LAND FORCE CENTRAL AREA TRAINING CENTRE MEAFORD
formerly known as the
MEAFORD TANK RANGE
In 1942 the government of Canada purchased the private lands within the boundaries of what is now the Land Force Central Area Training Centre Meaford, for the purpose of training soldiers in tank warfare and artillery gunnery. The 17,500 acres (6,800 hectares) was ideal for this training since it incorporated limestone cliffs, rolling open ground and dense bush. The area was also interspersed with a year round swamp, a lake and 22 kilometres of shoreline to the east and north. The "Meaford Training Area" quickly became known as "The Tank Range" and became an annex to what was then known as Camp Borden.
During World War II, through the Korean War and until the late 1960s, the ranges and training area of Camp Meaford were in full use by units assigned to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden. The most prominent users were the Royal Canadian Armoured School and the Royal Canadian School of Infantry. Other schools, the fore runners of the present Canadian Forces Schools of Intelligence and Security, Administration and Logistics, and Medical Services also made frequent use of the Camp Meaford facilities for exercises and driver training.
Within the process of integration, the transfer of the Combat Arms School from CFB Borden to CFB Gagetown in 1969/70 dramatically reduced the requirement for the Meaford Range and Training Area (MRTA), which was staffed at that time by 153 military and civilian personnel, and accordingly it was closed. In 1970 it was directed by CFHQ that Meaford facilities would be "dormatized," retaining only a five man security staff of Commissionaires. In April 1970 it was also stated that, "...when Meaford Range is dormatized...it will no longer be used for military purposed, including Regular Force and Militia exercises, training and field firing."
The area remained very active until the mid to late sixties. In 1970 The Royal Canadian Armoured Corps School was moved from CFB Borden to CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick. With the exception of a Commissionaire at the main entrance, no military person set foot within the camp boundaries until the early seventies. At that time, members of the Reserve Forces began to make unofficial use of the area thereby avoiding the long drive to CFB Petawawa.
By 1973 a National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ) study concluded that manoeuveres and live firing could be conducted at Meaford by elements of the regular force and the militia and cadets based in southern and central Ontario. This offered considerable cost savings (primarily in transportation) compared to having these units travel to CFB Petawawa or other sites. Authority was received to reopen Meaford as a training area.
With its reopening in 1973 the use of Meaford by regular, militia, cadet and police forces for live firing and training has been increasing. This was done without acknowledging reality in terms of the basic resource allocations to manage the increasing activity. This was especially so in the area of Range Safety, which was a responsibility of the training unit(s) rather than controlled at a base level as was the case before 1970 and is currently in effect.
This level of use of the MRTA continued until one new and important factor was introduced. The cancellation of projects in support of Armoured Vehicle General Purpose (AVGP – the six-wheeled COUGAR and GRIZZLY) training that had been assumed would be operational in CFB Petawawa by 1981/82. This action made Meaford the only physical area in Central Region capable of supporting COUGAR’s 76 mm gun for live fire training. This factor alone affected the operational efficiency of one regular force and six militia armoured regiments. It is also the only dry manoeuvre area in the same geographical region capable of supporting all arms combat team training; a factor which impacts on one regular force formation and up to 42 militia units in Ontario.
In 1987, Ottawa announced plans to increase the role of Canada's military reserves. The Defence Department re-affirmed that it would be necessary to have a well-trained reserve on hand to supplement the regular force, and so, in September 1988, the Land Reserve Modernization Project (LRMP) was officially inaugurated. Following on the heels of the inauguration was an announcement stating that the Militia Training and Support Centre, Meaford, would become the focal point for training all reserve units in Ontario and thus became the first centre to receive funding for this purpose.
Recognizing a need, the Department re-activated the camp in August of 1989 and a small cadre of regular and reserve force soldiers and kitchen staff began to operate the facility on a full time basis.
In 1986 the Land Reserve Modernization Project started the planning for four Militia Training and Support Centres (MTSC) across Canada. At present only one is actively being pursued in the original form, that being MTSC Meaford.
Up to 1995, more than $80 million worth of construction comprising of buildings, roads, waterworks and sewage disposal had taken place. Equipment and supplies in excess of $20 million are also in place and in use. Construction of the facility was completed within a two year period and today the Centre is considered to be state of the art. Its primary purpose -- to revolutionize the training of reserves.
The Militia Training and Support Centre Meaford was tasked to provide and maintain ranges, training areas, facilities and equipment, for all the Reserve Force soldiers in the Ontario area. Today, the Centre has acquired and enjoys a solid reputation based on its ability to manage and maintain the facility. This is manifested in the "can do" attitude exhibited by all staff members. It was anticipated that the training activities and the increase in both civilian and military staff would enhance the long standing and good relations with the town of Meaford and surrounding area of St. Vincent Township.
At the Training Centre, many buildings have been named in honour of certain individuals. A decision made in the early stages of planning, resulted in a plan to name the buildings of the Centre along a valour theme. Consequently, the various buildings were named in honour of Victoria and Military Cross winners from Ontario. The ranges and training areas are named for battle honours listed in Canadian Army Orders from the South African War, World Wars One, World War Two and the Korean War. Roads within the main camp, less one, are named for local areas: Nottawasaga, Meaford, Grey, St. Vincent, Georgian Bay, and Niagara. The one exception has been named for Major-General F.F. Worthington, C.B., M.C., M.M., the "father" of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps.
Following the granting of "The Freedom of the City" by the town of Meaford, a name change was announced and the Training Centre would henceforth be known as Land Forces Central Area Training Centre Meaford.