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Historic Vernon Military Camp under renovation

B-28 (a kitchen facility) is one of the buildings under renovation this year. As a busy place with cadets in the summertime, Major Acheson says it was good to invest dollars in the well-used facility.
Image Credit: Contributed/ Major (ret'd) Grant Acheson.
December 23, 2016 - 10:30 AM

VERNON - The Vernon Military Camp is getting a facelift.

Work is underway to retrofit the old, 1940s era buildings spread out over the 1,260 acre camp, which is bisected by Highway 97 at the south entrance to the City of Vernon.

Major (ret’d) Grant Acheson says most of the buildings were constructed in 1940 and 1941, although the camp has been open since 1912. A fast pace was set for construction in the midst of World War Two, with hundreds of people employed to erect barracks and storerooms.

“They (buildings) went up in a hurry,” Acheson says.

There are now roughly 70 buildings at the camp and they are well-used by various groups, including the summer cadet training program, reserve forces, and regular force units, Acheson says.

“We want to make the buildings safe and healthy for the people that use the buildings, especially when you’re talking about cadets,” Acheson says. “We want to make sure when they spend their weeks in the summer camp they are well looked after in basic, but healthy and structurally sound, facilities.”

Being around for close to 80 years, many of the buildings are showing their age and the Department of National Defence has been working to retrofit buildings over time. Typically, they do one a year, but activity has been strong over the past two years thanks to funding from the federal infrastructure investment program, which infused about $14 million into the mainland area of B.C. The money was used to upgrade armouries around the Lower Mainland and in Vernon.

Vernon is unique because of its large number of H-hut buildings.
Vernon is unique because of its large number of H-hut buildings.
Image Credit: Contributed/ Major (ret'd) Grant Acheson.

“Because of that funding we’ve done about three buildings each year for the past two years (in Vernon),” Acheson says.

Crews have been busy replacing old siding, windows, stairs, light fixtures and more. Overall, the structures have stood the test of time, although Acheson says they weren't built  the way we do today. 

"For instance, the foundations aren't excavated into the ground, they're above grade," Acheson says. 

Despite the modern facelift, the buildings still retain much of their original character — particularly the classic H-hut buildings, a go-to design in the army. You can see H-huts (the long and narrow buildings) from Highway 97.

“The design is used for different purposes. In accommodation, the two vertical parts are bedrooms or barrack rooms, and the cross part forming the H is the washroom,” Acheson says. “They’re quite a versatile building.”

The practical design is also often seen in dining halls, where the centre area is used as a kitchen and the two long rooms on either side form the eating area.

You’ll see the style at army camps across the country, but Acheson says Vernon stands out.

“I would say Vernon is quite unique with the number of H-huts that remain,” he says.

While most of the buildings are retrofitted, some are disposed of if they are deemed surplus to the needs of the camp.

“We’re constantly reviewing our holdings to ensure we have the minimum number of buildings and do not have to poor money into buildings that are under-utilized,” Acheson says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2016

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