'Canada' my favourite site of all time.
The site we dig on a fairly regular basis is not in fact in Canada, but a World War One training ground and assembly area in the UK. This site as you will see has given us not only some fantastic finds, but also revealed some truly amazing stories attributed to these items. On top of that, it has taken me on a quest to put right an error made a 100 years ago.
The sites history as for as ERH is regarded starts with our good friend Matt Sabourn, who discovered this site, worked his magic and got the ball rolling. He invited us down, sadly I didn't make the first trip that Jay and Alan went to Canada. However, they did get some amazing finds! As if the Canadian insignia's weren't lovely enough, soon enough dog-tags started to appear! Once home the guys discovered how easy it is to research a WW1 Canadians files. With a quick search using a surname and serial number you will have the guys attestation form in front of you. This not only contains his details, but a description and his own signature. Some times, what you see (after waiting for it to load) is a whole folder of paperwork! I have one that is well over 50 pages.
My first trip to Canada started with a cold damn morning and to say I wasn't very impressed at first would be putting it nicely. I dug straight down and about 3 foot square after about a foot, I noticed a solitary button. This was clearly not
the way to dig this site, I moved slightly to my right and dug shallow and worked my way along, soon collecting a fair few buttons and then a lovely 'CFA' collar title :) happy days! A short while later a Canada shoulder title and best of all was a 2 Ontario cap badge. As we always say, one good find makes a day. It sure as hell was a good day even if I hardly had anything to clean.Alan and Jay visited the site a couple of times without me, for whatever reasons I forget now meant that I couldn't go on those dates. They found a couple of dog-tags! Unlike the thousands of WW2 British dog-tags we have dug, these seem so much more precious! I was gutted to have not been there to see those be found, but fingers crossed for when I could make it next.Like most things, it isn't long before it comes around again. Off to Canada we went, with expectations high we went over to the area where the dog-tags had come from and I started digging. The other two wondered off with metal detectors and were soon out of sight. I started to find the usual Canadian rubbish, broken NACB crockery, broken glass and bits of miscellaneous crap, but no dog-tags. My hole had turned into a shallow long trench and lead right up to a tree now. So that stopped progressing any further that way. The other two came back to see how I was getting alone, I think they expected me to have a pile of dog-tags to show them. Sadly not! Then we spotted it in the spoil. The soon to be dog-tag of all dog-tags! An almost perfect WW1 Canadian World War 1 dog-tag sat on the spoil heap. Jay plucked it out and gave it a wipe. It read as clear as day. F Jarrett 1668801 - 2 PB CEF. For the complete and amazing story of Sgt Frank Jarrett, click his button on the ERH HISTORY page.
As well as Franks there was a few other dog-tags we found others, but they were all rather tatty in comparison and a couple where barely legible, although in the end I was able to work out whom the original soldiers were that once wore them near a 100 years ago! A couple of these feature in our book 'the men behind the militaria' as their stories are rather interesting. Even a piece of comb revealed a serial number to be connected to one soldier and that gave up his story long since forgotten. Serial numbers and names would be found on a variety of items, like cigarette tins (see JG Pattison's story) and on lots of items of cutlery. One item of which belonged to a child soldier who lied about his past and his age to enlist underage, he made it too France and fought for a while in the trenches before being caught and dragged back to England and held at this camp until the wars conclusion (his story also features in the same book previously mentioned). These items the can be connected to individuals are for me the best types of items available to find.
We have dug this site more times than I can count now it still gives up good quality relics. Amazing considering some areas have been hit hard by a prick who stabbed us in the back and repeatedly lied to us... yes Russel Simpson, that's you! A warning to anyone who is contacted by him asking for details on the sites they dig... he will tell you what ever it is he thinks you'll want to hear, he'll make all the excuses he can and once he knows where your sites are he will plunder them and leave you with an almost unworkable site and not only that, but what ever he doesn't want to keep, he will sell on EBay rather than share it with the fellow relic hunters/collectors who he got the sites location from in the first place.
The thing I love most about this site is that it seems to hold all times of relics, but just an amazing assortment of insignia, dog-tags, ID bracelets, snake buckles, but also things like water-bottles, boots, mess tins, china cups, plates, bottles, ashtrays, swagger sticks... everything that would have been present at this camp seems to all be mixed up here and in a fair quantity too. So you never quite know if you going to come home with a great cap badge or a stunning ashtray relating to Canadian from WW1.
These first three photographs show a pile of finds all from one days dig. A good mixture of finds.
All ammunition from this site has always been safe, although all munitions are treated as live until proved otherwise. Grenades are empty and bullets are drill versions, anything else is discarded and never removed from site.
Above shows the best items from one days dig, regimental clay pipes, insignia and a numbered spoon
Left - shows the finds from a different days dig from 2018, not the best dig, but still some insignia and another clay pipe, this time to a civilian unit that ran ambulances to assist the military during WW1
Right - shows another dig from 2018, lots of parts of webbing, almost certainly ammo pouches, a couple of cap badges and some depot battalion insignia's. My favourite item from this dig was the shield shaped hotel key from belonging to the EMPIRE hotel in Calgary. Some soldier obviously left Canada without returning his room key! The hotel. The hotel was sadly gutted by fire in 1920, it was refurbished at great cost and continued in business until the 1972 when it was taken to build the Calgary Convention Centre.
Calgary had an interesting wartime life, plenty of troops where assembled and travelled through here and so the placed buzzed with military and patriotism. Some times too much so, some riots occurred when the manager of a hotel/bar was rumoured to have fired Canadian staff members and hired a German and an Austrian.
On February 11th, another angry mob of several hundred soldiers and citizens marched across the Langevin Bridge — the same steel-girder bridge which spans the Bow River today — and attacked the Riverside Hotel.
Again, rumours and booze fuelled the riot.
The buzz was the "German" owner of the hotel had hosted a meeting of pro-German sympathisers who had celebrated the recent burning of the Canadian parliament buildings.
The Riverside, however, was actually owned by a British immigrant.
But it was located in Riverside, that part of Calgary also known as Germantown — home to several hundred Germans and German owned businesses. Those residents were perceived as Germans but many were actually German-speaking immigrants from Russia.
For two hours, the mob looted alcohol from the hotel's bar and ransacked every room in the Riverside Hotel. Rumours raced around the streets of Calgary about other potential targets.
Another trip to Canada revealed all the finds on the right, resulting in my most productive relic hunting trip there so far. The ginger beer was the first of that type of me. Allen and Lloyd bottles are found from time to time, both stoneware and glass codd bottles. Buttons seemed to be everywhere and I know the others on that trip found even more than I did. My first real find of the day was the Scottish Highland Light Infantry cap badge, an unusual find for the site that is so predominantly Canadian Militaria. Although after that, everything was all Canadian, shoulder titles, collar dogs, INF titles etc. It looked like some field caps were probably destroyed here as I was finding a few of the tiny buttons and the little buckles from the leather
bands on the caps. We always wonder if they burnt of disposed of uniforms on this site as the amount of insignia and buttons we find is unusually large for a small area. On the far left above the webbing belt parts is what remains of a pencil, the metal part that holds the rubber is almost all that remains, it has been used right down the end! I have so many letters that were written from and too this camp that its another reminder that the war was fought by individuals and each had there own story to tell. The most popular contents of letters are the complaints about the poor conditions at the camp, talk/requests for food and the missing of loved ones as could of course be expected.