The Cold War-era Air Raid Siren?
the Cold War-era air raid siren?
Kyle Griffin/This Week
The last air raid siren in Peterborough stands tall at the intersection of Howden and St. Catherine streets.
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Peterborough This Week
By Lance Anderson
Standing like a sentinel at the intersection of St. Catherine and Howden streets, it’s a glimpse of Peterborough’s past and the measures that were taken to protect citizens from the ravages of nuclear war.
It’s the only air raid siren left standing in the city.
It served as an early warning device for south-end residents in case Peterborough came under attack. Five other sirens were erected in various locations across the city in the late 1950s. They were capable of blanketing Peterborough with a high-pitched whine, alerting citizens to pending danger. Fortunately, the sirens were never activated for emergency purposes.
City councillor Henry Clarke, also a retired lieutenant colonel with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, says the sirens did sound in the early 1970s, not just in Peterborough but at locations across Southern Ontario.
“They were triggered at the same time by mistake around 4:30 a.m.,” recalls Coun. Clarke.
“I also remember the night they turned them on around the city at the same time to test them.”
Peterborough wasn’t the only community to receive an air raid siren system from the Department of National Defence. By the mid 1960s, approximately 1,700 sirens had been installed across Canada. In Ontario, 552 were operational, according to Canada’s Cold War Museum web site.
In Peterborough, the last standing siren is perched atop a weathered pole, about 50-feet in the air. It’s quite noticeable with its grey military-looking façade. A grey steel base wraps around the siren itself and a rusted electrical box is located below. All power to the siren appears to have been severed.
Kim Reid, curator of the Peterborough Centennial Museum and Archives, says in 1995, the Department of National Defence finally washed its hands of the project, turning all sirens over to the municipalities they were located in. According to the Canada’s Cold War Museum web site, some municipalities were becoming critical of the presence of the sirens in their communities. They were felt to be eyesores, too war-like and caused irritation during occasional false soundings. From 1994 to 1996, the defence department removed and destroyed most of the sirens.
Around that time, the museum acquired the siren that was located in the city’s north-end on Highland Road. However, it was vandalized before the museum could put it on display, says Ms Reid.
She adds the museum is working with the city to acquire the last air raid siren to put it on proper display.
“We will put it on the grounds as a reminder of the war and Peterborough’s military background,” says Ms Reid.
Follow Lance Anderson on Twitter @lancerlens
One Reply to “The Cold War-era Air Raid Siren”
On Nov 9, 1965 the air raid siren in Peterborough went off when the power shut down. I was in the nurses residence of PCH. Looking out over the city and seeing only blackness, we thought we were under attack. It was terrifying and sheer chaos.