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The Block Horse Information Site

The Creation of the Block

The following text is extracted,
with the author's permission,
from Arnold McKee's

The Forgotten Corner: The Roundup of 1994

The British Block

...rumors started that the Empire needed an area to train and test war measures to help keep peace. These started out as rumors and soon became reality. There was a lot of confusion in so much as what was really expected, or exactly what this training area was supposed to be. After all they had been told this prosperous prairie has to be settled and paid their homestead fees, and bet the government they could win...some survived and some lost.

The Canadian government started talks with Britain to supply Britain with a block of land to test gas and chemical experiments. These talks started in October of 1940 and an agreement was signed April 11, 1941, six months later. It was decided at this point and time the British Block would be born, in all its glory.

The provincial government had their plan and that was to relocate these people on other land in the Palliser Triangle specific. The land that was to be traded was from Hanna East in a strip and from Atlee south a block of land approximately a township. The people checked this out and discovered it was probably the worst devastated land in the drought of the thirties. It would take years to recover and in some cases, at that time, would have certainly looked as though it would never recover. These farmers said No, we want equal productivity to our places, and we will relocate, not on a piece of blowing sand where people could not stay and the people who are left in these areas need that extra land to survive themselves. These types of things were being negotiated from April 11, 1941 to about May 20, 1941. In this negotiation one minister told these people, "go ahead and put your crops in the fall or we will reimburse you to its estimated value at eight bushels to the acre." So they carried on, knowing they were leaving, and all that could be done was try to get the best value for these places they had but blood, sweat, tears and soul into.

Then the first bomb was dropped in this area! These people were told to get out, approximately around May 20, 1941, and the officials would come around and pay each one, the estimated value of their land decided in Ottawa, I guess. Before they made their rounds and arrived, they could move their buildings and fences and livestock out. The kicker to this situation was they had 30 days to do this. Thirty days to move what had taken 25 to 30 years to build, under very adverse conditions. The pioneers of this area were being rewarded!

Notice of Expropriation page1 - June 10, 1941

Notice of Expropriation page2 - June 10, 1941

The first order was to get their livestock out. People from outside the newly formed boundary came in to help. They swept the Block, probably from north to south, south to north, east to west and west to east and had gathering places so all livestock could be sorted and reclaimed when time would allow. The horses of each individual would be decided on, keep what was needed, and the rest went for meat at once cent per pound, trailed to the slaughterhouse. The cattle and sheep would be the same, but believe me, the area was cleaned at that point and time. They sure weren't going to leave any livestock for Army, government, or anyone else to eat the good meat that this short grass prairie produces.

Buildings, fences were taken down if time allowed and moved to the boundary line and stacked up along with household and personal effects. Some who relocated within a ten or twenty mile zone from the boundary moved what they could to places direct. They would have had to move what was most important and what was left at thirty days had to stay as everyone was out at that time for good.

The livestock was trailed out, as there were no cattle liners or stock trailers. The buildings were moved with teams of horses or steamer type tractors, of which there was probably a few. There were some trucks whose top speed were probably ten to twenty miles per hour, but nothing like the units on the road today... In amongst all this the wives, mothers and children coping with a 30-day eviction notice, under the War Measures Act. By no stretch of the imagination can you call this an adventure and it is no wonder the next generation still had emotional scars from this.

...A 700,000-acre tract of land, named CFB Suffield, or better known as the British Block, came into being...

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Last Updated: January 10, 2007

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