Some Durham College students are getting the opportunity to learn and be part of a significant part of this area’s history.
Students in the heritage program have been involved in restoring the last remaining building from Camp X, located on the Oshawa-Whitby border by Lake Ontario, which was a training camp for spies during the Second World War.
Lynn Philip Hodgson, who helped instigate local interest in Camp X, is working on a project with Durham College’s heritage program run by Ali Taileb.
“Not too many people know its history,” Hodgson said about Camp X.
Taileb was contacted by the Town of Whitby asking him what he could do in assisting with their project of making the remains a museum. The Ontario Regiment Museum wants to take the remaining Camp X building and relocate it near the museum on Oshawa airport property.
Taileb teaches the course of restoration and renovation of historical buildings at Durham.
“It’s a real situation, they wanted to create a Camp X museum” Taileb said, “and the students are involved in the design of the Camp X museum.”
The students went to the museum and got some background on the camp and got to take a look at what the project was about. The students looked into the archives so they can restore the existing interior of the building.
According to Taileb, this was a great way to get students in that program to use the skills they are learning in the classroom into the real world.
“This site has a lot to offer in terms of being a historic war” Taileb said, “and it also fits very well with the course.”
Camp X was built in 1941 and was a training camp for spies to go to Germany to fight against Germans in the Second World War.
The camp opened on Dec 6, 1941 and operated from 1941 to 1945.
A lot of important people have travelled through and attended Camp X, including Sir Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.
According to a Heritage Evaluation Report created by Martindale Planning Services of Camp X, the only remaining Camp X building is a portion of one of the two ‘H’ shaped dormitories to house the agents who were training.
According to Hodgson, the last remaining Camp X building was bought and saved by a woman named Muriel H. Sissons. Sissons was a cat lover and the dean of the Ontario Ladies College (now Trafalgar Castle School). She bought it for one dollar and approached the Ontario Humane Society to see if they would use it to house cats.
The building was then moved to the Whitby Animal Shelter on Thickson Road but was never used to house cats. It was used as cold storage and for holding dog food and equipment. After a few years the building was no longer used and was boarded up. For 40 years they have been trying to create a museum using the last remains of the camp explained Hodgson.
Taileb explained that many people are not familiar with Camp X or what it is. When people find out about it they get excited and then start asking questions about the camp.
“We can’t forget the past,” Taileb said.