Western Scots 67 Battalion and Gordon Highlanders on Parade at Willows Camp Racetrack (now Carnarvon Park

Speaker examines Oak Bay’s transformation from gardens to trenches

Oak Bay Heritage looks at war’s impact on community

In the century since the First World War broke out Oak Bay has evolved and changed in many ways. But not so dramatic and instant as the immediate response to the war. Historian Kate Humble, education curator at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, will delve into those dramatic changes during a talk tonight at Windsor Park.

“In 1914 Oak Bay is a very young community,” said Humble, herself and Oak Bay grad. “You’re still doing things like borrowing fire trucks form the City of Victoria. … We really forget how much it grew in the 20th century.”

In a fitting November presentation, she’ll cover “From Garden to Trench, Oak Bay and the First World War” during her talk sponsored by Oak Bay Heritage.

“The way Oak Bay was developed meant almost everybody who lived there was of British extraction unlike the rest of Victoria, with very strong connections as well with politics,” she said.

And the garden to trench title is quite literal.

“You’re dealing with people raising prized geese and entering flower competitions. Then all of a sudden the war breaks out and Willows Exhibition Fairgrounds, where Carnarvon Park is now, explodes and becomes the major training centre for the Canadian Expeditionary Force,” she said. “I’m going to talk about the abrupt transition from their gentrified upper-class world where people are very involved in social status … garden parties and who’s marrying whom, to the sudden and startling realization this community starts to lose people. Right off the hop this community starts losing people.”

She’ll focus on how the impact of losing their young men evolved the identity of the average Oak Bay resident over the course of the war with individual stories of those who went overseas, both men and women.

Oak Bay Heritage brings the historian to Windsor Pavilion for “From Garden to Trench, Oak Bay and the First World War” on Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.

 

cvanreeuwyk@oak baynews.com