Monday, November 7, 2011

Running the Camp

Today - 68 Years Ago
November 7, 1943

In order to keep the camp running efficiently, a camp commander or commandant was appointed. The first commander was Captain C.L. Knuth. Little is known about Knuth other than that his time at the camp was short, only two weeks. It was in the first weeks of November that a new commander arrived at the camp, Lt. Colonel Reginald Heber James. Born in 1876, James was no stranger to the military. Having joined the army in the early 1900s, would later serve in the First World War and shortly after the war's end, he had reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

After war broke out in Europe once more, James served as a recruiting from 1940 to 1943. Employed by Wartime Housing Ltd., a crown company, James was transferred to Riding Mountain to oversee this newly constructed camp. He would remain at this position until June of 1944.

The camp commander's duties varied from day-to-day but their overall roll was to maintain order in the camp and ensure that the work was completed. To do so, James had to regularly confer with the PoWs in his charge, the guards, civilian contractors, and his superiors. Rather than meeting with all 440 PoWs, one man was selected as the camp spokesman. It was through this man that the PoWs made their requests and voiced their concerns and complaints.

I must thank Lt. Col. James' Grandson, Mr. Broughton for the information he has provided to me on his grandfather. Little is known about the individuals who spent time at this camp but my work and that of my colleagues has offered me an amazing opportunity to get in touch with their family and friends as sadly many of them have since passed away. I am indebted to these individuals who have shared their family histories with me and I hope to return the favour by telling the stories of these individuals.

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