Thousand Islands: A Military Region

A few weeks ago my family and I were camping around Kingston, Ontario, and the Thousand Islands. This region is defined by its proximity to the St. Lawrence River, which makes for very beautiful surroundings, and, historically, great strategic importance in times of war. The Thousand Islands area was central during the War of 1812, and retains evidence of this extensive military history even today. I was fortunate to have fantastic weather and lots of time in this fascinating area, and the following is a sample of what I saw.

My family and I stayed at a campground about 10 minutes from the town of Gananoque, which is a cute little town with its own military history. It was raided by American forces during the War of 1812, and one of its inhabitants was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in World War I. I took some time around Gananoque’s war memorial, which is located on the main street in front of the town hall.

Gananoque Memorial

Although the memorial most notably mentions victims of WWI, WWII, and the Korean War, it also bears the name of a soldier killed in Afghanistan

Gan Memorial Closeup

Just some of the names on the Gananoque war memorial; for a small town, it has surrendered many lives in the conflicts of the last century

I also took a few trips into Kingston, which has a large and exciting concentration of military things. The city is home to CFB Kingston, a Canadian Forces base used mainly for training nowadays. RMC, or the Royal Military College of Canada, is also located in Kingston. As well, Kingston boasts Fort Henry, a fort built by the British in the War of 1812 to protect the dockyard and shipping along the St. Lawrence. Military installations both old and new are everywhere in Kingston, so I really enjoyed being there.

Fort Henry

The forbidding walls of Fort Henry

Kingston View

The view from Fort Henry ensured that no attacks would go unnoticed

Cannon Kingston

A cannon adorns a park in central Kingston

Martello Tower Kingston

One of Kingston’s original Martello towers; such a tower could house a garrison of men and allow for 360° of defence

At the base of Fort Henry’s hill, and near the entrance to RMC, we came across two significant tanks. The first was a Sherman, perhaps the most ubiquitous Allied tank of WWII. It was parked on a bridge amongst some brush and trees, which made for a very authentic setting.

Sherman Bridge Kingston

Couldn’t this photo be from somewhere in France in 1944?

Crumpet and Sherman Kingston

My dog Crumpet is scared of a lot of things, but for some reason he likes tanks!

Sherman Turret Kingston

The Sherman’s turret

The second tank was a German-built Leopard 1 C2. The C2 variant is an upgraded version of the Leopard 1, which was first used in 1965. The Leopard C2 was deemed inappropriate for use in Afghanistan, so more modern Leopard 2 tanks borrowed from Germany have been used by the Canadian Forces in combat. The Leopard C2 is still a neat tank though, and its modern appearance makes it hard to believe it hails from the ’60s!

Leopard 1 Kingston

The Leopard 1 C2 beneath the approach to Fort Henry

Leopard C2 Kingston

Tanks are usually thought to be slow, but the Leopard 1 can achieve 40 miles per hour

Leopard 1 Rear Kingston

The Leopard 1 was built with speed and firepower in mind

Leopard 1 Gun Kingston

A 105-mm main gun arms the Leopard 1

Leopard 1 C2 Kingston

A fearsome-looking vehicle!

50 miles east, in Brockville, I was delighted to see the military theme continued. At Brockville’s popular marina, there was an Canadair Sabre Golden Hawk monument. The Golden Hawks were an RCAF aerobatic team active from 1959-1964; they flew special gold and red painted Sabres and pioneered several aerobatic manoeuvres. Although one restored Canadair Sabre (named Hawk One) keeps the Golden Hawks scheme alive and airborne, it was very interesting to see an actual Golden Hawk in person. I’ve read that one of the Golden Hawks’ bases was CFB Trenton, which is about an hour west of Kingston; so perhaps that’s why we found this monument in Brockville.

Golden Hawk Brockville

The Canadair CL-13 Sabre was a licensed variant of the American F-86 Sabre

Golden Hawk Tail Brockville

It is quite sad that the Golden Hawks team didn’t last longer than five years… and that many of its aircraft now sit outside, rusting and decaying

Golden Hawk Nose Brockville

The RCAF used CL-13 Sabres from about 1950 to 1962

Golden Hawk Sabre Brockville

A great view of the Sabre’s bubble canopy, swept wings, and relatively compact size

I’ll finish this post with a photograph of the war memorial in downtown Brockville- a reminder that, due to the existence of 19th-century fortifications, Cold-War aerobatic teams, and modern military bases, the Thousand Islands region respects and honours its military past.

Brockville War Memorial

Brockville’s war memorial

 

 

 

 

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