Deep Brook site was quickly decided upon, bought and work started by the end of June 1942. On April 14, 1943 the official transfer from Halifax to Cornwallis took place for training.
It was for the training of new entry training and became the largest naval training base in the British Commonwealth.
I have been told that we even had war ships coming to the piers at the base and there was the threat of u-boats or submarines coming into the Annapolis Basin.
It was a bustle of activity on the base; it became the
largest town in the area with a peak population of 11,000 personnel
including staff and trainees. The bustle carried over to the closer
towns such as Digby and Annapolis Royal where they benefited greatly
having the Naval Base so close by.
After the war HMCS Cornwallis became a discharge center for the men coming home. Most of them started here and now they were to end their naval career here also.
Then in 1946 it was declared surplus; it was closed down and was handed over to the War Assets Corporation for disposal.
But this was not the end for this naval training base. The threat of war was again in the air and in June of 1948 a stop sale order was given and by September of that year the base was re-commissioned and started new training for the Cold War.
In 1966 the three branches of the Canadian Armed Forces; Army, Naval and Air Force were united under one. The HMCS was changed to CFB and this became the training center for all three tri-forces
The base continued to train new recruits until a government decision was made in 1994 to move all military training to CFB St. Jean, Quebec. The last recruit course 9426 graduated on August 18 that year, and the base officially decommissioned in May 1995.
Civilian companies moved into the old base and what is
known today as the Cornwallis Park was formed.
Training for the forces was not easy; it was very grueling and intense. There was a mix of feelings throughout the trainees upon leaving the base, some wanted to forget and never think about it again.
But others wanted to share the joys and sufferings of that part of their life. Friendships had been made, strangers had become as close as family in those weeks of training. Good or bad it had been a major part of their life.
After the base closed down a group of volunteers decided to get together and they formed the HMCS/CFB Cornwallis Military Historical Society. The society wanted to keep the spirit and history of the former base alive.
They also wanted a place to honor those servicemen and women who paid the supreme sacrifice to enable Canadians to live in a free country. They acquired a building on the former training base and opened their museum.
Since they started they have received several donations of pictures of the old base and several artifacts pertaining to the base and the training preformed there.
Several people have sent in pictures that were taken of their platoons and of their graduation for display. Others have given uniforms, kit bags and supplies and even their medals to the museum.
There are four aspects of the Canadian Forces on display at the museum - The Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army; the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Merchant Navy. There is also the civilian side as hundreds of people from the local area worked on the base as maintenance personnel, store clerks and trades people.
There is also a dry canteen located at the museum selling such items as clothing, crest, books, badges, models, jewelry, souvenirs and much more.
The museum is located about halfway between Annapolis Royal and Digby on the #1 highway. When you come to the Cornwallis Park watch for the cenotaph, jet and tank and turn across from them into the former base. Then just follow the signs.
The museum is located at 728 Broadway Avenue, vice 726.
The museum is open daily during the summer months of mid-June until late September.
There is a small admission fee. For more information or to see lots of their old pictures you may visit their web site.
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