The Armories in Toronto, surrounded by recruiting tents, were so busy from the time war had been declared that the only logical thing to do, to provide for all the units recruited from the city, was to turn the Exhibition Grounds into a military camp.
The Grounds were the lakeshore site of the Canadian National Exhibition, which had been founded in 1879 as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, with its own Crystal Palace to display industrial and agricultural progress and accomplishments. Renamed in 1912 to reflect national aspirations, it covered 350 acres (142 hectares), and provided space in its various buildings for military purposes, and room for tents as well. The Exhibition continued to be held each autumn, with many of the soldiers vacating the camp to make way for visitors, but many remaining to provide demonstrations of up-to-the minute military techniques and activities.(1)
One of the exhibits in the Industrial Hall during the 1916 CNE was that of W.H. Banfield and Sons, who were engaged in manufacturing shrapnel shells for the 18-pounder artillery guns that Percy would learn to fire during the summer of 1916.
“We’re both needed,” says the banner: “Fill up the ranks! Pile up the munitions!” In 1915 shells had been rationed at the front: in March of that year, “the rate of expenditure [being] seventeen times as great as the rate of production,” the attack on Neuve Chapelle was halted. “Cessation of the forward movement is necessitated today by the fatigue of the troops and above all, by the want of ammunition,” Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, told Lord Kitchener, British Secretary of State for War.(2)
Fortunate, production — as well as demand — would increase dramatically.
(1) The CNE and the Great War
(2) A. Fortescue Duguid, Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919. Vol. 1 From the Outbreak of War to the Formation of the Canadian Corps August 1914-September 1915. 1938. 194
The images come from the CNE’s heritage site.