Historic Sites of Manitoba: Brandon Winter Fair Building / Brandon Arena / No. 2 Manning Depot (Eleventh Street, Brandon)
The large brick building at the intersection of Eleventh Street and Victoria Avenue in Brandon was designed by local architect Thomas Sinclair and built between 1912 and 1913 by contractor Charles Wesley Hall.
During the Second World War, this building was where new recruits from all over Western Canada, some 1,000 to 1,500 at a time, came for their introduction to military life. The No. 2 Manning Depot, an integral component of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, hosted classes in precision drills, physical fitness, swimming, sun bathing, as well as general outfitting. At the end of their two- to four-week stint here, the prospective airmen were sorted into three training classes: Pilots, Air Observers, and Air Gunners.
As of 1941, Air Gunners and Air Observers went to the No. 2 Initial Training School at Regina (Saskatchewan) where they underwent a four-week training program, after which their paths diverged. Air Gunners spent 12 weeks at an Air Observers School, six weeks at a Bombing & Gunnery School, and four weeks at the Central Navigation School, after which they were available for deployment, though still subject to an Operational Training Unit once overseas. Meanwhile, Air Gunners spent 16 weeks at the No. 3 Wireless School and four weeks at a Bombing & Gunnery School before joining those available for operational deployment.
No. 2 Manning Depot was the first such facility in Western Canada, supplementing the No. 1 Manning Depot at Toronto (Ontario). After securing a lease for the former Brandon Winter Fair Building (also known as the Brandon Arena) from the Brandon Winter Fair and Livestock Association (BWFLA), work began to convert the livestock-holding structure into a military facility. Winnipeg architect Cyril William Upton Chivers provided a renovation plan and, starting in May 1940, a 60-man work crew began a thorough cleaning of the building. Cattle stalls on two floors of a large adjacent structure were removed and replaced with sleeping quarters. The wooden annex building, formerly a stable, was converted to a recreation hall and sergeants’ mess, with a dining room (with seating for 450) in a former poultry building. In just two months, the renovations were completed at a cost of some $85,000. Finishing touches were mostly completed by mid-June 1940. The Campbell Building and Fergusson Buildings on Tenth Street were also pressed into service as part of the Manning Depot. Meanwhile, the Brandon Technical School was converted into a military hospital, while classes formerly held there were moved to the Provincial Buildings at the Exhibition Grounds.
In 1944, the Manning Depot was decommissioned. All buildings were vacated by the end of May and staff were relocated to Swift Current (Saskatchewan). The BWFLA was paid $80,000 to renovate the building back to non-military uses. Around August 1947, the venue was reseated, expanding its capacity from 2,800 to 5,100, and an artificial ice plant was installed. It was officially opened on 5 December 1947 prior to a hockey game between the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Winnipeg Monarchs.
The facility was demolished in January 1970 and the site, near the Brandon Armoury, is now a parking lot adjacent to the headquarters of the Brandon Police Service.
Photos & Coordinates
“Contract for new arena awarded,” Brandon Sun, 18 July 1912, page 3.
“May use Brandon Fair Buildings,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 March 1940, page 23.
“Prairie hub,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 April 1940, page 1.
“Air School,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 April 1940, page 9.
“Air men to occupy arena buildings, Brandon, immediately,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 April 1940, page 15.
“Brandon Air staff quarters announced,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 April 1940, page 4.
“Remodeling of Arena Building at Brandon begins Wednesday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 May 1940, page 2.
“Fair Buildings undergo change,” Winnipeg Tribune, 10 May 1940, page 2.
“N 2 Manning Depot R.C.A.F. at Brandon nearing completion,” Winnipeg Free Press, 17 June 1940, page 16.
“Official visit,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 July 1940, page 20.
“Canada takes to wings,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 January 1941, page 1.
“Brandon R.C.A.F. Officer to leave,” Winnipeg Free Press, 20 May 1941, page 6.
“Reid takes up Air Command at Brandon,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 December 1941, page 3.
“Wing Cmdr. H.G. Reid posted to Ottawa,” Winnipeg Tribune, 20 February 1943, page 12.
“Along the home front,” Winnipeg Free Press, 27 March 1943, page 3.
“Brawn to beat Hitler!” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 June 1943, page 2.
“Hodgetts given Toronto posting,” Winnipeg Free Press, 27 November 1943, page 9.
“Changes are announced on two R.C.A.F. Stations,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 November 1943, page 3.
“Wing Comdr. Hodgetts posting is cancelled,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 December 1943, page 20.
“Announce closing of No. 2 Manning Depot,” Winnipeg Free Press, 20 April 1944, page 20.
“Last of No. 2 Depot,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 May 1944, page 4.
“To discuss Brandon Arena Building plans,” Winnipeg Free Press, 20 September 1944.
“Commonwealth Air Training Program marks fifth birthday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 December 1944, page 23.
“Brandon Arena being reseated,” Winnipeg Tribune, 27 August 1947, page 3.
“City to absorb $10,000 extra cost,” Winnipeg Tribune, 4 October 1947, page 5.
“Progress at Brandon Arena,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 November 1947, page 17.
“Regal win mars opening of Brandon Plant,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 December 1947, page 19.
“Record throng fills new Brandon Arena,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 December 1947, page 19.
“Postcard from the past,” Brandon Sun, 20 August 2006, page 2.
Page revised: 11 October 2021