Yorkton's Early Story

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The Yorkton Armouries

Early in the twentieth century, Yorkton men who had served in the Boer Wars of the 1880s and 1890s began planning for the establishment of a local militia. They approached Dr. E. L. Cash, Federal Member of Parliament for the constituency in hopes that he could influence the Dominion Government to erect military headquarters in Yorkton. With his influence, and the added encouragement of both the Board of Trade and the Town Council, authorization to organize was granted. One veteran of the last of the Boer Wars, Major Francis Pawlett was appointed Officer in Command of the 16th Canadian Light Horse, "B" Squadron, and recruiting began.

It was decided to renovate the former Immigration Hall located across the railroad tracks, on Front Street South, between Tupper and Second Avenue. It housed 75 men and was equipped as a training center. The drills consisted of both foot and mounted exercises.

As it happened, not long after they were organized, the First World War was declared. Sixty men of the "B" Squadron headed for more training at one of Canada's largest camps at Valcartier, Québec. The local Armoury kept on being used as a recruiting center and for basic training.

In 1920, when Yorkton's Court House was constructed on Darlington Street, the courthouse on Livingstone became the second site for the Armoury. By 1922, it was outfitted for all units of Yorkton's militia, with officers' rooms, other ranks' rooms, drill hall, recreation center, gymnasium, and a rifle range in the basement.

Beginning around 1929, local politicians began lobbying for a new building for the 64 (Yorkton) Field Battery, the First Yorkton Anti-Aircraft Machine Gun Battery, and the 16th Canadian Light Horse, which had been amalgamated with the Saskatchewan Mounted Rifles. The old building was inadequate, and so was the Highways warehouse that was being used for extra maneuvers. With the help of the Federal Member of Parliament, George W. McPhee, they began plans for a new building.

It took several more years before the project could be completed. The original designs called for the main entrance to be facing south on Smith Street. By October 1938, the final plans were out. The architect was David Webster and the builder, Shoquist Construction Company, both from Saskatoon. The two-story building, with the façade on First Avenue North was constructed of brick and Tyndal stone. Subcontracts went to local businesses: Plumber, E. H. Carter, Beck's Electric, and MacKay's Paint Shop. The total cost amounted to $32,000.00. The official opening took place in October of 1939, one month after World War II was declared. Because of new security concerns, a ball planned for the occasion was cancelled. Only one person at a time, accompanied by a soldier could visit the premises.

Large-scale recruitment began. The main training took place at Regina and other camps. It did not take long for the soldiers to be sent to England for further mobilization.

The Armoury today houses the Reserve Unit of the 64th Battery of the 10th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. The building is utilized for the general operation of the unit, with offices, a drill hall where simulated artillery training takes place, and a couple classrooms. It is the home of the Army Cadets and Sea Cadets, as well. There is a lounge, with a fireplace for social events. No military weaponry is on exhibit, save for General Alexander Ross'sword. Two full time staff is in charge of the administration and training, Warrant Officer Robert Tholberg, and Sergeant Todd Appel.

1 - Philip D. Redant, YORKTON'S MILITARY HISTORY. Unpublished manuscript. No date.
2 - City of Yorkton Heritage Property file on #56 First Avenue North, Armoury building.
3 - Interview with Warrant Officer, Robert Tholberg.
4 - City of Yorkton Heritage Research files re: Military History.
5 - City of Yorkton Archives photographs -- Del Sveinsson Collection
6 - Interview with Korean War Veteran, W. Austman.