The remnants of war slowly dissipate in time but throughout the world, historic pieces of battles fought long ago still remain. Rubble, old buildings and structures; some remain preserved while others, have been taken back by Mother Nature.

Europe predominantly comes to mind when one thinks of the Second World War. What many may not know is that here in the Rocky Mountains, as well as spread throughout Canada, was where once many POW camps lay and occupied the landscape.

Sharing grounds with Kananaskis Forest Experimentation Station and a sub campus of the Biogeosciences department of the University of Calgary, the History Loop has become a short but rather important Historic and Interpretative site of the Canadian Rockies. At first, the Kananaskis site held pacifists and alien interns while later it became home to German personnel in the Second World War. Only a hop and a scotch away from Barrier Dam, the remnants of the POW camp consist of the Colonel's Cabin and the old Guard Tower #8.

The Colonel's Cabin was first constructed by the government of Alberta in the 1930's and was used as a relief camp for the unemployed during the Great Depression era. This ended in 1936 and was converted into the Kananaskis Forest Experimentation Station. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 the camp was once more transformed and became first an internment camp and later a German POW camp (who would have thought, German personnel imprisoned in K Country, although turns out a not too uncommon occurrence throughout the K Country and Banff area!)

Camp 130, here at Seebe, was listed as a Class 2 facility and therefore prisoners, on paper, were not supposed to be given any special treatments. Any escape attempts or escapees who had the misfortune of being caught, were sentenced to prison for up to 2 years (following the guidelines of the Geneva Convention). Within the camp, a solitary confinement system was created where an individual could be held for up to 28 days at a time, in extreme cases. Although the regulations of the camp sound strict, it has been recorded in documents and through tales passed down the grape vine that the POW were treated fairly decently. They were allowed to hike and scramble the mountains and made friends with the guards.

Although I am sure the mountain scenery has not changed much since then but an interesting fact we discovered was that the dam had not been created yet and Barrier Lake was not yet there when the imprisonment camp was active. Once the war was over and German personnel returned back to war torn Germany, the dam was created and the lake was then flooded. The Barrier Mountain was also asked to be named "Old Baldy", a name that the POWs created and called the mountain that they gave them hope and relief from the confinements of being imprisoned.

In the summer time, the Colonel's Cabin and Guard Tower are open to take a ganter inside. Unfortunately we chose to check it out earlier in the spring season and could only peer through the windows. Inside the Guard Tower, there seems to be pictures from during the internment and POW imprisonment with descriptions as well as a few relics. Although the history loop can be completed within less than half an hour and is more of a walk than a hike, it is still one that is neat to check out if you are in the area!

*Fun Fact*

Did you know ... that Barrier Lake was used as the Alkali Lake in the 2003 X2: X-Men United film and as Eagle Lake on CBC's Heartland series? Cool!

Colonel's Cabin - History Loop Photos


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