Historic Sites of Manitoba: Camp Sewell / Camp Hughes (Municipality of North Cypress-Langford)
The open landscape close to the Canadian Pacific Railway main line made this site west of Carberry, in what is now the Municipality of North Cypress-Langford, attractive for summer training camps for artillery, infantry, and cavalry units. Established as Sewell Camp in 1909 and used for the first time in 1910, it was renamed in 1915 to honour Major-General Sir Sam Hughes, Canada’s Minister of Militia and Defence. During the First World War (1914-1918), more than 38,000 troops of the Canadian Expeditionary Force trained here. Many of the soldiers later distinguished themselves at the battle of Vimy Ridge, in April 1917.
The site was developed to its fullest extent in 1916 when the facility accommodated over 27,000 people, making it the largest community in Manitoba outside Winnipeg. The main camp along the tracks included a railway station and platform for arrivals and departures, administrative offices, vehicle maintenance buildings, hospital, veterinary hospital, dental office, bakery, kitchens, armoury, two churches, prison, post office, an in-ground swimming pool (touted as the largest in western Canada, including hot baths and showers), parade ground, ordnance sheds, and a water tower. On the east edge of the camp was an area allocated to civilian concessions, known as “The Midway.” It consisted of six movie theatres, watch repair shop, tobacconist, tailor shop, bookstore, two banks, camp newspaper, and a photographic studio. Troops were accommodated in hundreds of cone-shaped canvas tents in neat rows. A ten-kilometre network of trenches, along with grenade and rifle ranges, were constructed to the south of the main camp area. Occupied by battalions of 1000 men for periods of at least 24 hours at a time, the trenches were meant to replicate those that troops would encounter on arrival at European battlefields. Six soldiers killed during military exercises at the site were buried in a nearby cemetery.
Training at Camp Hughes was suspended in 1917. After the First World War ended, the camp was used for summer training of militia. Between 1933 and 1936, the moveable parts were moved to the newly-established Camp Shilo to the south, and the rest was dismantled as part of an unemployment relief project. Remains of the training trenches remain visible in places – said to the best-preserved First World War trenches in North America – along with the concrete foundations of several buildings, concrete motor mounts for the theatre projectors, the swimming pool (used informally as a garbage dump), and a small concrete structure of unknown purpose. Archeological excavations have been undertaken by the Military History Society of Manitoba, Manitoba Historic Resources Branch, and faculty and students from Brandon University.
In 2004, a commemorative plaque was erected at the site by the Manitoba Heritage Council. Declared a Site of National Historic Significance in 2011, a plaque was unveiled by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada on 24 July 2016.
Photos & Coordinates
Camp Hughes Under Threat: The Degradation of a Canadian Archaeological Heirloom and Action Plan for Protection by William R. Galbraith, MNRM Thesis, University of Manitoba, 2004.
Camp Hughes Military Training Site, Manitoba Historic Resources Branch.
Camp Hughes, Military History Society of Manitoba.
We thank Tighe McManus for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 4 December 2022