Date: 1914

Origin: City of Toronto Archives


Canada entered the First World War on August 4, 1914.

In the days that followed, barracks had to be found for thousands upon thousands of citizen soldiers. The Board of Directors of the Canadian National Exhibition offered Exhibition Park (now known as Exhibition Place) with its numerous large permanent buildings to Military District Number Two for use as barracks during the winter months as long as the war should continue. In late September of 1914, the CNE grounds were transformed into a vast military training & housing centre known as: Exhibition Camp. During the long years of the Great War, the annual fair proceeded.

Most of the troops temporarily moved out during the summer to tents in Niagara-on-the-Lake, but those that remained took part in demonstrations during the CNE aimed at educating CNE visitors on Canada’s war effort. Visitors could tour trenches dug by the soldiers, witness them “charging” out of trenches, watch their daily drills, bayonet demonstrations & other military manoeuvers – in addition to experiencing the traditional fun of the fair. During the war, the CNE Midway included a target throwing game featuring caricatures of Kaiser Wilhelm, which dared guests to “Knock Out Willie the War Lord’s Teeth.”