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Remembered Today:

Fort Toronto...


roel22
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Would anybody have details/stories/pictures of Fort Toronto, situated at the Klein Vierstraat/Kriekstraat crossings south of Ypres?

So far I only have trenchmaps showing its location.

Roel

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  • 2 weeks later...

Let me refrase my question: what did a "fort" in general look like? What was stored there, whas it a busy place? (It seems there have been tanks at Fort Toronto in 1916...)

Roel

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Would anybody have details/stories/pictures of Fort Toronto, situated at the Klein Vierstraat/Kriekstraat crossings south of Ypres?

So far I only have trenchmaps showing its location.

Roel

To Roel,

Is 'Klein Vierstraat'the correct word ? There is a 'Kriekstraat' in Reningelst

Gilbert Deraedt

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This is the crossing I'm referring to. The name of the road should be Vierstraat instead of Klein Vierstraat.

Roel

post-5443-085820400 1295981651.jpg

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To Roel,

Is 'Klein Vierstraat'the correct word ? There is a 'Kriekstraat' in Reningelst

Gilbert Deraedt

gilbert je hebt ook een kriekstraat in kemmel ;-)

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Perhaps we should be wary of assuming that something called Fort Something was actually a fort. I don't think there were many Cottages at Tyne Cot.

It could have just been a label applied to a distinctive building (or its remains).

Unless of course someone tells us different!

David

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I'm sure the word Fort was a bit, well, misplaced. No walls or anything. According to the map there must have been (wooden) barracks or something like that. Any more info is greatly appreciated.

Roel

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Roel, I suspect that the place to start is back in Canada. Check out this Wikipedia entry here. Presumably, and this is just a guess, a Canadian Staff Officer from the Toronto area gave this name to the locale. Your question is correct - so what was in that locale that would prompt it to be named anything, whether it be 'Fort Toronto' or whatever else someone might have named it. Indeed it is possible that there was another name at some time.

Robert

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There's a painting by the Canadian artist Alexander Young Jackson, showing the Kemmel-Vierstraat Road in WW1. This shows there may be a Canadian link with Fort Toronto.

Still I wonder what a place like that looked like...

Roel

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  • 2 weeks later...

Previous posters regarding someone from Toronto naming the specific locale sounds right. Toronto comes from an Indian word meaning carrying place (major portage route based on the rivers espeically the Humber River just west of Toronto and now part of it). There are of course Torontos in the UK and the USA.

John

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A "fort" in that location would have been nothing more than a strong-point. There would have been no wooden barracks or much else above the ground. It could have been a concrete pill-box or an underground diggings that sheltered a trench mortar or other heavy piece or was simply the remains of a farm building that had been dug out and fortified. Yes, clearly the Canadians had been around and either used it or chose to name it as it was in their mapping sector at the time. Antony

EDIT: at least the person who namd it showed more imagination than 'Captains Post' and 'Majors Post' on same map.

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Piorun, you have made a very good suggestion. Equally, it may just be that the significant location was given a name that was familiar to the person who named it. 'Fort Toronto' may just have been 'a place that I know well', rather than 'a place that is like a fort'.

Robert

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Piorun, you have made a very good suggestion. Equally, it may just be that the significant location was given a name that was familiar to the person who named it. 'Fort Toronto' may just have been 'a place that I know well', rather than 'a place that is like a fort'.

Robert

How much may irony have played a role in naming these places - could it originally have just been a very exposed slit trench?

David

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There's a painting by the Canadian artist Alexander Young Jackson, showing the Kemmel-Vierstraat Road in WW1. This shows there may be a Canadian link with Fort Toronto.

Still I wonder what a place like that looked like...

Roel

Roel: the place called 'Fort Toronto' on the trench map probably didn't look like much of anything except what I've described earlier, a fortified gun point or observation post along that road or light railway, or much different from the very evocative painting. The original Fort Toronto was in the grounds of what is now known as the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Canada. In the mid-1800s, Stanley Barracks was built nearby and this was used to hold interned foreign nationals during WW1. The Exhibition grounds were also used as a tented encampment for troops prior to embarkation. The place remained a military establishment through WW2. Clearly, the name on the trench map is the work of a mapping officer with Toronto connections. There is nothing on the trench map to indicate anything except a sand-bagged or very small fortified point - similar to the observation posts (Captains and Majors) close by. Cheers, Antony

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Thanks for your replies, guys. Looking at the map in post #6 I do believe there were wooden barracks at the Vierstraat-Kriekstraat crossings (at the entrance of the present Suffolk cemetery). According to another map there was a "cabaret", roughly where "fort" is written on the map. I believe this was some sort of bar. There is a handful of houses at the crossings nowadays, I don't think this would have been much different at the beginning of the war. So Fort Toronto most likely was the barracks and (what was left of) the houses. By the time my German great-grandfather arrived here in may 1918 their artillery had probably flattened the whole area.

Roel

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Roel: what date is the map in post #6? The location of "Fort Toronto" is, I presume, the "B" lying almost on its back and, as it appears to be within yards of the front line - between it and a switch trench, it is highly unlikely that there would be any surface structures at all, unless made of concrete or rubble-and-bags. There is evidence of pre-war structures just beneath "Fort" on the other side of the road that could correspond to the 'cabaret' and, of course, the buildings at Vierstraat are quite clear (all these in faded grey) but there is no evidence of pre-war houses at the cross-roads. Do you have a trench map reference? Cheers, Antony

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The map is from july 1918. Too bad I cannot find the map showing the "cabaret", I'll keep looking. Unfortunately I'm not much of an expert in trench map references.

I understand it's not very likely to build structures in front of a trench. Then again: until spring 1918 this spot was a quiet sector; miles away from the front line, which by then was in Wijtschaete.

Roel

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See this link, Roel. There is an aerial photograph from 1918 which shows absolutely nothing remaining. Also other trench maps which make it clearer that there were no buildings at 'Fort Toronto' by the time those maps were drafted. I believe that there were several small camps in the area prior to 1918 but these may have been tented. I'm guessing that elements of the Canadian Expeditionary Force were billetted in those camps, hence the nickname, Fort Toronto, which remained with the map position even after the front became "hot" in that sector and the camps had disappeared. I will continue to look for images of the camps. Cheers, Antony

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With the barracks.

"Just a little way down the road leading off by the demarcation stone is Suffolk Cemetery. A short path leads up to it, and there are only three rows of graves, with just 47 men buried here. Only eight of these are unknown. The cemetery was started in March 1915 by the 2nd Suffolks, and used by them for just that month and April 1915. The front two rows contain these burials, and the headstones are quite close together. In November 1917 one man was buried here, and after that the cemetery was not used again until October 1918, when the bodies of men killed during the German advance six months earlier were buried here by the 38th Labour Group. The bodies were mainly those of men from the 1/4th and 1/5th York & Lancaster Regiment. The cemetery at that time was known as Cheapside Cemetery, as the small road it is located beside was known by that name. In early 1918 there were a number of camps nearby, with structures around the location of the cemetery; the position known as Fort Toronto."

Source: http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/flanders/kemmel.html

In "Rats Alley, Trench Names of the Western Front 1914-1918":

Fort Toronto is the name of a trench near Vierstraat (28SW2 Wytschaete).

In de glossary is "fort" discribed as:

Strong-point, either permanent (e.g.concrete) OR fieldwork

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In de glossary is "fort" discribed as:

Strong-point, either permanent (e.g.concrete) OR fieldwork

Thanks for the quote, Joris. The definition of 'fort' did apply to the fort that had existed back in Toronto, Canada. You can see a model of the original fort here:

3696285831_5922bf1cb2.jpg

This does not necessarily mean that the name was used to describe a strongpoint in the location, though it might have. It is the same with 'Suffolk' and 'Cheapside' as names for the two cemeteries that are mentioned in the quote. Neither 'Suffolk' nor 'Cheapside' are cemeteries back in England (although there are cemeteries in Suffolk County ;)).

Robert

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I am a little confused...

I have been reading in the past "Rats Alley, Trench Names of the Western Front".

And I remember; not only the own trenches were named. But also the german trenches were given a name. Easy for the commanding officers.

I don't have all the different trench maps for this sector at home.

And some of the maps (in the links aren't dated).

Can someone give us the different maps by date?

To locate the first use of Toronto on that spot? In own or German lines?

In april 1917 (my trenchmap at home), Toronto was in allied hands. :thumbsup:

I think the trench Fort Toronto, was a name given for a german strongpoint ("fortified" trench - not an communication trench) at vierstraat.

Afterwards, when the frontlines changed, and the barracks were build, they were named Toronto. Maybe...

By the way; there are 59 trenches in that sector named "Fort..."

At sector Wijtschaete (trench map 28SW2):

-Fort Galgary

-Fort Garston S.P.

-Fort Halifax

-Fort Mount Royal

-Fort Regina

-Fort Saskachewan

-Fort Toronto

-Fort Victoria

(trench map 28SW4)

-Fort Simmons

Does this helps?

Kind regards!

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Thank you, Joris. From the list of names, I would say that all of the 'Forts' are names of Canadian forts from the days of the Wild West ;). This would fit with the Canadians having been responsible for providing the names. The list ranges across the whole of Canada, so 'Fort Toronto' need not have been named by someone from the Toronto area. The list makes it even less likely that the 'Fort...' was used to describe strong points (although some of the locales might have been). It would be like a Belgian force landing in Canada and naming key localities after the names of the forts around Liège and Namur ;).

Robert

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I had the same thoughts of course about the Canadians, Robert. :thumbsup:

But when did it first appear on a trench map would be a clou, I think.

Was it given to own "fortifications", or rather as David said; has irony played a role in giving those names to German outposts-sap-etcetera, in front of there lines?

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