One of Canada’s largest Prisoner of War Camps was located at the corner of Hickman and Park Streets. Once the home of the Canada Car Co., this facility, which was over a quarter of a mile long, was quickly converted to house over 800 men during the First World War. Leon Trotsky, who would go on to aid Nikolai Lenin to victory during the Russian Revolution, was held in the Amherst Camp for about a month in 1917. The following passage comes from his autobiography:
“The Amherst concentration camp was located in an old and very dilapidated iron foundry that had been confiscated from its German owner. The sleeping bunks were arranged in three tiers, two deep, on each side of the hall. About 800 of us lived in these conditions. The air in this improvised dormitory at night can be imagined. Men hopelessly clogged the passages, elbowing their way through, lay down or got up, played cards or chess. Many of them practised crafts, some with extraordinary skill. I still have, stored in Moscow, some things made by Amherst prisoners. And yet, in spite of the heroic efforts of the prisoners to keep themselves physically and morally fit, five of them had gone insane. We had to eat and sleep in the same room with these madmen.”
The Camp consisted of a building that was 100 feet wide by a quarter of a mile long. The south end was used as the German Officers’ quarters, the camp hospital and the medical inspection room. The north end housed the prisoners quarters and their washrooms. Further to the north, close to Patterson Street, was the large mess hall, recreation room, kitchen, and pantry stores.
The prisoners of the camp made a great contribution to the community and the surrounding region. They worked doing many jobs ranging from highway work to constructing the pool at Dickey’s Park to clearing the land for the experimental farm in Nappan.
Canadian WWI Internment Recognition
Visit the Canadian First World War Internment Camps for information on all of the Canadian camps.