Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/8/2016 (1254 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Flash back 100 years, to 1916: you're a rifleman with the Canadian military, trained at Camp Hughes near Carberry, issued a steel shrapnel helmet and gun and sent overseas.
You'll be in a wet, muddy trench, drinking watered-down rum and hoping not to get shot. It's the First World War, and you're one of 600,000 Canadians mobilized for the war effort.
That's the experience Bruce Tascona tries to give visitors every year at the Manitoba World War One Museum, located near La Riviere, about 150 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg. The venue is also Tascona's home, and a bed and breakfast belonging to the family. You'll know the place by the First World War-era trench system dug into the front yard.
On Sunday, the museum hosted its annual "day in the trenches," showing visitors the daily reality of soldiers in the First World War. With a handful of costumed interpreters, First World War-era tents pitched in the yard and a museum full of antiques from the period, the event drew close to 300 history buffs out for the day.
"There's something in me that's motivating me to making this into, like I said, a legacy project," Tascona said. An archivist with the Military History Society of Manitoba, Tascona has dedicated his retirement to the museum, and has written nine books on what has been called the Great War.
Visitors walked through a mock training camp, complete with two circular tents, called bell tents. One of them, designated for officers, would have slept two men on cots. The other tent, designated for lower-level soldiers, would have slept 12 men, on straw mattresses arranged in a wheel on the dirt floor.
"It got very cramped, it got very rank," said George Adams, who acted as the interpreter at the site. Adams is a member of the Military Collectors' Club of Canada and a longtime friend of Tascona's.
"If you go to a place like Camp Hughes during the war, there would be thousands of these (tents) in 1916," he said. "There was about 30,000 people living at the Camp Hughes training facility. It was the second-largest city in Manitoba in 1916."
Standing in the bright sun on a hot summer day in full military gear might have been uncomfortably toasty, but Adams said he loved every minute.
"I'm enthralled with history, and I love being a living part of it," he said. "To me, everybody needs to know where and how we got here... It's my way of respecting what they did for me."
Many of the attendees had personal connections to the war, such as Wesley Vanstone, who said he can vividly remember his uncle's war stories, and helped the Second World War effort himself
"I remember packing the boxes to go overseas (for World War Two,)" he said. "I think our younger generation have got to realize just how fortunate we are to live where we are today, and (in) the safety that we're living under, and the spirit of these young men that gave their lives."
After the training camp, visitors went on to the trenches. Trenches emerged in the First World War as protection against more powerful firepower including machine-guns and artillery. The trenches were known for being wet, muddy and riddled with disease-carrying rats.
Tascona's version is slightly shallower than the originals, he said, and took more than 40 hours to complete. Their existence is a testament to the museum's community support, Tascona said. A neighbour did the digging with a tractor, a nearby construction site donated wood, and a farmer gave him some spare barbed wire. Hand-poured sandbags surrounding the ridge complete the effect.
The museum itself is not-for-profit, Tascona said, and the "day in the trenches" event was staffed by volunteers. Tascona's youngest volunteer, Layne Conrad, was only 9, but still a self-proclaimed history buff.
Tascona said he'll be doing the event again next year, on the second Sunday in August. The World War One Museum is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends from mid-May to September, or by appointment.