Canadian Battle Drill School
July 5, 2021
For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.
Training centre on Coldstream Ranch
An exciting temporary exhibit by the Vernon Cadet Camp Museum explores the history of the Canadian Battle Drill School Training Centre located at the Coldstream Ranch from 1942 to 1946.
The pop-up museum exhibit is on display at Vernon’s Sun Valley Mall.at 3334 30th Avenue in Unit 110.
The exhibit displays aspects of the training centre, established by the Department of National Defence on 2,250 acres of land leased from the Coldstream Ranch.
First of its kind in Canada
The first of its kind in Canada, this training centre was a valuable contribution to Canada’s war efforts.
There was a personal motivation for the ranch’s manager, Thomas Hill, and the ranch’s owners. During the course of World War Two, 35 employees of the ranch enlisted for service overseas, with six never returning home.
Soldiers crawling through a trench filled with mud and water at the Canadian Battle Drill School at the Coldstream Ranch. In the background, instructors watch over the proceedings. (1944)
Arguably, one of the most interesting components of the Battle Drill School was its intense assault course, used to train soldiers in the maneuvering of hazardous landscapes. At the beginning of the course, a sign with the words “Devil’s Gulch. Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” topped by a bleached cow skull, signaled what was to come.
Upon entering the obstacle course, the school’s students would be faced with fences crudely wrapped in barbed wire. They would next have to scramble over a wooden structure 25 to 30 feet tall, before army crawling beneath entangled wire and through flooded trenches.
Hazed by Live Gunfire and the Occasional Rattlesnake
Soldiers-in-training had to traverse mud pit after mud pit, and then use ropes to scale down a vertical cliff face to reach the end of the course—only to have to turn back around and complete it in reverse. All along the way, they were hazed by live gunfire and the occasional rattlesnake.
As many as 20,000 soldiers trained at the Battle Drill School. Although the training was intense, many of the soldiers who endured it reported that without it, they would not have been able to survive, either physically or mentally, once they arrived overseas.