While the First World War originated in Europe, it had significant impact on Oak Bay as thousands of troops moved in for training.
Willows Camp filled the fairgrounds near what is now Carnarvon Park and neighbourhood, also called the Lansdowne slope.
There are 115 mentions of Willows Camp in an archive of community newspapers at the time, noted Anna Sander, archivist for Oak Bay. That includes mentions as far north as Prince Rupert, indicating Island and coastal British Columbia troops likely trained at the Oak Bay camp.
The war started in July 1914, by that September a note appears in the council minutes seeking to create a shooting range at Willows Fairgrounds, Sander said.
The collected council notes are readily available because an Oak Bay Archives volunteer compiled a wartime index of meeting minutes. It documents official interactions between Willows Camp administrators and municipal council of the day. The bulk of the interactions boil down to complaints, in particular, garbage removal and sewers.
The Oak Bay Archives is currently closed to volunteers, researchers and visitors in person, but open for enquiries by email, mail and phone. Visit connect.oakbay.ca/archives for more information.
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